Bag biggie Dilip Kapur talks about Hidesign’s new cool venture

Hidesign takes pride in rebellion. When fussy party bags, bursting with bling, were the norm, it flaunted the rules and created sturdy, earthy, handbags with clean lines. This was in the late 70s when the brand was born. Since then it’s gradually evolved into a defiantly individual entity, defining luxury as handcrafted design, replete with details. So it’s not surprising that its first collection of sunglasses follows the same rules.

The newly launched line consists of what Hidesign calls “retro-chic sunglasses with a contemporary edge.” Founder and president Dilip Kapur says they exude Hidesign’s “philosophy of simplicity”. The glasses are made with acetate, metal and leather, deliberately avoiding plastic. “Because, well, can you imagine Hidesign using plastic?” laughs Dilip, adding, “That’s why we use acetate instead (Acetate is manufactured using wood pulp as a raw material. It’s used in premium sunglasses all over the world.) It doesn’t give you allergies because of plastic and chemicals... It doesn’t corrode. And when it’s hand polished it gives this incredible translucent glow from deep inside which is something you never get from plastic…”

Of course the sunglasses also have a distinctive Hidesign stamp: leather. “We love leather. It exudes a sense of luxury. I think the only other company I know that uses it in their sunglasses is Bottega Veneta. That could be because it’s very complicated. We have to work hard on it… customise the pattern, thin the leather down, polish it... But now our sunglasses that incorporate leather are among the best selling.”

Kapur says they decided to move into sunglasses to diversify the brand. “I think we were getting typecast as a bag brand. That’s not how we see ourselves,” he states, adding, “I wasn’t so limited when I started out. I used to make anything that crossed my heart. Anything I could get my hands on. I worked with metal. I made clothes. I even made shoes. Then I got hold of the hotels. (Le Dupleix and Promenade in Puducherry).” Sunglasses were a logical choice, since they complemented the bags. “Besides, there’s a need for it here,” Kapur says, talking about how India is going to be his biggest market as it has no other significant players in the designer sunglass segment yet. His customers, he says, will be the same people who buy his bags. “Hidesign clearly attracts a certain type of a woman or man. Independent. Professional. Influenced by the world…” The Hidesign team works with a French company, which works on the design, and then gets the sunglasses made in China. “We go there with all our research. Sit down with designers. Go back and forth. We add the branding and leather design.”

This first collection offers the classic styling expected of the brand, as well as a more cheeky line of vintage shapes in bright colours such as red, pink and aubergine. There are 46 options to choose from in all. “The response has been tremendous so far. About one-third of our stock is over. We are starting work on the new collection now… We plan to carry forward uniqueness of the leather this time. Also shapes are changing. We’ve decided to be more cautious with the small frames; Indians seem to like the bigger ones. And of course there will be aviators, but in a slightly different shape.”

Available in 39 Hidesign stores across the country, the glasses are Polarized, as well as UVA & UVB protected. They are priced between Rs.3000 to Rs. 4500. We wanted to be practical about the pricing, says Kapur. “I can sell at this price because we are designing the sunglasses ourselves. Getting them made in a company we know well. Stocking and selling them from our Hidesign stores… Our pricing was led not by ‘what does it cost us’. We asked ‘Who is the person buying it? They want a beautifully crafted product, where you can see the quality of the work. See design innovation. Feel the quality of material. It shouldn’t look like anyone else’s sunglasses. Even if Dior is the greatest designer of sunglasses, we don’t want to look like Dior. If we do, then lower pricing is the only reason to exist.”