For two decades, Sachin & Babi Ahluwalia have been forging their path in the luxury lifestyle world. Sachin, in a special talk to Men’s Passion during his visit for the collection launch at Harvey Nichols stores in Kuwait, revealed about their start, progress and market penetration having worked for the most exclusive couture houses for unique embroideries.
Your wife and yourself founded Sachin & Babi. At what point did you decide to work together knowing that you both met at design school?
We are both from India she’s from New Delhi and I am from Mumbai, and we met at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the United States. Being in a new city you look at a familiar face and we became good friends, when we graduated neither of us wanted to go back to India, and we decided to start a company together, our parents encouraged us to get married we were very young at that time.
So we started our business together specialized in embroidery designs, over the two decades we were very fortunate to work with the best design houses in the world from Valentino, Giorgio Armani, to Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass in New York and we developed an atelier in India with 230 people and about 260 hand embroiderers working exclusively for us.
It was only about five/six years ago that we decided to start our own label and that was primarily where we started to think about creating a collection with the same esthetics, the same level of finish and luxury and the same quality of fabrics that we used to provide to the fashion houses, yet we wanted our collection to be more affordable and more approachable for our friends and for people like us.
How can you describe your relation at work and at home?
It is very unique! Obviously when we started it took us many years to separate between home and office. At the office we are different types of partners than at home. I think that since we had our daughters it’s kind of pretty hard to focus on something but them. I always say children are a good distraction. So dinner tables are usually about school and life. Both Babi and myself we hold our spaces, my wife runs certain parts of the business and I run different parts, and it took us years to figure out this kind of balance which makes it easier for both of us.
Who does what?
I studied design and my wife studied textiles at FIT, so I am more involved with the design aspect of the business and my wife holds all the technical and tactile aspects, she is the woman behind the brand, she’s also the muse and the reason why we do what we do, so she’s sort of my inner voice; I am the hand and she is the brain.
From where do you get inspired?
When we talked about our Spring collection our inspiration was ballet dancers; when I look at today’s modern woman I see she is filled with grace, very feminine but at the same time she is very strong and comes from a point of strength, and if you look at ballet dancers they are very gracious, very feminine and when you look at their feet you see they come from so much strength. So that was a wonderful source of inspiration for our collection along their silhouettes we wanted fabric to float beautifully and easily with a lot of ruffles and where you can see a little bit of the leg. For our presentation, we brought four ballet dancers and they absolutely understood the connection.
What do you have to tell us about your new collection? As we saw that the entire patterns are flowers.
I have always loved botanicals; I think that what attracted me most to this field.
A collection is always known to be feminine and I have always admired that aspect of it.
How will it respond to Kuwaitis’ women taste and style?
I am still learning about the Kuwaiti woman through our partners and buyers. I see her very fashion oriented, she really knows what she wants and aware about the current trends. Just by looking at the selection this store has it really speaks to who she is. Today the Kuwaiti woman- like all of the women in today’s modern societies- looks for cloth that fit her lifestyle. I see this in Europe, America and I don’t think it’s any different here.
According to me, the woman is really taking control of her life and she’s really challenging the designers like myself to give her a collection that really speaks to her, to her needs and to her lifestyle.
How do you describe your partnership with Harvey Nichols Kuwait?
I’m not sure when but ever since we have started, we have seen that Kuwait grew into one of the largest markets we have in the Middle East. Harvey Nichols Kuwait has been one of the strongest partners we have in the region that’s why I wanted to come here and see for myself. This is a store that looks at the emerging brands, really nurtures them, helps them grow and gives them the potential especially for young emerging designers like ourselves and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than them.
If you weren’t designing Sachin & Babi, what would you be doing?
Oh my Gosh!! If I weren’t designing Sachin & Babi I would most probably be a Chef. I love to cook, I absolutely enjoy it and I follow all the cooking shows on television. For me it’s another creative process and like any creative process you start something from ingredients and you see that over a period of time it becomes fruition and that, what makes it so satisfying. To see something from an idea into a natural physical thing is very rewarding, and the chef when he takes some ingredients then adds spices and herbs, his dish will transform into something that touches the senses, so I think that is a fascinating journey.
What will be your piece of advice for young designers?
Relevance is so important, there are so many products in the market. I always say to young designers look at the opportunities of what the market wants rather than creating something that they want. There is always space for new designers but I think that they need to find that space for them to be individual but also distinct from everything else. And if they can do that they will have definitely a good space to be in.