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Mumbai boutique eyes Dubai, London

Maitreyee Handique | November 07, 2003

He almost lost Bollywood's doe-eyed beauty as his client: all because the designer dress she bought from him was not an exclusive one-off product!

Since then Pradeep Hirani, the 39-year-old chief executive officer of Kimaya Fashions Ltd is careful about every move he makes.

For someone who claims that he really pampers his high-profile clients in India, it is now time to indulge the "rich spenders" of Dubai.

Hirani is taking his high-fashion retail brand Kimaya to Dubai in the next couple of months.

Hirani, who set up an export house in Dubai, later moved to Mumbai and set up high fashion boutiques Kimaya and Ixtapa.

Kimaya Jumeirah, the proposed sea-facing boutique on Dubai's posh Beach Road, will not just stock India's leading fashion designers but also works of designers from  Pakistan (Faiza Sami and Rizwan Baig) and Bangladesh (Maheen Khan). Currently, Kimaya's Juhu Tara Road outlet houses haute couture by at least 39 Indian designers.

Talking about Pakistani and Bangladeshi talent at his Dubai store, Hirani says that he would love to stock them in India too.

"But I haven't been able to do this here due to political reasons and import structure bottlenecks. But even if I ride these over, one conflict with the neighbouring countries, would put me under the arc lights," says Hirani.

Besides Dubai, Hirani also plans to open a Kimaya store in London next year.

However, back in Mumbai, Kimaya's 7,500-sq ft store is home to names such as Sabyasachi, Anshu Arora Sen, Rajesh Pratap Singh as well as older designers like Rohit Bal, J J Valaya and Tarun Tahiliani.

Small wonder his boutique is patronised by clients such as Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Rekha in addition to Tina Ambani and Ramesh Chauhan.

"I don't just sell clothes. I make my clients feel special and make them look glamorous. That's my business."

So personalised is Hirani's service that he's even willing to fly in your favourite designer to your city if he thinks you are his potential customer.

Though he may request an initial deposit, he offers follow-up services like a video conference session with the designer in the appointed "bridal chamber" (in case you're ordering a wedding dress) to discuss cuts and drapes.

"Other than touch and feel, you can get everything you want from the designer," he says.

Kimaya also stocks accessories like shoes and jewellery and offers tips on make-up.

"So a customer need no longer go through the trouble of individually fixing meetings with different designers in different cities," explains Hirani.

Kimaya stocks jewellery by Naina Balsaver Ahmed, shoes by Renaldi and bags by Anjali Kapoor.

By next year, Kimaya, which means magic in Pushtu, will also house men's clubwear and a complimentary cafe for customers "to indulge in".

And  if you are a Bollywood star, Hirani has a dedicated staff which keeps track of birthdays and special occasions as well as films they could be working in.

It is also important to ensure that a mistake (like selling similar dresses to high-profile clients) is not repeated.

"The film stars drink and breathe fashion. It's like oxygen to them. They need clothes as they need to make style statements," says Hirani. Dresses at Kimaya cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 and several lakh.

At Ixtapa, which is named after a Mexican city, the clothes range between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000.

"Here I provide the latest western wear at Indian prices. The clothes at the shop are by emerging designers in Paris and Milan," he adds.

When retail outlets are rolling out the red carpet to woo customers with attractive discounts, Hirani prefers to reserve entry to his shop "by appointment only". When others are talking pret, he'd rather do limited, exclusive one-off wear.

"It's a new concept. When everybody is talking about malls and high street fashion, I prefer to go against the tide. I'd rather sell a lehenga for Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) than sell 10 shirts worth Rs 2,000. Though the fashion world loves the Indian numbers, I feel designers are not yet ready with the logistics to do volumes," he says.

Hirani started his business eight years ago, with Sterling Fashion, an export house in Dubai.

Two years later, he opened a retail store called Gimmicks, at Juhu Tara Road in Mumbai which stocked lower range western outfits. In 1999, he started Ixtapa, a store that actually catapulted him as the Bollywood dresser.

But what will sustain Hirani's business in the future? "New design talent. We need to give them a new platform" he says.

This week, Kimaya Fashions organised the Castle Lager Student Fashion Award at Taj Mumbai.

Twenty-one fashion designers from 29 fashion institutes across the country were shortlisted. "The works of  three finalists will be showcased at Kimaya," he says.

But how does he keep the egos of 39 designers under one roof?

"It's an occupational hazard. You don't need an MBA for this, but an understanding of human psychology. It's a massive job but I'm enjoying it."

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