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Rashmi Modi: The Designer Who Redefined Luxury Handbags

Rashmi Modi: The Designer Who Redefined Luxury Handbags

At WODROB, we’re all about bringing to you brands that you NEED to know of. How many times have you emptied your pockets this season on a beach bag, a tote or even a clutch and felt guilty about it? We bet you have ‘coz we have too. Bags are tricky, especially when it comes to choosing and purchasing. Which is why we’ve got to you a handbag label to absolutely fall in love with. Right from its simplistic yet classic designs to the creative thought process behind its inception and manufacturing, Rashmi Modi bags are one to keep an eye on always.

Trends and colour palettes change almost every season in the fashion business but there are a few things that remain a ‘classic’. And label Rashmi Modi is exactly that. With delicate hues, intricate designs and that perfect silhouette, Rashmi Modi bags are simply keepers.

What’s more? Her bags are made of pure leather sourced and manufactured within the country. All about ‘Making In India’, Rashmi Modi provides you a leather experience you won’t want to part with. All you environmentalists and animal lovers having second thoughts on ‘Leather’ (like we did), well, you’ll want to know what Rashmi had to say about ‘it’ herself.

From insights into the handbag industry to creating art on her canvas, Rashmi spills the beans. Whether you’re an aspiring bag designer, a leather enthusiast, or just another fanatic shopper like us, browse through her designs ‘cause there’s a takeaway for all. Want to know more about her? Read on for excerpts from a chit-chat with Rashmi herself…

WM: Tell us what inspired you to start the brand ‘Rashmi Modi’?

RM: I was working with export houses for the longest time and when I was pursuing my Masters in London, I was also working with buying houses there. I was the head designer and was designing for many luxury, retail and boutique brands of Europe and United Kingdom. Except the whole luxury market that has their own manufacturing facility, none of the others have created their own products. They source from either India and China, and if they do want to spend on great leather, then maybe even Italy. So, post most of the meetings I would have, I would realise that they’d only use Indian manufacturers as manufacturing facilities. As a manufacturer, I loved spending time in the factory; I found it similar to art. In fact even creating handbags, I think that’s like art too. I saw that the whole essence was getting lost in the process of India being used as a supplier. That’s what inspired me to start my own brand.

WM: Why this interest in leather?

RM: I joined NIFT with the intention of being a fashion designer. However, due to my rank in college, I was pushed to the leather department and in the  process, I developed an affinity toward leather. I feel it is an amazing natural material. When it comes to shoes, upholstery, and handbags, the only real and natural material worth using and available is leather. Everything else is processed. The whole process of using it and turning it into art is but a ‘crafty’ process and that’s what drew me to it too. It’s not cliché.

WM: Using leather for products is such a delicate situation right now because it’s harmful to animals. What is your take on it?

RM: I have been through that part of my life where I did feel guilty about using leather. But, I  realised, it is an ecosystem. You can’t take away the food from a non-vegetarian, can you? Then again, in India you aren’t allowed to have slaughter houses to manufacture leather… it is illegal. So at least in India, leather is more like a bi-product of the meat industry. If you can justify non-vegetarians and the ecosystem behind that then why not leather!?

WM: Instead of leather, why didn’t you choose to use good quality PVC? Wouldn’t it solve a lot of the problems you face in India because of using real leather?

RM: If a painter is working on a canvas to make art, his canvas is his muse. There is no other material involved and his idea can only translate well if the material is right. The same goes for me. If I am designing and my karigars are spending time creating the piece, only to make a PVC bag that’s going to wither in a few months…that’s not good craft. I don’t believe in it.

WM: Tell us a little about your past collections and the thought behind each.

RM: I generally create 2-3 collections a season and if you see, most of my bags don’t have too much hardware like metal fittings, etc. So it’s just designs created using leather. When you want to make leather the hero, you use it to add drama and elements. I somehow feel, when there’s a little liquidity, it helps add visual impact. For example, ‘The August’ collection with tassels… I love tassels. It’s dramatic and also gives a classic feel as tassels go well with leather just like on shoes. No one ever tried this look on bags and when I did it, it became a hit. Same goes for my ‘Fringes’ collection.

WM: We’ve noticed you use a lot of pastel colours. Any reason why you don’t use bold colours?

RM: In leather, creating bags with bright or gaudy colours don’t work, as then the material tends to not be the hero element. Leather is quite a tricky material to work with. It has its own saturation level, so if you go wrong with a colour of your choice, it may end up looking bad. Also, you don’t tend to use bright colours. It is an accessory and the colour needs to complement your daily life as well. You aren’t going to buy a different leather bag to match each and every outfit you have. Pastels go with most outfits; they work well with leather. Also pastel colours work very closely to my design sensibilities.

WM: What is the USP of your brand?

RM: I believe in non-conspicuous branding and art talking for itself. You don’t go looking for the name Monet in a Monet painting. Same goes for my bags. You will know that you’ve picked a Rashmi Modi bag when you see it because of the design and quality alone. My name is only mentioned inside the bag and never on the top of it. If you can do it with clothes then why not with bags!?

WM: Your collection names are literal…any particular reason behind that?

RM: Yes. The name is normally what inspires a particular element on the bag. Some of my collection names end up being highly literal, like ‘Feather’. However, the ‘Tassel’ collection is called ‘Loafer’ because it was inspired by loafer shoes. It is important for the customer to be able to connect with the names too.

WM: What do you think you do differently from others in the same business?

RM: I am here to design bags and not follow other trends or handbag designers. I wouldn’t say I am never inspired. I am. However, I try and keep it as original as possible. Also, I am trying to keep the focus on ‘Making In India’ and I am proud of doing so. I think we have a huge resource pool and I feel very proud to use our resources to make art, and sell it in our own country too.

WM: Do you consider yourself a luxury brand?

RM: I never wanted to be called a luxury brand. I feel it is ridiculous to be extremely overpriced especially when you want people to use your products. Because I manufacture it myself, I cut out the middle-men. So I think I land in the ‘Premium’ segment when it comes to pricing. We like calling ourselves ‘re-defined luxury’.

WM: Do you know what your customer base is like?

RM: Yes, I have gotten to know. I have two kinds of customers. One who like leather and are looking for good products in that material…they are my quality-conscious customers. The other would be those who have bought big luxury brand bags and have developed a taste for good art and taste for bags. These would be my cultured customers, like Vidya Balan or Anaita Shroff Adajania, who look specifically for art on bags. Basically, people who have tasted international brands and then come to me for art and the quality I provide. I sell not because I am a brand but because I am selling my quality and design.

WM: Where does one go to purchase your bag and is there an element of ‘personalising’ the brand?

RM: We sell on different websites. We also do a lot of personal styling over the phone or on Instagram when it comes to our bags. This because we feel that people are uneducated about bags, and also why and how they should buy them. So we like informing them about usage and style sense.

WM: Future projects…

RM: Marketing-wise we are trying to do something like a ‘customise my bag’ kind of concept. We are also looking into a few designer collaborations. I feel collaborations are a way wherein two creative people come together to create something fresh and new. Also, I will soon be coming up with a new festive collection.

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