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FABINDIA'S FABELS

— Meher Castelino

The name Fabindia in fashion is legendary with legions of followers all over India who love shopping for budget clothes created from handlooms at the 175 stores in 73 cities across the country. Started in 1960 by John Bissell who came to India on a Ford Foundation grant to advise All India Handicrafts Board and Cottage Industries on creating a market for handlooms. His love for Indian crafts and weaving saw the birth of Fabindia.

In 1998 Fabindia Managing Director William Bissell took over the reins of the company and in 2014 he felt the need to offer loyal customers a western wear line with International appeal. To create this look Bissell zeroed on Alistair Blair who has worked for Dior in 1980 and Givenchy in 1983 followed by designing assignments with Chloe, Valentino and Cerruti creating haute couture and ready-to-wear. Blair—now stationed in Goa for the past eight years—dreamt of creating a western wear line with Indian sensibilities after seeing the many malls and stylish young generation. Impressed with the Fabindia story and mesmerised with the brand and its history.. Blair’s first interview with Bissell in 2012 set the ball rolling for the birth of the Fabels label.

“I looked at the fabrics, the amazing weaves, the embroidery and the block prints and realised that while China was catering to the new generation—which was following western trends—Fabindia was not feeding that demand as it was not part of its DNA at that time. The Indian market is changing quickly and so in 2013 I started work on Fabels,” informs Blair. Within four months the 56 styles for men and women were ready with 300 pieces per style in 2-4 colours for Flow 1 and 2 collections. Fabels was launched in 14 stores across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai and by November-December 2014 the number will go up to 20 stores where dedicated shop-in-shops will create the Fabels experience.

Blair was enamoured with khadi which could look as fine as chiffon. He introduced it for a block print jacket with the Godri (quilting) process. Chanderi was for block printed wrap top and chikankari for white shirts. He wove his design story around these three for mens and womens wear. Using cotton linen, khadi and Chanderi which transcends all seasons.. the collection took shape. A great admirer of the sari print, “I used eight block prints of a sari in black and white for a Chanderi shirt. This will be followed by one in navy and white cotton. These three techniques of sari print, Godri and chikankari will form the core of our collection” reveals Blair. Mass marketing is not the path for Fabels as that will defeat the objective of where the brand is going. “The Fabels customer is well informed and travelled, confident, patriotic, understands block printing and doesn’t follow trends but is a unique individual. Normally companies have core products and the cherry on the top. Fabindia will have a cherry on the top and introduce everything around it.”

Besides garments Fabels also has footwear, jewellery, scarves, bags and Ipad cases. 4-5 collections will be launched each year and by July 2014 there will be 14 colour ways in Flow 3. “The complete look of each garment is important for me so everything has been launched together.” The current collection is in earthy shades of beige, black, dusty pink, white and deep orange starting from Rs 790 for cotton skives to Rs 5990 for mens jackets. The pricing is 15-20 per cent more than Fabindia on particular pieces. In the womens range there are printed khadi lapel jackets, pleated trousers, asymmetric hem bias-cut dresses, printed shifts, palazzos, gauze linen jackets, flared skirts, textured waistcoats, printed cropped tops, beaded sandals, necklaces, scarves and handbags. Mens wear comprises mandarin collar linen jackets and trousers, striped and solid shirts, three-button gauze linen jackets, shorts, linen hand block print lapel collar jackets, waistcoats, mull cotton shirts and sandals.  

“It’s important that the two brands are not similar. We want new customers for Fabels and our Fabindia customer who is looking for something new and contemporary. The Fabindia core customers were asking for better designs so they have two separate looks now. Maybe in future, Fabels might even go into standalone stores,” he hopes. Blair is in awe of Indian designers who incorporate embroidery onto clothes. He loves Bollywood style and finds Bollywood men more fashionably adventurous while Indian women are stylish. Blair reveals that the amount of work put in for ready-to-wear is the same as in haute couture. “Fabels is 50 percent less expensive than haute couture but the talents and process are the same.”

After dressing Indians the Fabindia way for over five decades.. it’s now 'Fabels' that is set to enchant the fashion conscious Indians with its many stylish tales!!

 

Fab India
Alistair Blair
 
Fab India
Fabels
 
Fab India
Fabels
 
Fab India
Alistair Blair showcases Fabels
 
28-APRIL-2014
 
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