Reaching New Terrains: In Conversation With Kunal Rawal
For menswear maverick Kunal Rawal, at the core of it all is product design. As he best puts it, he’s out there to strike a balance between finding his voice and creating utility for the garments he makes under his label. For the last few years, he’s managed to create a niche for contemporary Indian wear, something only a handful of designers have been able to do. His clothes are functional, comfortable, speak to the new age consumer and enjoy a vast celebrity clientele. Taking it to the next step, Rawal is looking to expand his base to new cities to tap into the menswear market that needs a Kunal Rawal upgrade.
Who according to you, is the Kunal Rawal man today?
He’s somebody who appreciates functional details, enjoys luxury and is a multi-tasker. He’s sure about what he wants to do with his style. Whether it’s somebody who dresses a bit bold, likes understated or enjoys fun cuts and the way you wear it. He is also someone who believes in customising what he wears. So that according to me, today, is the Kunal Rawal man.
What changes can Indian men make to their wardrobe, according to you?
I think men today have far more of a contemporary head-space and they are looking at more transitional pieces. You know the parts that you could build, wear, for occasion wear, stuff that you could repurpose for western wear and all kinds of events that you have. I think that the transitional segment between your wardrobe of western wear and traditional occasion wear is something people are using more and are enjoying more. So, I think multipurpose pieces is something that should be done more of.
With the plan to scale up your business, are these changes something you want to look at while you set up more stores in the future?
Absolutely. We as a label believe a lot in the way you put your look together. So that is something I am focusing upon. And having a little bit more fun now because the market is also having a lot more fun with menswear. The menswear market in the last couple of years has been a revelation and the pace is not stopping which works very well for a label like ours. I think it is also because everyone is a lot more online. So with the power of knowledge everyone today knows the trends, knows what works on them a lot more compared to the last few years. They are a lot more involved with their clothes and their decision-making. It’s always the combination of what to want, what to wear, what to gravitate towards and what your personality and style is.
Then, how do you plan to retain a level of exclusiveness while you’re still trying to reach out to the masses?
See, I believe that my collections are very wide, and the main thought is that everyone should have options to choose from. Our collections go up to 400-500 styles, counting the new pieces we put in stores every two weeks. And different stores have different stocks and different kinds of styles for the kind of market that the store is in. So the idea is to have a lot of variety. Our entry-level price point starts from 6k-8k and go up to 3-3.5 lacs for the groom pieces. So, no matter at what price point they are buying, it’s still from label Kunal Rawal. One not only buys the product, they also buy into the service, the aesthetic. The aesthetic does not come at a specific price point. So the entry to exit price point is pretty wide itself. So there are people who gravitate towards our super-exclusive and hand detailed pieces. At the same time, people also buy because it comes from the same thought process, it’s coming from the same aesthetic.
So where do you see the brand headed in the next 5 years?
Over the next 5 years, I see a lot more retail expansion, online and offline. Because the key is to have your products reach to as many people as possible. As a creative person, I have a take on everything. I definitely see a lot more collaborations when it comes to garments in the future. I also see myself getting into doing more shows, jewellery, design-spaces, basically designing different products that match the personality of the brand. Be it with Boat or Koovs, if there is a brand connect that you feel is the right move, then you just go ahead and do it. I also wish to get into the wedding space. Men are more and more involved in the decision making and we can see a shift to a gender-neutral space.
Other than weddings, are there any other segments you’d like to explore?
I definitely want to extend it more into accessories, not only for occasion wear and not only casual wear. Something to do with home accessories and product design, maybe? My label is a young label. So that’s what the thought process is. There’s so much you could do today. And we believe a lot in technology, so you see more elements and products coming out of the label soon. And ultimately, global domination (chuckles).
What are the other cities that you think have the potential for a stand-alone store like yours?
I think every city has the potential for a store like mine. But every store in every city needs to be planned around the market. Because everyone is consuming the same sort of fashion today. You can’t distinguish between a tier 1 and tier 2 store. Hyderabad is next. Then I want to go to places like Chandigarh, Bangalore, Raipur. They are just like cities in America, and it’s amazing when it comes to online sales. And same for markets like London, Dubai and the Middle East. So the Indian beauty is everywhere. And the idea is to cater to not only Indians but also the South Asian community.
How has the response for the Delhi store been so far?
The response has been amazing. One positive learning is that a lot more people are appreciating the tone on tone details and the functionality that we put in our clothes. It’s overwhelming to be honest to know that people are noticing the attention to details you putting into the garment. People know the collection names, they know the concepts. I think storytelling online has also helped. But again, it’s the first I am retailing in Delhi so I am really happy with the response to the product.
With designers like Shantanu & Nikhil and Ujjawal Dubey now getting into womenswear, is it something you also want to look at?
Absolutely. I remember my first campaign; I had my friends Rhea (Kapoor) and Antara (Marwah) dress up in menswear for label Dstress. I think the market is ready now for androgyny and for me to launch it commercially. So, I plan to do that sometime next year. But it’s not going to be completely my style. We do a lot of gender-neutral pieces. You will see that this year in fashion week too. We will also be launching kids wear commercially sometime next year.