Hidesign founder Dilip Kapur on his collaboration with Fabindia and vision for the next decade
Fabindia and Hidesign recently opened a new joint location store at T Nagar's commercial hub, Pondy Bazaar. Apart from sharing a similar design grammar and eco-friendly sensibilities, it’s notable that the heads of both brands — Fabindia chairman William Bissell (54) who has taken over for his father John Bissell and founder of Hidesign Dilip Kapur (72) are good friends. So, a coming together in some form seems like a natural progression.
We chat with Dilip Kapur about new beginnings, what is in store for 2021, and his vision for the next decade. Excerpts:
We know that your friendship with William goes a long way back. How did this idea for store collaboration come about?
William and I have frequently discussed the idea of bringing together strong Indian brands, and working together to mutually benefit each other, but also to have the idea that we support innovation and brand building within India. This is not the first joint location store we’ve opened; we have worked together at the airports in Bangalore and Lucknow. However, this particular store in Chennai and the stores to follow will be far more thought out and better planned to ensure the benefits of working together.
Is there a collaboration between Hidesign and Fabindia we can expect or is it in the pipeline next?
We are always open to collaborations; however, we do not have anything in the pipeline other than opening joint location stores together.
You started Hidesign in 1978 as a hobby with no background in design at the time. Take us back in time to those early days. Do you remember your first-ever collection?
When I came back to India to be in Auroville, it was with the idea of creating a utopian community. I still continue to be part of that community and I still work there but the idea that I would be working full time in Auroville did not stay as something viable for me. Hence beyond my first six months, I started playing around with leather bags, especially with the idea of rediscovering India’s traditional, sustainable vegetable-tanned leathers.
I went around all over South India, out of sheer curiosity, looking at vegetable tanneries and then I started working on designing bags. I had one cobbler and I together making bags, it was still a hobby until one day one of my friends in Auroville showed it to a large NGO who fell in love with our bags and ordered 1400 of them. I never managed to make those 1,400 bags but it did get us going and we started increasing the size until we were about 200-300 people and we moved into the present atelier factory that you see designed by Ray Meeker for us. It wasn’t until the 90s that I became a full-time Hidesign person, earlier I was half time Hidesign, half time Aurovillian, now I spend most of my time at Hidesign.
What have been some of the big changes over the last few decades?
Over the last few decades, the biggest change that we’ve seen is we’ve started off as a brand that was only supplying abroad - we started in Australia, California, England and moved on to countries like Russia and Scandinavia, but now we’re largely an Indian brand, working in India.
While the international aspect continues, it has become a smaller part, while the exciting part is really here in India. The big difference is when we work with companies abroad, we are a supplier of the Hidesign brand, to stores or distributors, we don’t have direct contact with the customer, while in India we have our own stores helps us in brand building, communication and connecting with our customers directly.
And what is your vision for the next decade?
Our vision for the next decade would be to establish Hidesign very clearly as a brand with its values intact, which would be the three legs of being 1) a very natural fashionable brand, 2) sustainable - sustainability is becoming increasingly keen for us, and 3) the craftsmanship, we want to be the finest craftspeople of leather in the world.