When time came for the iconic indigenous leather brand, Hidesign to pick a co-creator of their newest capsule collection, they looked closest to home—choosing multi-hyphenate actor Kalki Koechlin, who shares common roots with the brand. Founded in the late ’70s, Hidesign reinvented the meaning of luxury lifestyle by promoting ecological values and heritage craftsmanship. With a deep-rooted vision that began in Puducherry, the brand is now a part of Louis Vuitton—a multinational luxury goods conglomerate.
Koechlin, known for her fierce, alternative identity in the industry, brought the same authenticity to her work with Hidesign. She goes on to explain, “I always value products that have a story. Hidesign, with its commitment to slow craftsmanship and ethical environmental practices, has been a brand I have admired for years. I was thrilled to be involved in the design process. I really wanted every bag in this collection to reflect some aspect of me.” The collection comprises of everything from fun everyday backpacks to chic party bags.
From strong beliefs in equality and women’s rights to admiration for their hometown, Puducherry, Hidesign and Koechlin share a lot in common. Dilip Kapur, founder of the lifestyle group says, “I have known Kalki’s family for years and it is a pleasure to work with someone who understands where the brand comes from, what we believe in, and represents the kind of woman our customers aspire to be—ambitious, independent and glamorous”.
Vogue chats with the founder and the actor about their latest venture.
How did the collaboration come about? Kalki Koechlin: Dilip approached me wanting to do a collection based on my tastes and our common aesthetics and roots in Pondicherry. We began by looking through my own wardrobe at the kind of bags I had, we spoke about our influences, being conscious of the environment, what are the values of life in the long-term, what it means to be a modern Indian woman, and came up with an eclectic collection based on these.
Kalki and you are both essentially from Puducherry. How did your roots play a role in establishing this collaboration? Dilip Kapur: When the design is original and genuine, it is always a reflection of one’s culture. Kalki and I share a common heritage, a common culture that has very strong values: the culture created by the Ashram and Auroville in Puducherry—a place that is already quite unique in India because of its Indo-French background. In fact, the strangest coincidence is that the Hidesign office is the house Kalki grew up in at Puducherry!
How does your personal style and the Hidesign aesthetic come together in the collection? KK: I think making sure we understand our market and audience was an important step. We did a survey on Twitter of my followers to see what kind of people are interested in my work, mostly it was women from the age of 15 to 35, this helped us understand what we needed to provide for an independent, young working woman—one who multi-tasks all through the day. The idea was also to remain true to the values that Hidesign and I agree on, in terms of quality, sustainable awareness and a collaborative, healthy work environment.
Can we expect to see this collection in stores out of India as well? DK: Yes, this collection will be offered across all the markets where Hidesign is available, as are all our collections. While Kalki may not be known to everyone outside India, her story is exciting to everyone.
Sustainability is currently the most talked about topic in the fashion and retail industry. Since Hidesign has been championing this movement since inception, how do you plan to take it forward? DK: Sustainability is part of our DNA. It is not something that we would just take forward because it has become cool. We believe in it at every turn: vegetable tanning, solid brass cast hardware, saying no to plastic. Taking it forward, we aim to work with Indian Institute of Science, to research on lab grown leather that can further be implemented into our designs. Participating with communities that work towards planting forests and protecting the wild life is also a long-term goal.
What’s your favourite piece and why? KK: I like two. One is an evening sling bag with gold that I designed particularly with my mother in mind because she has very classic French taste, which is timeless. And the other is the natural finish, red leather big carry bag with brown stripes which I think is unusual and low maintenance while still being fashionable.
If we could peek inside your everyday handbag, what would we find? KK: Mascara, lip balm, headphones, notebook and pen, current script, wallet, phone, keys, toothbrush.