Paresh Lamba’s journey - from a little shoe boutique to setting up Bengaluru's landmark high fashion storeAparajita Choudhury
Born in Mumbai in 1966, marquee fashion designer Paresh Lamba has had a flair for sales since the age of 14, when he voluntarily started spending summer vacations at his cousin’s shoe store in Kolkata. Impressed by his selling skills, Paresh’s cousin once said, “Anyone who would be attended to by Paresh would never leave the store without a pair of shoes. He could sell ice to an Eskimo.”
Marketing and selling have been his strengths since childhood. His journey as a clothes designer began in 1992 when his cousin opened one branch of his shoe boutique in Bengaluru — Paresh took 50–60 sqft of space and started his own clothes boutique.
This was where I started, growing slowly and steadily from a shoe stylist to a fashion designer. The shoe aspect kept diminishing and the desire to make clothes kept growing. The brand Paresh Lamba Signatures has been in existence since 1999. Before that it was just me and my small corner where I could take orders and create garments,” Paresh recalls.
Fashion’s changing trends
In the early ’90s, when Paresh was just starting out, there was no concept of designer wear for men, and designer wear for women was just taking off. He remembers facing ridicule at the idea of men needing designer wear.
Paresh would have to explain the importance of different looks for different professions and occasions to men who were mistrustful of the entire concept. He has spent a considerable amount of time elaborating upon how he was different from a neighbourhood tailor.
I was not an expert at designing clothes when I started off, but I was always conscious about the way I groomed myself. I felt I had an inbuilt style quotient. While selling shoes, I started to notice that for every two sets of shoes, people would buy four sets of clothes. So I saw an opportunity for designing clothes and took it,” he says.
“A story of one client, which I will always remember”
About seven years ago, Rohan Murthy, son of Infosys Founder Narayana Murthy, was planning his wedding to Lakshmi Venu. Paresh received a call from Rohan saying he wanted to come see his store, and a few weeks later Rohan walked in with his father. Paresh designed a couple of suits for Rohan and one for his father. He fondly remembers the day after the wedding he received a call at 7:30 am from Narayana Murthy who said, “Paresh Lamba, I need to thank you. My son has never looked so good!”
The list of Paresh’s present clients includes famous face like Bollywood’s Boney Kapoor.
"I think as a designer, Paresh is very honest when he looks at his customers. He listens to the client’s needs, whether it's a shirt, suit, or just a jacket. For guys like us in the corporate world who need to dress a certain way for our clients, I must say his cuts and designs are unbelievable," says Ram Chandnani, who has been Paresh’s customer for the last five years.
When it comes to facing losses, I still do!
Keeping every client happy is always an uphill task, and in attempting it Paresh ended up wasting time, fabric, and effort. He did not have access to the varieties of fabric he does today, and clients complicated his job further by demanding repeated changes to garments.
Today Paresh proudly says that with the growing scale of the business, the percentage of unsatisfied customers has reduced drastically. He also claims to have all kinds of fabrics in his studio, which have been sourced from various places.
A Commerce graduate with a major in Economics, Paresh had never considered designing as a career option. He was the son of Ramesh Lamba, who was into chemical trading business and later got involved in film producing affair. Ramesh was known for producing some master pieces with Satyajit Ray as director.
Paresh, his father, and mother Pammi Lamba then moved to Jaipur, where he went to St. Xavier's School and graduated from Rajasthan University.
“God has been kind for where I have reached today”
Paresh started his boutique with two people working part time — one cutter and one tailor. Since then he has come a long way, and today Paresh Lamba Signatures has 55 tailors and a team of 5–6 designers. They source all the materials from looms in Banaras and Lucknow.
The boutique can create garments for Rs 5,000 to five lakh, depending on the customer’s needs. In peak season, it takes two months to complete the designing of the clothes, and in off season it takes 20 to 25 days. With two outlets in Bengaluru, Paresh Lamba Signatures is growing at a rate of 10–12 percent year on year.
In the next one year, the company is planning to open outlets in Hyderabad and Mumbai, and is aiming to grow by 15–20 per cent year on year. 1 Mahatma Gandhi Road is one of Bengaluru’s most coveted real estate spots, and Paresh Lamba Signatures owns two mammoth stores here.
According to a report by ASSOCHAM, the booming designer wear industry in India is likely to cross the Rs 11,000-crore mark by 2020. Higher disposable incomes leading to rising purchasing power, emergence of mall culture, changing sense of style, dressing, and growing fashion consciousness among urbanites collectively attribute to the growth of this industry. Ritu Kumar, Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Arjun Khanna, Bibhu Mohapatra , Manish Arora , Masaba Gupta , Shruti Sancheti, and Tarun Tahiliani are some of the renowned fashion designers in India.