Hyderabad is the new destination for standalone stores of leading names in fashion.

A day before Sabyasachi Mukherjee launched his standalone store in the city, he hosted a lunch for select invitees at Taj Falaknuma Palace. It wasn’t surprising that a few guests turned up in creations of the designer, which they had purchased during Sabyasachi’s previous visits to Hyderabad. During his visits to the city in the last three years, Sabyasachi was gauging the response and it culminated in his store, Sabyasachi Hyderabad.

Rocky S and Tarun Tahiliani had already opened their respective standalone stores and it was a matter of time before the others wanted a share of the lucrative Hyderabad market. Designer duo Shantanu and Nikhil also opened their store last week. The interiors of each of these stores have a signature touch of the respective designers, from refurnished old bungalows keeping the old world charm intact to cutting-edge, futuristic interiors.

“The city has been welcoming,” says Shantanu. Ever since the duo designed for high-profile weddings in the city, including that of Sania Mirza, they’ve had a steady inflow of orders. “Hyderabad is maturing as a market. Clients understand silhouettes and are clued into latest trends. Having a separate store allows us enough room to stock bridal wear, menswear, a western line and more importantly address the couture segment,” says Shantanu.

His faith in the city is understandable. It’s a known fact that designer stores in Hyderabad didn’t really feel the heat even at the peak of recession. In fact, more stores by emerging designers came up on Road no. 4, Banjara Hills, and multi-designer stores came up in nooks and crannies of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills.

But buyers felt there was too much yet too little. “In a multi-designer store, you cannot stock more than 10 to 12 pieces of one designer because you have to accommodate collections of other designers as well. In the bargain, it’s tough to offer a range of products,” says Smita Shroff of Elahe, who convinced Sabyasachi to open his standalone store. Apart from heavy lehengas and saris, the store will have Sabyasachi’s diffusion line S/S and Chota Sabya for children. “I felt the need to do something for children, using Indian techniques and handlooms, to make children sensitive towards our clothing,” says Sabyasachi.

The ethos of design has to be complemented by a strong production chain and business acumen. Designers can no longer palm off older collections to clients. The growing awareness about fashion has necessitated stepping up production to keep new collections coming in. For instance, Sabyasachi has more than 1000 karigars working to ensure collections are delivered on time.

Shruti Mallpani, who manages both Rocky S lounge and multi-designer store Red Carpet, feels more competition is good for business. “Rocky S opened his store a year and a half ago. At that time, Hyderabadis were still travelling to Mumbai and Delhi for couture. With more designers opening stores here, people are assured of getting new collections here,” says Shruti.

The designer stores offer a mix of prêt (up to Rs. 50,000) and couture (made-to-order lehengas can cost a few lakh rupees). “Prêt wear ensures footfalls even in the lean season. Hyderabad generates brisk sales for wedding and festive wear since the wedding calendar is choc-a-bloc for different communities through the year,” says Smita.