In the sweltering May heat of Mumbai, sisters Rhea Kapoor, a 30-year-old film producer, and actor Sonam Kapoor, 31, are curiously layered from top to toe. Rhea is wearing a summer trench coat while Sonam sports a denim jacket over a summery, white back-to-school stationery-print shirt dress. They are rushing from meetings, and the interview happens in Rhea’s car. On this day, to ask “Who are you wearing?" would be moot because the sisters are on their way to announce the launch of their fashion label, Rheson (an amalgam of both their first names), kitted out in garments from their debut Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
Their partnership with the retail chain Shoppers Stop began two years ago and the high-street fashion label is now available in Shoppers Stop outlets across the country.
Why now? I ask. “I used to get offered a lot of brand endorsements...to put my name on brands, websites, social media portals, but it felt a little inauthentic," says Sonam. “With Shoppers Stop, we could create our own brand, which was representative of us. Also, we have complete creative control." Rhea adds: “We do all the design, representation and imaging; they handle the manufacture and distribution. We are involved in every creative aspect—from fabric to quality control. And they provide the infrastructure, manufacturing and distribution."
The sisters believe that their sartorial savoir faire and the expertise of the retail chain are a perfect match. It’s similar to the dynamic between the two. Sonam sees the big picture; Rhea is a stickler for detail. “We work really well together," says Rhea.
Rheson is launching with five collections: Nostalgic 90s, Mogra, Denim, Emoji and Mithai. Sonam’s favourites are the nostalgia prints, including the Phantom cigarette, stationery and candy prints. “These are prints of things from our childhood. It’s Rhea’s clever idea," says Sonam. “Everywhere in the world, we have pop culture and pop art, so the nostalgia prints are our answer to the Coca-Cola print or the American flag; this is our pop art to represent India. The Mogra collection features stylish dresses and palazzo saris with floral prints, and an Emoji-inspired collection will hit stores next month. Sonam expects the mithai collection, the prints of which she describes as “very cute", to be out soon.
Even as fashionista and Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor is feted for her red-carpet choices and her affinity for fashion, we know that Rhea is the tour de force behind her sister’s on-point style. “Rhea’s not just been involved in my styling. We have been partners in almost everything. Besides the fact that we live in the same house, we produce films together, she styles me, she’s my best friend, and now we have our own fashion brand," says Sonam.
The girls credit their mother, jewellery designer Sunita Kapoor, with instilling in them a passion and love for textiles and vintage fashion. “We do have an appreciation for craftsmanship and couture, but we also have an appreciation for self-expression," says Rhea. “Fashion is supposed to be fun and the ability to have fun on a day-to-day basis should not be taken away from you just because you can’t afford it."
Sonam says that Rheson aims to be the home-grown answer to brands like Zara, Forever 21, Uniqlo and H&M—one that combines a distinctive identity with worldwide appeal.
As to why they opted for the high-street route versus haute couture, Rhea says: “Sonam has been lucky that because of her platform, designers want to dress her. But it’s not like either of us wears couture every day. We wear a lot of high street in our everyday lives." Sonam adds, “And you can’t wear couture in the Mumbai heat and humidity for sure."
Rheson’s style mantra is “No Rheson you can’t". The collection aims at affordability, glamour, style and longevity. Age is no bar, they say. “People keeping asking me, “What’s your TG (target group)?’, but I say that time has gone. My father and brother wear the same things—my dad is 60 and my brother is 24. In today’s day and age, it does not matter," says Rhea.
T-shirts, jeans, shirts, palazzo saris, sheer hoodies and a range of stylish bags are highlights of the collection. With an emphasis on day-wear that is age-agnostic, the Rheson collection is contemporary Indian with a modern twist. The kurtas can be worn as T-shirts with jeans, the mogra flower has inspired a black and white collection, including a crop top (Rs1,099) and palazzo saris (Rs3,299), and the candy print finds its way on to a button-down dress (Rs1,799).
Besides garments, Rheson includes a range of non-leather handbags—bucket bags, box bags, stacked circle drawcord sling bags and flapover backpacks. Jewellery (artificial), shoes and evening-wear are on the drawing board. Rhea also wants to introduce more sustainable clothing in their future collections, “but right now the important thing is to deliver good quality at a good price and do it as responsibly as we can."
As we approach our destination, I look at the sisters casually pulling off a layered look in May and wonder if they aren’t their own best brand ambassadors. In response, Sonam says, “Acting and producing films—those are our jobs. At the core, we are just Indian girls from Juhu who have lots of girlfriends. We are who we are and our designs reflect that."