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Bespoke service- rigorous vetting process to invite designers- and its rapid expansion into omni- retail has distinguished AZA as one of the top players in India luxury fashion retail. In conversation with Devangi Nishar Parekh, Creative Director, AZA and founder of azafashions.com


How important was it shifting from bricks-and-mortar to an omni-channel retail strategy? Was this part of a strategy for AZA to become a global fashion brand?


Retailers worldwide have transitioned to omni-channel retail. Most International luxury brands, regardless of their initial apprehension to the digital shift, have now realized that it is here to stay and needs to be addressed. In the Indian luxury landscape, AZA was an early adopter of both social media and e-commerce; shifting to an omni-channel strategy has boosted our growth trajectory. While our brick and mortar stores continue to do well, our e-commerce platform azafashions.com has enabled us to cater to customers worldwide, which was indeed part of our long-term strategy.


E-commerce is on track to become your second biggest retail channel, ahead of the stores perhaps. Do you envision a future where the physical stores are just showcases and most of the purchasing happens online?


E-commerce and physical stores are both important pillars of our organisation, and they support each other. It is unlikely that one would replace the other, particularly in the luxury apparel space. Online offers both reach and convenience to customers worldwide as well as to clients in cities where we do not have stores. In Mumbai and Delhi, we have customers who shop across mediums. A client might, for example, see something on azafashions.com and buy it in the store; alternatively, she might discover a label at an AZA store and find additional styles by the designer on our website. For bridal couture, many customers who have access to our stores, prefer to buy in person. The benefit of an omni-channel strategy is that it offers fluidity and continuity across experiences.


What inspired you to launch AZA Edit focusing on affordable ready-to-wear and accessories?


AZA Edit is a platform to showcase emerging Indian designers with tremendous potential who are still relatively untapped. Each brand is assigned a space where they can voice their individuality through creative expression. As a company that has, over the last decade, served as a launching pad for a large number of designers who are now established, we at AZA strongly believe in actively searching for and supporting young talent. What is great is that from a customer standpoint, AZA Edit presents cutting edge fashion at affordable prices that will not break the bank.


What does buying entail? What is your criteria for selecting designers across segments?


We have a team of seasoned professionals that scrutinises each collection, selecting key pieces that define trends for the season. Historically, buying happened 2-4 times a year. Now, the process is year-round — we are always buying and new styles are introduced every day. As see-now, buy-now is now a worldwide phenomenon, we work with designers to ensure that AZA introduces new collections year-round, so that customers no longer have to wait three to six months for something new. When identifying new designers, we look for a unique voice that resonates across collections, like an invisible stamp. The idea is that when I see someone across the room wearing your label, I should be able to recognise that you made it, without having to ask. Of course, immaculate quality and finishing are of utmost importance.


How do you edit a designer's collection from the runway for it to sell at AZA?


We edit every collection, selecting pieces that would work best for our client base. There are clients who buy pieces exactly as you see them on the runway. On Azafashions.com, we offer most fashion week collections for pre-order straight off the runway, the same day as the show. We do similar straight-off-the-runway events in stores. However, runway collections can be too avant-garde, and we do incorporate changes like colour, fabric, sleeve length or price to make pieces commercially viable. For example, heavy fabrics might work for North Indian or European winters, but it's hot in Mumbai year-round, so breathable fabrics work better. We ensure that the essence of the brand remains intact.


How would you describe the designer-buyer relationship?


It's a mutually supportive relationship with trust and open, honest communication at the core. Maintaining the right balance between creativity and commerce is key. Designers think outside the box and innovate, often experimenting with ideas. Buyers work with tangible sales data and interact with customers, so they can share valuable feedback on what sells. It's about creating harmony between the two.


You have brought a refreshing new perspective on the brand and its DNA. What have you learnt about luxury fashion retail from your mother and what are the new ideas you have been implementing?


From my mother, I learned the importance of professionalism and relationships. At a time where late payments were the industry standard, AZA established a new standard of professionalism that didn't exist before. Our payments are released before schedule. Similarly, relationships with both designers and customers that AZA has nurtured over the last thirteen years have allowed us to maintain a rapid pace of expansion. AZA has supported designers in scaling production and maintaining order timelines, so the industry at large benefits. My focus is to establish a robust fashion-tech platform that expands the outreach of Indian fashion and allows us to achieve global scale while creating a seamless consumer experience.


Is Fashion Retail evolving in India? What is your experience and perspective?


Yes definitely. The industry was relatively nascent when AZA launched. With more retailers, designers and spending power, the industry at large has matured and become more professional. Of course, there is room for further growth, but small steps add up to big changes.


What are the challenges of being a buyer?


Balancing what's beautiful with what sells — one has to be good with numbers, budgets and projections but at the same time understand the psyche of a consumer and have an acute perception of future trends, which can be instinctive. It's also a round-the-clock job so you have to be extremely passionate about what you do.


Who is the average shopper at Aza today?


AZA means 'desire' in Sanskrit and my mother founded it with the goal of creating a friendly, welcoming space that showcased the best of Indian fashion. No matter where you're from or what your special occasion is, the idea is to take the pressure of what to wear, off you, so you can focus on building memories. We cater to a fairly wide audience, including brides and grooms from across the country as well as their families and friends. Our assortment includes bridal wear, occasion wear and ready to wear across price points. Offline, we have womenswear and menswear. azafashions.com also offers kid's apparel.


What do you personally love about Fashion?


Everything! Fashion is a powerful form of self-expression. It allows individuals to communicate aspects of their personality to others and has the power to affect one's mood. While a strong silhouette can evoke confidence, certain colours instantly make you feel brighter and uplifted.


On a personal note... what are your guilty pleasures when it comes to shopping?


I love experimenting with vanguard labels, unusual styles and dramatic silhouettes. I'll happily buy quirky sunglasses or shoes, which people look at, and wonder who wears!


What is the future for AZA ahead?


One of our foremost goals at AZA is to be a truly global platform for Indian talent. We have been expanding rapidly over the last few years but the world is large and we have miles to go! We're working towards a day where Indian designers are recognised at par with International labels.

Devangi Nishar Parekh
Devangi Nishar Parekh
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