As the recently launched destination for independent design from the Indian subcontinent, Indelust brings an emerging aesthetic to the global stage. “Our vision stems from the desire to showcase a minimal, refined and versatile style, removed from the ostentatious and ornate aesthetic the East is so well-known for,” shares founder Sana Rezwan. She’s wearing DRVV’s Clarissa Shirt—an architectural reinvention of the classic white button down. “A piece,” like everything Rezwan chooses for her own wardrobe, “that will last a lifetime.”
This isn’t the first time Rezwan has brought her vision to India. In 2011 she created the Bangalore-based concept shop Maison, which sells high-end labels like Givenchy, Chloë and YSL. Often compared to Milan’s 10 Corso Como, Maison went beyond clothing to include a cafe and pop-up cinema in a structure designed by Sybarite, the architect behind Marni stores. “There was nothing like it in India,” explains Indelust co-founder Nihar Sait, who felt compelled to meet the talent behind Maison. “It was so well thought out and conceptual.”
They later married and moved to New York, where Rezwan realized that because the brands she was working with already had a global presence, Maison couldn’t easily transcend beyond India. It was at that time that she attended a summit for CEOs of luxury-based businesses and became disturbed by the disconnection between fashion executives and the people working in garment manufacturing. At a discussion of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, she saw that at the high level, executives “were not taking accountability.” Rezwan, whose family has worked in retail for generations, decided to create an enterprise with a more humane foundation.
Saitutilizes his background in investment banking and corporate development to run the business side of Indelust. This has allowed them to offer free shipping anywhere in the world with goods arriving within two to three days—quite a coup for a site that sources in India and Pakistan. Additionally, Sait’s shared passion for creating businesses with sustainable impacts frees Rezwan to immerse herself in finding emerging local, independent designers who share their ethos.
Rezwan explores ancient craft with a new vision. The jewelry brand En Inde, for example, seeks to resolve India’s contradictions in necklaces that combine the work of the Patwas (a traditional community of weavers) with sleek and, at time, abstract industrial-steel components. From Pakistan there’s the structured Popinjay Timurid baguette. Popinjay’s founder, an MIT graduate, was inspired by both 15th century mosaic tile and the prospect of creating jobs for women. A true luxury item, the embroidery takes over 100 hours to complete and is visible only at the top and sides of the bag. This melding of the Old World and the new is embedded in Indelust’s sourcing platform.
Under the Moorish arches of Hauz Khas—the site of New Delhi’s first reservoir, built in the 1300s—is Lacquer Embassy, a new menswear label helmed by designer Nikhil Sharma that Indlelust stocks. He selected a team with backgrounds in fabricating uniforms for luxury hotels and taught them to produce unstructured menswear, cut, sewn and finished by hand. In addition to sharing his design knowledge, he also stresses the importance of offering employees “a better standard of living as they continue on this journey” with him. “There are certainly an increasing number of consumers who are opting for alternative choices, which is encouraging for a young brand like ours,” says Sharma.
Indelust values design above all other criteria, but seeks it out explicitly as an instrument for positive social change. Brands are voluntarily audited by Nest, the New York-based not-for-profit dedicated to ensuring artisan businesses scale sustainably. Rezwan, who sits on Nest’s Creative Advisory Guild, seeks to weave consciousness about the supply chain into the fabric of her new venture. “I felt this new aesthetic deserved a new ethos, one that ensured that whatever was produced was also ethically sourced, and, ideally, would have a positive impact on the surrounding communities.”
Images courtesy of Indelust