UNDERSTATEMENT: The Bandhej tie up


UNDERSTATEMENT: The Bandhej tie up

When you meet Archana Shah, the founder of Ahmedabad’s Bandhej, known as one of India’s first textiles-based fashion brand (founded in 1985), you get a sense that she has been there, done that and means what she is saying. Shah is also the author of a vibrant and insightful book on the crafts traditions of Kutch titled Shifting Sands that staggers historical facts and relevant new documentation. In Delhi, on 9 September for the launch of a Bandhej ‘concept’ store in Khan Market, Shah welcomed guests in a lovely deep red silk sari with a grey knitted blouse and an extraordinary neckpiece that looked rather Mexican (no, I didn’t ask her). Fabindia had acquired the stake earlier this year.

The best aspect of the existing range is the variety of textiles and textures. Both, for men and women. It’s a delight to browse through such a vast tactile field — from silk and cotton bandhinis, Saurashtra Patola saris, crepe and silk Banarasis, Chanderis, some with metallic-silver khaddi printing, pure linens in white and natural colour including linen jackets and shirts shot with silver thread, Kah-lah cotton separates (old world organic cotton grown in Gujarat), rustic khadi, hand embroidered white chikankari on beige dupattas, pure cottons with or without tie and dye, knits and hosiery fabrics. The subtlety of Bandhej’s linen garments makes them particularly engaging for contemporary dressing, which is dependent on fusing out various styles from one garment. If they fit you—after all, the everlasting issue of sizing in ready-to-wear apparel can’t be discounted–they are definitely worth buying as stylish pieces. As are some of the saris, especially the Saurashtra Patolas.

Fabindia’s financial investment in Bandhej—there will be no creative collaboration, nor will Fabindia stock the other—will obviously give the chain a big retail thrust and make its vision directional. Shah says she hopes to open 24-30 more stores across the country in the next three years.

Which is why, it may be the right time to reflect on the idea of the “concept” store. I am clearly a few decades too late in reviewing Bandhej’s clothes range, so let me not push in that direction too much. What needs to be said though is that for a concept store, the place needs an atmosphere, a personality that works as any brand’s unspoken, intimate language, visible before any garment is seen or touched. It is a continuity of thought expressed through a clever juxtaposition of décor and design across a chain of stores. The kind of language that Bandhej’s current store in Ahmedabad speaks for instance, where warmer lighting and semi-ethnic décor helps customers interpret Shah’s creative mind better.

The Khan Market concept store certainly needs more work—it asks for deeper thought in décor, format, look and retail experience.

Bandhej, Khan Market, Near Gopal Mandir. Phone: 011-43600652. Price range: 2500- 10,000, some special saris go up to 50,000