Bikaner House smells of Kama Ayurveda, with desi rose petals strewn on the ground. What’s not-so-on-brand are the pink heart-shaped balloons and flower displays. This is Kama’s first collaboration with Manish Arora, the man who made kitsch cool, and collaborations cooler still — him of Fish Fry fame, way back in 2001, when Reebok shoes got a Manish makeover.
“We’ve reached about 60 collaborations, and we’ve never done Ayurvedic products. But we’ve done things from My Little Pony to an Espresso Coffee,” says Arora. The Kama collab includes limited-edition boxes and a handmade brooch. The pink and gold drew him, but also the fact that he uses sandalwood handwash, and rose water in summer.
Despite the fact that he doesn’t have a store in the country, Arora laughingly says he is still a ladies’ tailor, but, “I have my own style, my own tribe, my own following”. Which is to say Lady Gaga would wear his clothes (which she did), and Angela Merkel probably would not; unless she fancies embroidery on a sports jersey.
He has heard that there is fresh talent in India, but he doesn’t seem to track it. What he does track is Instagram. “Everybody can have their own voice today. You can sit in your home and share an idea with the whole world.” He talks of Toronto-based Donte Colley (@donte.colley), who “just says happy things and he has thousands of followers.”
This individuality, and developing a signature style, is what Indian designers may find difficult to cultivate. “It’s dominated by what the bride or neighbour wants. It’s a big business, but one has to choose.”
He himself has chosen well: China, where he has five standalones and 40-50 retail points the brand stocks in. Nearly 40% of his business comes from there, with the Middle-East following.
Dressing itself has changed, says Arora. “Earlier, dressing up was a plan. You go home, change, then go out. Today, you go to work, go out, and then come home. It’s practical, so you can just wear something on top and you’re done.”
Hence athleisure and his collaboration with Paris Saint-Germain FC, the French football team’s capsule collection that will be made available in India on Arora’s website soon. The ongoing collaboration will continue until next World Cup (in Qatar), and there may even be a Manish Arora-PSG line every season. The Qatar royal family owns PSG (in Gurugram), so Arora looks like he’s set for a while.
Meanwhile, the designer’s team is scouting for locations in Delhi to set up his new store some time in summer. So we know we’ll have both lifestyle and luxury to look forward to.
The Kama box includes rose water and a brooch. ₹1,850, on kamaayurveda.com.