Personifying Beauty with Feminine Élan
Abraxas Lifestyle recently caught up with Paras Bairoliya – one half of the designer duo behind Geisha Designs who talked about how it all began, fashion, style and what’s next…
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about how it all started.
Shalini and I both studied at NIFT Delhi. We did lots of projects together and we realised that we had similar strengths. What was peculiar was that we had common strengths, many notes to share, many ideas and our friendship grew and later after doing our own thing separately for two to three years, we thought of starting something together. We did some freelance projects together and eventually we started this. And from day one, it’s been fantastic, we have really grown and the product has matured a lot. We have travelled a lot and we got great responses instantly from consumers and stores and now we have completed nearly 15 years.
Were there any ups and downs?
Yes, there were lots of ups and downs. We decided to open a store nearly 6-7 years after opening our business, and within a month of opening the government demolished it. We again opened up 2 other stores at two different places, but something or the other happened, hurdles came up. We virtually got out of retail. Then we left Delhi. We had a beautiful factory in Delhi, but because of the pollution and the government norms, we had to move to Noida. We went far away from our homes, but when I look back now I don’t regret it because we have our own factory, everything is in-house and we have a far bigger team… I think it helped.
What’s the inspiration behind the name Geisha?
A geisha is a Japanese tea woman. We were inspired by the name because when we started, both of us were reading the book Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It’s about a very simple small town Japanese girl, who struggles through life, learning the art of singing, painting and dancing to entertain people. We felt similarly through our clothes. We were not particular about putting our personal brand name, but we wanted to bring joy into people’s lives through our clothes. So I think that’s the important part of the trade – making someone’s day. We were also very oriental when we started with our designs, so yes, it was just a name that we thought was very pertinent.
What do you have to say about your evolution over the past 15 years? Both as a brand and as a designer.
A lot has evolved. Initially we took very calculated risks; today we are willing to take far bigger risks. Now we jump into projects, earlier we would toy with things. Back then we had time, now the one thing we don’t have is time. Sometimes we aren’t able to talk for days, so yes things are moving fast. 15 years ago we were still exploring, trying to find our identity. Today I think we’ve really figured where we’re headed, we have philosophies which are unique to us. Initially each individual piece was made by us. Finance was a real problem back then – even to buy a book or a machine we had to do a lot of planning. Today we don’t think twice before buying new technology and we now have a huge library.
What is your take on plagiarism in the fashion industry?
What designers copy from me is my today and yesterday, not tomorrow – even we don’t know what we are going to make tomorrow! I don’t think one needs to be bothered about plagiarism; it’s going to happen if it has to happen. With all the technology, everything is available to everyone. The fact is that sometimes it’s a sort of gratification – you are doing something good and that is why people are copying you. So I don’t think that one can really be so closeted – a lot of designers don’t sell online because they say that things are so ready and crystal clear that it would get copied. It’s the masses who make a brand name. Between 100 Louis Vuitton bags, only one is original. It’s not like the other 99 people want to wear a fake, they are inspired to own an original one day. So I think it is aspiration – if someone is copying then it’s creating an aspirational value of your brand.
The general masses won’t be able to afford a garment worth Rs 30,000. That is what they copy, that is why they watch the shows. And that is what has made the brand so popular. It helps a brand actually.
What is the future of the Indian fashion industry?
It is amazing – India is creating so many unique hand-crafted products. I think we are free of recession plus we have got the whole world to explore. International designers are facing recessions and struggling to sort things out, but I think right now for most of us, our businesses are growing in leaps and bounds.
What is your vision for the future?
When we say we are feminine, romantic and pretty, we want to bring joy into people’s lives. Our ultimate hope is to amaze ourselves when we create something. Making each outfit is like a creation, it’s like giving birth to a baby, you start out with something and at the end of it transforms into something else, and that is what we really enjoy.
Generally how much time does it take to conceptualise the idea and to put it into form?
It takes us about 3 months to put together a collection.
How would you describe a Geisha woman?
A Geisha woman is well read and she has really travelled the world. She wants value for money, but she doesn’t want her garments to overpower her personality – she takes something that adds to her personality. Our garments mix and match, and once you’ve got a Geisha product, we service you for life. If you buy a product and come back after 6 years, we will still fix it if there is a problem.
What is your idea of fashion?
That’s a tricky one. Fashion is exploration, it’s an art – you can say a commercial art. When you are creating something you are playing with colours, you are playing with fabrics, eventually putting them together to make a beautiful piece of art that is wearable and again it brings joy to a person’s life.
What is style?
Fashion is something that you can follow, whereas style is something you have of your own – either you have it or you don’t.
Fashion is something like trends – where you realise that something is going to be in vogue, while style is your individual take on them. Because what fashion is for you, might not be for me because of my body type, what I believe in, etc. Style is more individual, it’s more unique to us as individuals while fashion can be more generic.
What are the fashion blunders which Indian women tend to commit?
I think sometimes it’s the wrong undergarments – women tend to not know what cup size they should be wearing. Sometimes I see a fantastic pair of trousers, but they are ruined because the lines of the undergarments are visible.
Truly speaking, from our end we don’t like anarkalis even though they are really selling. We never believed in it, we believe in free style – but we never ever make anarkalis.
Another thing women tend to really overdo is their hair and makeup. They put a strong lipstick and lots of blush and lots of eye makeup – I think they should do just one – either the lips or the eyes, so that they can highlight one feature instead of doing too much.
In your opinion, what is the one change that the Indian fashion industry really requires?
There is a lot of in-fighting, there is a lot of politics; I think people need to share, they need to share ideas and knowledge, and that’s how we would grow.
Do you share with your juniors?
A lot, even with my peers – if they ask me about a fabric, where to get it, what is the technique that I’ve used… I tell them. I have always helped everyone grow.
Do you have any advice for the young upcoming talent?
Be yourself, don’t copy others. There is only one ‘you’ in this world. And being ‘you’ is unique. Do what you feel like.
Can you give our readers a few fashion tips?
Be yourself and understand your body. When you go on shopping, don’t just buy stuff that you already know looks good on you – try on as many things as you can, you will be surprised to find what new things look good on you. Don’t be afraid of trying things – experiment and you will come to know. Go for comfort first, comfort is more important. Don’t compromise on that, and you have to have your own individual style. Look at fashion but find your own style.
About the brand
Geisha Designs is an India-based luxury lifestyle brand with a design philosophy that epitomises style and focuses on fine craftsmanship. Launched by Shalini Jaikaria and Paras Bairoliya in 2001, the brand personifies beauty with ultra feminine élan.