Be Indian, buy Easton

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Australian designers Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson tell Alys Francis they never considered selling their clothes in India… until now

Australia’s iconic fashion label Easton Pearson has been inspired by India and employed Indian artisans to stitch the intricate embroidery and beading for their designs for 20 years.

Now for the first time women in India will be able to walk into a shop and purchase one of the brand’s bold outfits for themselves.

Launching their brand in India, at the Australian High Commissioner’s official residence in New Delhi this June, designers Pamela Easton and Lydia Pearson said they never considered selling their clothes in India until now.

“We’ve been coming to India for 20 years and we’ve watched the market change so much,” Pearson said.

“Our collections are completely western and we’ve never felt they were suitable for the market here in India until about five years ago we started to see an enormous change in the way people were dressing every day,” she added.

The designers said woman in India were opting to wear traditional Indian styles like saris and salwar kameezes only on very formal occasions — on the street and at parties, women were dressing in western and modern Indian designs.

Long history in India

Long-time friends from Brisbane, Easton and Pearson launched their brand in 1989. They first came to India around 25 years ago after a chance meeting with Sudha Patel, who runs an NGO for artisans in Gujarat, Shrujan, and had a sister who lived in Brisbane.

“She said ‘You have to come to India because you love embroidery’ and so we came,”said Pearson.

Thereafter the designers began working with artisans from Kutch, spicing their garments with ornate Indian embroidery and beading.

We don’t want to compete with saris

Easton and Pearson are great admirers of Indian designers and traditional fashion and don’t plan to compete directly.

“People in India have such beautiful clothes like saris that people give from one generation to another and … that’s the most perfect piece of clothing there could ever be, and we wont bein the business of making saris, not at all,” Pearson said.

“We thought introducing our brand offers a different point of view to Indian designers. We greatly admire many of the Indian designers and we love the work of Manish Arora and Sabyasachi, we think they’re incredible. But what we do is very different to what they do and so we think maybe there’ll be a little market in India for us,” Easton said.

The design duo said their brand would appeal to Indian women looking for a new way of dressing that stood out from a lot of the other Western brands, that was more simple, plain and restrained.

“We love colour and pattern and embroidery and serious decoration of every kind and so we’re hoping that that’s a little bit different from a lot of other western designers,” Pearson.

India’s rocketing market for high fashion

Easton and Pearson are collaborating with R&B International and Sudha garments to launch in India and their clothes will be available in stand-alone stores and boutiques.

R&B’s Pravin Hanotia said there was huge potential for the brand here. “For Easton Pearson, whichis a niche brand, a luxury premium brand, the market is hardly 2%-3%. But this market in India is growing at a rate of 10-15% annually,” he said.

Hanotia said the plan was to promote Easton Pearson at Indian fashion shows and eventually open dedicated retail outlets in India’s major cities.

R&B International has a team of 300 in house master weavers and craftsmen and manufacturers for Easton Pearson and other major foreign brands including FCUK, Massimo, Megan Park, Sonia Rykiel, Siyu and more. It is the first time the company has teamed up with a foreign brand to launch it in India.

Adapting to a new land

Easton Pearson has a long history selling to overseas markets. In 1998 they flew their designs to arguably the world’s most famous fashion week: Paris, wowed buyers and were soon being stocked in London and Hong Kong.

While Pravin is confident the brand will connect with Indian customers, the Australians are prepared to adapt their designs to suit Indian tastes.

“All the main parts of the collection will remain the same but we might put in a couple of shapes for one particular market. For example in the Middle East… things that we have made that are short, we make floor length for them. So we’re sure that we might have to adapt in the market in India,” said Pearson.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Australian Magazine)

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