On September 27 in Mumbai this year, a star-studded gathering turned out to celebrate a legendary filmmaker’s birthday posthumously. As a tribute to the late Yash Chopra, a brand new line of designer bridal-wear called Diva’ni was unveiled by his wife Pamela Chopra, with nine leading ladies from the Yash Raj Films (YRF) camp walking the runway in glittering ensembles. And along with the likes of Katrina Kaif, Madhuri Dixit, Rekha, Sridevi, Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra, there was also one gentleman who looked dashing enough for them all – Shah Rukh Khan.
The bridal-wear line, made in collaboration with Karol Bagh Saree House (KBSH), will begin retailing from stores around India this month, and is a tribute to the glitz and drama of Bollywood films. “The experience to this couture world of Diva’ni began with its launch of nine eclectic collections as a compelling tribute to the magic, romance, beauty, passion and the genius of Yash Chopra,” says head designer Parinita Saluja. “It is the first cinema-inspired ethnic fashion brand that offers an enigmatic and larger-than-life experience.”
Coming at a time when more and more Indian fashion designers are waking up to the lucrative luxury bridal market, the tie-up with KBSH makes perfect sense for YRF, for the three-generation-old sari major is already waist-deep in designer wedding wear. Ever since Sanya Dhir, the young, dynamic scion of the family business, took over a few years ago, the company has started a high-end line, a ‘corporate’-wear sari line, and has begun retailing online as well, with complementary services like petticoat- and blouse-stitching thrown in.
“Fifty per cent of our business comes from wedding wear,” says 26-year-old Dhir, who trained in fashion and luxury retail from colleges in India, UK and Germany. Diva’ni, she says, will be a 360-degree ethnic-wear solution, available all year from several locations in India and the world. “Though August to January is the peak wedding season in India, we have year-round business from NRIs so the global slowdown has not affected our wedding-wear sales as much.”
Despite her brand’s comfort levels with their wedding-wear segment, Dhir was keen to create a ‘branded form of Indian ethnic wear’ that would help organise the sari-manufacturing industry, 90 per cent of which is currently unorganised. “We have plenty of either homegrown brands, or else designer limited-edition creations. But there’s no globally available luxury range that offers both quality and consistency in large volumes. Diva’ni will fulfill that gap in the market,” she explains, adding that while Satya Paul comes close as a competitor, their USP is prints. “Diva’ni is all about embroidery, a grandeur of offering. It is meant to capture the largeness of cinema, give every woman that dream-come-true feeling,” she says, explaining that the brand falls on the premium to luxury scale.
With a clever play on the English word ‘diva’ and the Hindi ‘deewani’ (a woman crazed in love), the brand offers prêt, diffusion and couture pieces, with prices ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10 lakhs per ensemble. Keeping their NRI customers in mind – who usually prefer stronger colour palettes, blingy embellishments and heavier looks – the line will also carry traditional bridal wear.
Production takes place in their key centres across Lucknow, Kolkata, Jaipur and Varanasi, where they employ over 2,500 artisans. “The technique of embroideries, drapes and cuts are varied,” elaborates Saluja. “From Victorian 3D-art form, Mughal patterns with zardozi, handloom pure-gold kataan weaves, Rajputana art of gotta patti, canvas art-hand paints, to contemporary sequins and crystallisation, we have used several techniques, weaves and crafts. The idea is also to bring our heritage back and package it into a new design to suit the contemporary woman and her needs,” she says.
Growing at an average of 26 per cent with a turnover of Rs 25 crores annually, KBSH made a great fit for YRF for this project. Rohit Sobti, vice president (licensing and merchandising) at YRF, says, “We had been looking to participate in a meaningful way in the apparel category to bring Bollywood trends and YRF closer to consumers. As an industry, we have been setting fashion trends for our fans worldwide over the last 100 years. Development of brand Diva’ni is a most significant effort by any film studio in the world and KBSH is an ideal associate.” He cites KBSH’s long-standing expertise in creating high-quality designs, besides being at the forefront of changing fashions over the years, as the key requisite skill sets they needed in a production partner.
The nine collections launched so far offer a variety of designs, silhouettes, colours, moods and emotions ‘to celebrate womanhood’, says Saluja. The idea is rooted in the way Yash Chopra envisioned his heroines – aiming to bring out the best of each actress he worked with. The target audience is naturally the young, upwardly mobile bride, who is conscious of trends and enjoys her moment in the spotlight. “From our experience at KBSH, the fastest moving segment is lehengas in the range of Rs 1 lakh,” says Dhir. “The contemporary bride wants fresher colours and pocket-friendly value. In fact, it’s our constant endeavour to keep prices as low as possible given the materials and labour involved.” Of course, when it comes to Diva’ni made-to-order couture pieces, the sky is the limit.
While the current retail focus will be on metros and tier-1 cities, Dhir is already looking towards cash-rich tier-2 cities for shop-in-shop outlets. “But that’s phase two,” she says. “Our major focus right now is to build an image of Diva’ni as a luxury, aspirational brand in the big cities.” Going by young India’s obsession with all things Bollywood, that shouldn’t take too long.
First published in the November 2013 issue of Wedding Vows magazine