Monica Shah and Karishma Swali found their calling in fashion early in life. Monica discovered her innate talent for design and love for draping while studying at St. Martin’s, London, while Karishma honed her skills in fashion at National Institute of Fashion Technology, India’s premier fashion institute.
They spent the next two decades working in international fashion, researching and consulting for acclaimed luxury fashion brands such as Giorgio Armani, Valentino, Gucci, and others. Eventually, the Mumbai-based duo decided to chart a different course. “We wanted to give back to our roots and revive age-old crafts that are the crux of Indian art,” they say. And so their label JADE was established in 2008, with a flagship store in Peddar Road, Mumbai, and a franchise at Banjara Hills in Hyderabad.
Soon, their creations were being worn by celebrities and Bollywood stars on the red carpet. Powered by discreet luxury, their ensembles portray a distinct love for Indian heritage and craftsmanship.
The designers made a niche for themselves in the bridalwear market in particular, and were sought after by women who were unafraid of wearing something ‘different’ at their weddings. They also now retail online from their own e-store Jadecouture.com, besides on multi-brand outlets Perniaspopupshop.com and Carmaonlineshop.com.
We talk to them about their experience with online retail.
When did you take the decision to retail online, and how did you go about it?
We always believed retailing online is a great opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. They can easily access information about our collection online, and can get in touch with us for placing an order. We have a dedicated online team that attends to all queries related to the make, pricing, customisations, and so on.
What is your experience of online retail so far?
Online retailing has helped us get closer to our customers, and widen our reach. However, we believe a hybrid model works best for our brand. A store lends to a brands vision and philosophy, which is difficult to do on an online store. Besides, considering the niche we are in, online isn’t very conducive to sales, brides prefer to take time out and pay a visit to have their ensembles custom made.
Our online presence helps us reach a wide audience to communicate our brand vision and philosophy; we also enjoy interacting online and consult brides on Skype or FaceTime prior to their visit. But beyond that online is limiting as it lacks the human touch, small pleasures of welcoming a bride to be, offering her a cup of coffee or seeing our creations live on her is not possible online. JADE is as much about the experience as it is about the clothes and hence a brick-and-mortar store is irreplaceable.
Are online customers more likely to shop from your brick-and-mortar stores, and vice versa?
Yes, millennial brides and bridesmaids prefer to research on the collection and styles the designer label has to offer in the comfort of their home. This helps to shortlist the pieces in advance they like, so that they can save time and avoid the hassle of physically scouting the pieces at the store. Plus the kind of service and the promptness that you show online determines whether the client is likely to visit your store, and vice versa.
Do you have international customers on your website, and what has your experience been with them?
Yes, a majority of our international customers visit our website and social-media pages before making an appointment at the bridal studio. NRIs spend a lot on travelling to India and some of them are here solely for the purpose of trousseau shopping, so it is very important to organise their visit with us to the best of our ability. The communication we engage in online helps us in getting to know them and serve them better. It also helps them to make an informed decision. This makes the experience for both, us and the client, a pleasant one!
If a customer needs some kind of customization on an outfit on the site, is it possible? How does one go about it?
Yes, certain customization is possible, such as increasing the embroidery work, changing the style of the outfit or the colour. Such customization needs are taken care of over Whatsapp. We also FaceTime or Skype with the clients to discuss their requirements in detail. We don’t customize an outfit from scratch either online or at the studio as that will take away from the essence of the collection.