25 Years and Still Making Modi-sh Statements
By Anil Mulchandani | Published: 17th August 2014 06:00 AM |
Bipin Chauhan remembers that day in 1989 when he first tailored a white khadi kurta for Narendra Modi. “He came to our shop and got his kurta made. Since then he was a regular customer as he liked the fits and styles,” he recalls.
Bipin and his elder brother, Jitendra, had started a tailoring shop, called Suprimo, near Gujarat College, on a 250 sq ft floor area in 1981. “We were able to attract a pretty elite clientele in those days too,’’ Chauhan says. “Narendra Modi would visit our showrooms when he was in Ahmedabad to get bespoke tailored kurta sets. When he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he continued to be our customer,” he adds proudly.
Today the brothers are quite famous for their Modi kurtas at their men’s wear store, called Jade Blue, at the upscale shopping street CG Road in Ahmedabad. And their Modi kurta is one of the fastest-selling and most prestigious labels at the stores. Its demand has gone far beyond Gujarat with the brothers planning to take it overseas soon. Bipin recalls how once a tourist from south India walked into their garment store to buy souvenirs to take back home. “He bought a Modi kurta, the dress of the current prime minister of India. The jackets and kurtas that we designed for Narendra Modi have now become a style statement across the country,” Bipin says. Their price ranges from Rs 995 to Rs 3,000.
“We have sold more than 25,000 Modi kurtas in the last year and plan to increase production to 3,00,000 pieces,’’ he adds.
In 1995, the brothers took a bank loan to start Jade Blue, a 2,800 sq ft store, which offered ready-to-wear house-designed prêt collections, branded clothing and a studio for custom-tailored clothing. “By 1999-2000, we had grown to become a 13,000 sq ft store for menwear, perhaps the largest exclusively menswear retail space in India with product lines ranging from suits and blazers to formals, casuals and ethnic wear for men. Our clientele includes owners, directors and executives of Adani Group, Torrent, Zydus, Cadilla and other corporate houses of Gujarat,” he says. They opened more showrooms in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and other cities. “Today, we have more than 19 stores in all cities of Gujarat and also in Hyderabad, Raipur, Nagpur and Udaipur. Stores in Pune and Jaipur are on the anvil,’’ he says.
Like their business that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, the popular Modi kurta too has changed to become more colourful. “While Mr Modi would wear mostly white earlier, he began to look at a wider palette of colours in the 2000s. The jackets, kurtas and coats would be designed according to the occasion or meeting he was attending,’’ says Chauhan. “However, the signature style of the kurta remained the same—a mandarin-style standing up collar that can be buttoned up, a fine net design on the shoulder seam and a smart fit. Its popularity owes a lot to the way the Prime Minister carries it. While earlier he wore full sleeves, with increasing travel he also opted for short sleeves,’’ Bipin says.
Today, he says Modi kurtas are available in about 20 colours and 12 style variations at their 19 flagship stores. “Typically these kurtas are made with poly-khadi fabrics. We’d like to increase production for supplies to our franchise outlets too,’’ he says, “but we are very particular about the detailing of this product so we are raising production gradually’’.
The brothers are also thinking of taking the Modi kurta overseas. “NRIs and people of Indian origin, especially those with Gujarati origins, are asking for this product at our stores or on our online shopping sites,” says Bipin. “The UK, USA and African countries are among the big potential markets for this product as they have a sizeable Gujarati diaspora,’’ he adds.