RUDHRA KAPUR REINVENTS HERITAGE
— MEHER CASTELINO
One of the first boutiques to open in India was Burlingtons’ at Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in 1951. When Shori Kapur, the wealthy owner of Devichand’s in Lahore, had to flee from Pakistan during the Partition there were not many fancy stores in the city. However there were swanky men’s tailoring shops like Laffans, Esquire and Lord and Taylor that sold fabrics and offered customised tailoring. That is exactly what Burlington’s too started doing in the beginning. But when son Andre Kapur stepped in, women’s wear was added in 1960. Incidentally, the name Burlingtons’ has nothing to do with its namesake in the UK but is inspired by popular song “Burlington Bertie rises at 6.30”! Rudhra Kapur, son of Andre, now heads Burlington’s and reveals future plans to Meher Castelino.
When did you take over the operations of Burlingtons’?
I moved back to India in 2010, from Rome where I lived for nine years handling the export division of my family business.
What has been your contribution to the group?
My contribution to the group since 2010 has been to take a family run establishment into the 21st century in terms of the product, brand image, services, efficiencies and transparencies.
How has Burlingtons’ changed since it started in 1951?
1951, was an era of wealth and poverty, with no middle class in our social system, and for the upper classes there was only Burlingtons’. Although we continue to work with some of our original artisans and weavers there is no compromise in our custom tailoring services. The changes in Burlingtons’ would be in the modernisation of technology, administrative skills, product development and trends.
You are a trained designer so do you create collections for the stores?
Yes I concentrate my creative energy on every product down to the buttons and surveying of realistic fair pricing. I create two collections – the winter- Diwali- festive and the summer collections, which we then peter into the stores through the seasons, keeping national elegance as priorities.
What is your customer profile?
Local customers, the Taj Inner circle members, celebrities and luxury brand clients. Our boutiques are located in luxury hotels and we generate what we used to call “TRANSIT CLIENTS” i.e. traveling corporate- tourists- guests of the hotels who we then stay in touch with through our online store and target them for our products and services.
How has the fashion scene changed from the time you started?
I started working at 20 in the fashion industry, that is 27 years ago! There has been an evolution since then. Some changes started with Burlingtons’, my personal brand boutique Rudhra, and then came Ensemble, new designers, brands and potential competitors. With the ever increasing demand for luxury items, a lot of brands have been influenced by pricing and the explosion of synthetics have flooded the market. Burlingtons’ selectively avoids this due to our high standard of excellence in true luxury and pure natural fibres. With influences of TV, Internet and mass travel, trends have moved towards western influence both in daily and formal wear, leading to an unfortunate identity crisis in the trends of our country and large sacrifice of its heritage. Our Identity in the fashion industry on a global scale needs to be forged by merging our rich and fabulous heritage with the ever modernising world.
What is the USP of the group that has kept it in the news even in 2014?
The USP of Burlingtons’ would be its excellence in multiple fields starting with our in-house research, design and manufacturing efforts towards covering a large panel of classy, well cut products at fair prices. The services we offer range from 24-hour custom tailoring and room service where we send our experts to the offices, homes or any premises in the city to cater to the requirements in the field of garments.
How much do online sales contribute?
Our online sales have only been activated since the last few days. The contribution is proving healthy and promising towards its targets in this short period. The online store is a mirror image of the products in all our boutiques.
Why did you discontinue your “Rudhra Gallery”?
“Rudhra Gallery” was a personal decision to discontinue as my career, demands and creativity found greater strength, exposure and tenacity in the export division of my family firm catering my creativity to large international brands and volumes around the world.
When you started in 1992 your shows were considered very avant garde and daring. What do you think of the shows now?
I believe that the human eye is by nature programmed towards spotting or identifying “imperfection” and therefore being avant garde and daring create an unforgettable experience in an environment of perfection.
You are trained in western wear. Do you now do Indian too?
Yes I am trained by western technology in garments for styling, construction, quality and apply this to Indian wear. As my professor would say ‘what good is having a creative dream if you do not know how to construct it.. it will never become what you dream it to be.’
How come your clothes—and now your catalogues—are always photographed only by Pablo Bartholomew.
His eye as a journalist photographer is as sharp as they come. He makes an exception on my behalf; as far as fashion is concerned he is not a fashion photographer but believes in the pure passion of photography. We share a long strong bond in our creativity, understanding of beauty, trust and faith.
How has your design philosophy changed over the years?
My design philosophy has never really changed over the years, only evaluated with creative capacities and trends by forging a fusion identity of our Indian artisans and heritage to the modern India and world.
What are your future plans for Burlingtons’?
My future plans for Burlingtons’ are to maintain its recognition of excellence throughout all its endeavours, concentrating on its globalisation now through our new online shop, piloting its future with the growth of sales, and opening new boutiques in India and abroad.
How many stores does Burlingtons’ have now?
Burlingtons’ Mumbai currently under my direction has 3 boutiques however in the family group there is one in Kolkata and three in Delhi. It is my intention to unify the group into the umbrella of the identity, product lines, services and efforts being offered here in the Mumbai division. We are open to collaborate and partnership proposals for the same.
There used to be the Burlingtons’ catalogue started by your father… any plans to revive it?
Burlingtons’ Home Shopping and Otto Burlingtons’ were the pioneers of mail order in our country and have been reactivated now with the support of modern technology in our online e-commerce shop.
Do you face competition from new designer stores that have sprung up all over Mumbai and India?
Our only setback is in the heavy security procedures that have become the normalcy in our luxury hotels. People find it inconvenient and restrict the spontaneity or desire to come and dine or shop in the hotels. This is the offspring of a haunted memory and restricted achievement of the attempts of 26-11. New designer stores are at a certain advantage point ,being easily accessible to the local clientele.
Where do you see Indian fashion and designers in the future?
India is under a tremendous amount of International influence through TV, Internet and foreign brands stepping into the market place creating what I would term as a national identity crisis in fashion. Australia, Europe, UK, America and Africa all bearing down their trends and tendencies apron our nation’s identity. This I believe is having an extremely powerful impact on the source of our nation’s artisans, weavers, heritage, the dying arts of our nation and the dear price of this sacrifice towards our nation’s future identity.