For London College of Fashion alumnus Nimish Shah, 33, the business of fashion goes beyond just designing clothes. The product design and development student says, “I don’t design. I’m just someone who is good at putting things together and giving it some context. This thought process applies to any product, even clothing. Most designers will agree that it’s all about creating the brand communication and business around it.” And he has managed to do that quite well with his label Shift. Launched in 2011, the label known for its utilitarian approach and modern interpretation of everyday chic, has gained critical appreciation and a celebrity fan following that includes Sonam K Ahuja, Kalki Koechlin, Anushka Sharma and Kangana Ranaut.
In fact, Sonam has precipitated the Mumbai boy’s sudden shift in future plans and address by asking him to take charge as creative director of her husband Anand Ahuja’s six-year-old clothing label bhane (now rechristened Bhaane) in Delhi. Shah talks about reaching a mass market and affecting change through the label:
How did the assignment with Bhaane come about?
Sonam, a supporter of Shift, has watched the brand evolve in terms of aesthetic, finesse and design communication. While Bhaane already has an amazing design team in place, they wanted a newer perspective and a fresh creative voice to take things forward. Our thoughts aligned on what it means to have a brand in today’s day and age, and what it means to create a modern vocabulary. Anand’s vision is very clear — Bhaane happens to sell clothes, it’s not just a clothing brand. It’s about building a sub-culture.
As a designer, how does this appointment work to your advantage?
Bhaane is a price-conscious brand and that helps in reaching a wider audience. If you can dictate a visual and cultural change — the way minimalism was defined in the ‘70s and ‘90s — if you can lead the market into a design philosophy, that’s an achievement. When your product manages to move out of private circles and reaches a college-going student, it’s a definite perk. As much as Anand and Sonam care about their bottomline, they want to sell things that people would experiment with. It’s not about making five versions of a tunic. Here’s a chance to create a new modern language that is relevant for Indian audiences.
Your clothes have a melancholic vintage vibe. Whereas, Bhaane is about today.
People associate brands with certain qualities because of communication. We want to take the inherent strengths and unifying factors of both brands and make them stronger. So obviously (like Shift), there will be finesse, a certain value add and experience to the clothes. There are more heads involved, so there will be a more evolved product and streamlined process. And maybe, Shift will become a lot more condensed, niche, and go deluxe. While Bhaane will remain street, massy and for everyday consumption
How will your ideas on sustainability apply in the new scheme of things?
At Shift, we have a very common sense approach to sustainability. With Bhaane’s price-points, we can’t do khadi and eco textiles. However, we want to work with sustainable mill-made fabrics that are dying out thanks to technological advancement. We’re looking at ideas of upcycling, packaging, waste management, better design handling, streamlining and fine-tuning back-end processes to become more sustainable. We’re looking at impact of sustainability at the consumer level, not just at raw material and procurement or design stage.