What keeps multi-designer stores relevant?

The Vasa Indica store in Delhi
The Vasa Indica store in Delhi


Understanding the draw of multi-brand stores at a time when many designers are expanding their solo retail presence

Shopping for India-born brands began in the 1980s, when multi-brand designer stores like Ensemble in Mumbai turned the spotlight on homegrown designers such as Abraham and Thakore and Manish Arora. The designers didn’t have big budgets to open standalone stores, and consumers were just getting familiar with the country’s young fashion talent. Forty years later, with the entry of corporates into fashion, several designers are expanding their retail presence at lightning speed, opening standalone stores with music, lighting and furniture to reflect the designer’s vision. Multi-designer stores haven’t shut shop though; they are also growing but across tier-1 and tier-II cities.

What makes multi-designer stores relevant is the variety they offer, says Devika Sakhuja, co-founder of Vasa Indica, a multi-designer store that opened its first outlet in Delhi last week. “As brands grow, they may choose to open their own stores, yet multi-designer stores remain a vital sales channel due to the loyal customer base and curated experience," she says.


Tina Tahiliani, executive director of Ensemble, which sells wedding, occasion and casual wear from various designers, agrees. “Corporate-backed brands often cater to a singular aesthetic or price point, which can limit choices for the shopper," she says. At Ensemble’s stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, the average shopper is aged 35-60. “Occasion wear remains the biggest category offline. Online, for us, has slowly been on the rise," says Tahiliani.

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At Aza Fashions, which has stores in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, online-offline ratio is 50:50. The luxury fashion retail chain showcases emerging and independent designers who may not have the resources to open standalone boutiques or compete with the marketing power of corporate-backed brands. “This helps new talent gain visibility and reach a wider audience," says Devangi Parekh, director, Aza. “Many designers (like Nachiket Barve and Kunal Rawal) were discovered by Aza, and we continue to retail designers backed by corporates. They view us as growth partners."

Talking about the shopping patterns of customers, Parekh says many tend to prefer physical stores for personalised services, experiential shopping and instant gratification, whereas they choose online for discovery and price comparison.

For content creator Ishita Chopraa, special promotions are a big draw of multi-designer stores. “There are always some lucrative offers going on at these stores, making prices more approachable."

She has a strategy when it comes to shopping online and offline: If she’s buying a heavily embroidered piece, then she prefers a physical store experience. “It depends on what I am purchasing. If I have identified a Manish Malhotra look, then I’d like to visit his store as opposed to going to an Aashni + Co (a multi-designer store). A solo brand store experience makes more sense if it’s a big purchase and the overall luxury service experience you enjoy is better as opposed to a multi-brand outlet. You are also paying for the experience," she adds.

Rasika Wakalkar, founder of multi-designer store Rudraksh in Pune, says the relevance of a multi-brand store in an era of mono-brand outlets backed by corporates and online shopping, depends on the curation of the merchandise, pre-sales and post-sales services. “All may be able to co-exist," she says. “But it is surely all about the survival of the fittest."

Manish Mishra is a Delhi-based writer and content creator.


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