Fashionably Yours: Monisha Gidwani

Being right at the epicentre of style in Chennai creating a formidable vortex, fashion entrepreneurs Monisha Gidwani and mum Vimal Shivdasani of brand Vimonisha fame have truly altered or rather carved the very path of fashion in Chennai as we know today. RITZ caught up with the enterprising Monisha Gidwani on her journey over the last 17 years and her personal sense of style in this chirpy tête-à-tête with Preeti GT.

Brand Vimonisha as we know today in Chennai is synonymous with a collection of designers of pret wear, Indian and western couture, precious and costume jewellery, accessories and everything else that women fancy to be in vogue. The brand now boasts of a mega exhibition event every three months that line up a staggering number of 65 designers handpicked from across the length and breadth of the country. The two day event held at one of Chennai’s upmarket 5-star hotels is an eclectic mix of not only variety clothing for daily and occasion wear, but also statement jewellery, linen, tasteful home decor and more that are usually sold out in a matter of hours.

Trendsetting entrepreneur Monisha Gidwani spills the beans, “This is the Chennai we know of today – fashion forward folk who appreciate owning unique designer pieces. Our modest beginnings date back 25 years when my dynamic mum started Vimonisha Gallery as a single label exhibition centre. With no malls then, the exhibition became the prime place for women alike to splurge on fashion they love. Once I completed my education I saw potential to expand this further and roped in five designers at a time.” Convincing designers from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and the likes about Chennai was the biggest challenge. “I had to painstakingly make my case not only about my marketing skills but also the untapped market that their business was missing out on.

The first event thus arrived and with some press, word-of-mouth marketing, social circles and more, it was a runaway success and had the very same hesitant designers queue-up to reserve their place for the next such event!” The rest is history and today Monisha works at any given time with an astonishing 1000-2000 designers. “The brand is an extension of our personalities. Hence we handpick designers to showcase their collection at our events with a line that we are comfortable wearing in terms of design sensibilities, price and aesthetics.” In many instances I have worked with designers on what would best sell in Chennai – no fabrics like velvet, dresses with sleeve options, darker rather than pastel shades, sizes and much more that we understand are the deal-breakers for local shoppers.”

Vimonisha is also now a brand beyond exhibitions. Monisha has curated the company as a brand consultant handholding designers, social media and is an influential voice for those seeking to establish themselves in the South of India. “Such a dynamic works well as designers should be left to do what they do best – create fashion, and the rest is what I can do for them. The number of designers too have increased manifold in the last decade or so with exponential growth in Chennai. The brand has grown with this demand – the need for Chennai shoppers to have ready access to fashion that is usually available only in fashion prime cities.” The drift suggests that there are takers for all kinds of occasion wear keeping in sync with the national trends. “For instance, Kurtis were the fashion zeitgeist of the 90’s which then progressed to beautiful sarees and now since most of these are available online, current buyers at Vimonisha are those pursuing exclusive designer wear (Indian, Western and Fusion wear) for grand occasions, as also custom fit and make that come with a direct interaction with the designers who are available at the exhibition. Such unique pieces are interspersed with limited edition daily trendy wear combined with fashion jewellery alongside delicate jewellery in precious stones.” Unlike the many other pop-ups in the city, since Vimonisha is a direct extension of the designer brand itself, avid shoppers are comfortable spending at the event hefty prices on real jewellery as they trust the authenticity and quality of brand Vimonisha. “This trust and goodwill is our biggest asset that we have accumulated and continue to do so for the last 25 years and is only too humbling,” shares Monisha, who works closely for the bottom line of designers too by providing them a launchpad to excel.

How has the landscape evolved with Chennaiites’ fashion choices, we quiz enthusiastically? “Refined and poised just like any other metro,” Monisha says, “Clothes have moved from sarees to Kurtis to adventurous fusion and beautiful gowns for special occasions. Shoppers are also well versed to consume not only heavy jewellery sets but also some timeless and elegant pieces of cocktail rings, brooches, chandelier earrings and the likes, which are all available at Vimonisha at direct designer prices sans any mark-ups.” Next in store for this trendsetting company is equally revolutionary. “We are in the middle of curating an epic wedding summit in coordination with a wedding planning company. A one stop shop for prospective brides and families to meet with not only clothing and jewellery designers but also interact with specialists in the field of mehendi, entertainment options, cosmetologists and dentists, caterers, ideas for return gifts, stage, venue decor and design and more. While this is being chalked out, simultaneous plans are underway to provide more specialised expertise to designers who are looking to expand their market in Chennai,” concludes Monisha beaming with pride.

Monisha’s quick fashion takes:

Your personal fashion mantra: Simple and elegant. Understand your age and figure and don’t be a fashion victim!

Your all-time favourite designer: Manish Arora and Varun Bahl for their designs that are versatile, trendy and very much wearable. Their silhouettes perfectly compliment the Indian women.

What next for the Indian designer: Any designer who is able to constantly innovate and create unique pieces to keep the buyers engaged for a repeat purchase across lines and seasons will certainly rise above the rest. We could learn a lot from designers from the West who seem to have a clear strategy and work seasons ahead to create designs where shoppers would like to own one each time rather than simple owning that one piece wonder!