Of Victories & Wonder

12193678_1648952825381791_2435689913233714085_nYes, we did open on the 22nd of October as promised. Exactly a month ago.  Closed the old one and moved into the newer and larger location. We also used the occasion to launch a Leather lifestyle & furniture collection at The Leather Boutique. Moving on up, bleeding and banged up! TLB Raw was the perfect name for the season – our AW15 collection and campaign, no masks and no makeup:)

So we had a great launch party. Those of you that made it, thanks for showing up and drinking our wine.

We had family, friends and patrons. We had food, drink and music. What more could we ask for?

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It was a fantastic evening and great to have our brand noticed and endorsed by Prasad (some say thats making a big splash in the small pond we call Bangalore).

It’s the stuff people are made of that counts, as well as what they put into something they create. A strong foundation can’t be built with delegation. The first few bricks will determine the strength of a building. Or of a brand for that matter. Yes, it’s just one store. But when it’s as close to your heart as TLB is to Jayanti and myself, it will always be a growing child needing love and affection and constant care. So drop by sometime and see what the fuss is about.

 

 

Of Order & Chaos..

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One of the things I like about working on the new store is the order in the chaos. In fact, I think that will be the theme for the new TLB. After 6 weeks and counting, the timer running, it’s been a rush. There’s nothing more deeply ingrained in the human and meta-human psyche than creation. In its purest form, creation is the basis of life and human survival. It is also the force behind industry, to change something from it’s natural form into a thing of beauty or utility. That’s the reason the pursuit of it fills our every waking moment. It’s the closest we will come to godliness. Of course consumption, the evil twin, will also exist side by side and grow as she grows. Either way, the satisfaction for the creator and the consumer is immense. Making any sense?

Seems like I’m in a bit of a preachy mood today. One of the things that drew me to Leather early on in life, is that my father entered the industry sometime in the 80’s. He showed me a simple truth – it’s what was inside that was important. The potential of something to be bigger, better and greater than it actually was. With natural raw materials, sometimes it took just a nudge like turning a coffee berry into espresso (part of our traditional family business) or a lot of work like tanning an imported hide into Leather. To see a by-product change into something so beautiful and strong, that’s what made me take the leap from tanner/businessman to a designer and Leather fanatic, thus propagating my own brand. Getting my hands dirty was always more satisfying than pushing a pen.

Co-designing interiors with talented Nikhil Baveja to choosing flooring tiles, ceiling and wall finishes. Discussing strategy with my mother Suzan, whose wisdom keeps me on the right track. Keeping a crushing pressure on the contractors to perform in time and to my ridiculously high expectations. Blowing a fuse or two in the process and punishing myself afterwards. Having my wife Jayanti come in for site meetings with the youngest in the stroller was just too adorable. And a sign of the times, I might add. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Conducting impromptu photo shoots (for our AW15 Collection – TLB Raw) IMG_8424at the site with the lovely Magali Couffon, French as ever as she lightly flirts like a moth around a flame trying to tease or scold the right pose out of our American male model for the day, Sean Patrick O’Keefe. (You see some teaser images here – more later)

We plan to open on the 22nd of October (at least I do and people look at me like I am mad) so hope to see you all then.

Of Guts & Glory..

I have regular readers asking me why I haven’t written in awhile (when did I get regular readers?! must be doing something right) I must confess, it’s been on my mind. But so has a lot of other stuff. Proud to say we are now three years old. We’re growing and TLB is moving to a newer and larger location next month. If you think running a business is tough, try growing it with nothing but sheer willpower.

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Creation. It’s such a wonderful thing. Watching a seed take root, grow into a tiny shoot and if all goes well, into a little tree. Just gotta dig your heels in and give up that skin. Fashion & product design, brand building, entrepreneurship and sales – they teach tough lessons in an even tougher world, god knows it can make a grown man cry.

With the excitement, comes the hard work and pain. The teeth gritting phenomenon that only those brave enough to do construction and interior work in India will understand. Co-ordination and actually getting workers to show up is probably the most difficult task known to man.

Confidence and self-doubt. Two sides of the same coin, those among you that have started up new ventures or work closely with them, will understand. You cannot have one without a healthy dose of the other. Nor is it advisable. There are days I’m thrilled by the opportunities that lie ahead. Also daunted by the road to get there. There are also moments I wonder if I am exposing myself and family to a little too much risk? A new store means fresh capital; new collections mean money for orders. New beginnings means cash for marketing. Not to mention the competition that wants to come along for the ride, ethically or otherwise. And the time it all takes, balancing it with raising two kids.

Sigh. Who knows? People seem to like what I’m selling and the story behind it. We try to keep it real. The lifestyle, the people and the passion. It’s enough to bring a smile to the longest face:)

As long as you’re happy, just learn to live the journey. And forget the destination. Living life like you mean it.

Like they say – no guts, no glory.

Slippers, A Brush & A Water Bottle – An Indian Ecom Tale

Ever wondered how the E-commerce industry works in India? Well, just like everything else in our great country. There are thousands of sellers crowding the great online bazaars in India, which we know as ‘marketplaces’. Each one trying to sell and capture mind space in this busy digitised world. There are also resourceful and gloriously unscrupulous folk trying to take advantage of the system, in the most entertaining manner. As we all know, sometimes, they are WITHIN the system.

Let me tell you about an incident that happened earlier this month. I was out at a meeting when I got a frantic call from our manager. “Sir, we just received a returned package from Flipkart. It was not delivered to the customer”

“Ok.” I said, “So what is this about?”

“When I opened the box, instead of our Leather Tasseled Tote…”

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“I found this…”

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Oh wow! Go ahead. Laugh. I certainly did, it was one of the funniest things that has happened to us since we started The Leather Boutique. I’ve heard about things like this but never expected it to happen to us. Sure, we don’t really know if we will ever get back our lovely Nappa Leather handbag, but it made my day! #Flipkart, are you listening? Some seller support please!

And someone is probably missing some slippers, a brush and a water bottle.

My Design Trends 2015

The year is now more than half over. We have seen an exciting shift in fashion & design. Trends are moving from the ‘Look at Me’ phase of the early 2000’s into a more subtle period of ‘Lets be Practical’ and ‘Understated Luxury’. This is true for both clothing & accessories. People care more about what they carry in their bag, rather than the brand of the bag itself.

As the world grows  smaller and life faster, people are being forced to pause and think for a minute of what’s really important. Time has become the most expensive commodity known to man (after diamonds, of course). Daydreams of a time gone by, simpler times and nature form the basis of many mood-boards of designers today. Retro is making a huge comeback, and yes the 90’s are included (by those born post Internet). Magical worlds, fantastical landscapes are juxtaposed against techno-fashion, wearables and smart devices.

IMG_1411Practical slings and crossovers, shoulder bags instead of elbow, compartments and zips take the place of oversized shoppers. The vintage saddle bag has made a comeback and we have two coming this season. Here’s a sneak peak!

Novelty prints with Burberry and Coach (seriously, a cartoon bunny?); Charms and fluff as seen on Fendi; Revival of the Exotics in Balenciaga, Bottega and even Mulberry known for more classic and natural textures; Box clutches think D&G; and our favourite – Naturals embraced by Chloe’.

Colours are cooler and softer as we head into Summer in the West and Monsoon in the East. Fall 2015 will see ‘An Evolving Colour Landscape’ as the choice of the season – Earthy Neutrals and Bold Naturals. It will also be the first time design will follow a truly unisex colour palette.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.13.39 AMAt TLB we have always married function and form and move towards the contemporary-classic age with open arms. Old is gold and Leather is no different. Good, well tanned Leather ages well with an honest patina that says, ‘hey take me seriously, I’ve been around the block and know what’s whats’. No amount of design can create this sophistication and class.

Hey, did I just write this? Me a designer?? Who would’ve thought..

What they don’t say..

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By Cartoonist Paul Fernandes

How time flies. The months feel like weeks and the weeks feel like days. The days – well you just don’t feel them at all! Blink and its gone. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do at The Leather Boutique and its great having a family. I just cant help wondering what it’s all about. Born and brought up in Bangalore – a one time ‘pensioners paradise’ where everyone knew everyone else and taking it easy was taken seriously. Thirty something years later (no, you don’t need to know how old I am) this little town of ours has changed and changed again. Morphed into a startup powerhouse, full of energy and hope. The old guard has grudgingly made way to digital upstarts and their glorious fantasies. Billion has become the new million and a Thousand the new hundred.

And of course there is reality. Hard, bitter and unpalatable. Population out of control, un-breathable air, garbage on the streets. Everyone running marathons to keep fit, all the while quaffing burgers and take away food. Hell, I have a sore back just sitting at my desk all day.

But it’s not all bad, without the advancements of modern life, things would get boring! I love new age design, internet enabled services, eCom and food delivery and information at your fingertips. What gets to me is that in this mad rush that we call life, often one forgets to live. IMG_1310

It’s just one of those months. Yes, we all have them. There is a way out, grab that TLB duffle, throw some clothes into it– pack your kids into the car and head out. It doesn’t matter where, just go. Its easy to forget the little things in life, like nature. But she never forgets you. A few minutes, hours or days – whatever you can spare, or can’t. Just get out and recharge. I promise, you will feel better when you get back.

Oh, and take me with you.

Founding & Funding – An eCommerce Tale

I am tired. It’s been a whirlwind of a month. Keeping up the pace with The Leather Boutique, spending time with family and meeting social obligations – can really take its toll. I’m off to the jungle tomorrow to spend May day with family and friends. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Just about ready to fling my phone and macbook off a tall building. They do make life easier but also a lot tougher just keeping up with what’s out there. Take a breather guys. Slow down, take a deep breath. The summer will be gone before you know it.

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Highlight of the month, I was invited to be a panel speaker at a startup event organized by Headstart Network Foundation, one of India’s largest grassroots level Entrepreneurship communities. Focus was on ecommerce. I was honoured and very excited to be a part of this as it was my maiden panel in front of hundreds of people, fellow ‘upstarts’ included Urban Ladder, Bluestone and Myntra. It was all about crossing the line – from a physical world to a virtual one. Getting onto the ecommerce bandwagon on the digital superhighway. The trick is to keep from tipping over.

Everybody is talking about ecommerce, about starting up in that space or making the transition. So are we – in fact we’re well on our way. Swept up in the tide and riding the wave. It’s not something you can do overnight, unless you have a boatload of money. Even then there’s no guarantee unless you have a fantastic product, in the right market with impeccable timing. My advise – it’s like the wild west out there. Go forth with a belt full of ammunition and a loaded gun. Be shameless in asking for help and advise. Everyone’s an expert, and there are no experts. It’s too new a game for that.

Fundraising. A bridge you will also have to cross someday! Mantra of the new age. Get’s you validation and valuable capital. Helps you ‘scale’ quickly and take on the competition. Yes, its like building a skyscraper overnight, and investors encourage you go out without a harness. They are your safety net after all. It’s all about risking it all and praying the foundation is strong enough. Sigh. Looks like its about to get a whole lot more tiring. Call me on Monday, I’m about to throw my phone away.

Find me an Angel..

The very prospect of finding another parent for my child gives me the jitters. It would mean sharing my child with someone else – the joys, the tears, the setbacks and the triumphs. As it would you or any self-respecting parent.

But it also means giving your child every opportunity to grow. To achieve its potential and more – to strive for greatness. It means having another set of eyes watching her, another moral compass guiding her and a steady hand to hold hers when your own begins to tremble.

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Funding. That’s what it’s all about these days. Why not think about it? I have a sound idea, a validated product in the retail consumer space, positive revenue generation and online scalability. Can I grow the way I want to without help? That’s a call each entrepreneur has to take. So, germinate a viable idea, watch that little seed take root and begin to flower. Then find a co-founder/partner willing to invest in your little tree of hope and dream along with you. And watch them move mountains by your side to make that little treeling a big banyan with its roots dropping down and making little trees of its own.

Losing control, something all entrepreneurs fear. An abrupt change in direction. Dilution in ownership and rights. All very real concerns and arguments against the motion. But my thought at 5.30am as I write this is the clichéd ‘a small piece of a big pie is sometimes better than a big piece of a small pie’. You get more people to share it with. And who knows, you may even enjoy the teamwork.

There is no right or wrong in this choice that most start-ups of our age have to make. In my father’s time it was a loan from the bank which gave businessmen access to capital as well as sleepless nights. Or a short-term loan from a shark that most often led to more problems than not. I have been mulling this choice for over a year and realize a few things. We all are blessed with certain strengths and sometimes limitations (even though we choose to ignore those) and need a hand to hold onto in this journey of creation. A team of advisors, mentors and sounding boards. If nothing else, only to allow ourselves some room to live other parts of our life with marriage, kids and good times and avoid being lost to banality.

So fingers crossed, I will find me an angel.

Life. It happens on the Road.

Feel the Road. Feel the Emotion. Feel Alive.

My first video blog, the making of ‘Sighs of Nature’ SS15, Goa. Shot & produced by yours truly (so be kind and excuse the bugs!)

Thanks for watching:)

All it Takes is a Smile

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The Joy’s of Fatherhood

 

I woke up this morning in a panic. It didn’t matter that it’s a Saturday. I had a list of things to do at TLB as long as my arm. Time, like it inevitably does, was flying. The last day of the month and I still hadn’t written a blog post. But I’ll be damned if I let this one slip by. Truth is, I’m not sure what to write about. The last month has been gruelling to say the least.

So we had our second child. And those of you with children will sagely nod your heads when I say that no matter how prepared you think you are, the clock just seems to move in fast forward, the days are a blur and by days end you feel like very little butter spread over too much bread. Those of you without children will look puzzled and say, ‘It can’t be all that bad, look how well behaved they are – what’s all the fuss about?’

I guess it’s what happens behind the scenes that the un-initiated don’t know. Out of sight, out of mind sort of thing. Similarly so with us crazy start-up folk. Not a day goes by as a business owner when you don’t feel the same fear, apprehension, excitement and love for your little creation. Whether a startup or a large corporation, it will always be your baby. Any parent knows that – 2 years old or 20, your child will always be a part of you.

It’s the sheer time and effort and that goes into rearing a child (or Start-Up) that does it. It’s ensuring organic and well-balanced growth. Organic in the sense there is no shortcut – no easy way or fixed formula. Each business in each Industry is as different as every child in different cultures. The common threads of course are undeniable in parenting; love, responsibility and discipline. Balancing your parenting skills is also important – too much or too little is equally disastrous to your child or business. So where’s the book that tell you what to do and when? Well, there are thousands of management and child rearing books out there but nothing works quite like your instinct. Sheer gut feeling that tells you something has to be done a certain way, or if something is not right. This parent’s instinct is what makes one stand out from the crowd.

With a Start-Up and as with a child, when your energies are at the lowest and you think you have reached the limits of your endurance, there will be a little something that makes it all worth it. All it takes is a good day of sales, clinching a deal with your business or just a smile from your little one. And you’ll be ready to do it all over again.

I know today will be that day.

August 2016
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