Sunday, November 12, 2017

Get to know Sonam Kapoor's special friend, entrepreneur Anand Ahuja

If you are an Instagram addict, you'd know Anand Ahuja. You'd know that he likes basketball, is obsessed with sneakers, and may or may not be actor Sonam Kapoor's boyfriend. Also, that he is steeped in fashion; he founded indie retail brand Bhane in 2013, and that he recently exploited his passion for footwear by launching a shoe lounge called VegNonVeg in the capital.

Anand Ahuja
Anand Ahuja

When we call him early one morning, he is headed for a meeting in smoggy Delhi. We start by discussing, what else, the weather. "Delhi is actually one of the greenest capitals in the world, and I don't think it's [the pollution] about the traffic. It's also about the farmers burning crops in neighbouring states like Punjab. They need to be educated, too," he says.

The 32-year-old grew up in the posh South Delhi neighbourhood of Jor Bagh, and now lives in Golf Links with a family that is steeped in apparel manufacturing. While that makes his career choice obvious, Ahuja says it was not until much later that he saw fashion as a career. "I was in the banking sector when I was in America, but then I landed this opportunity to work as an assistant buyer at Macy's. I took a pay cut just to do that, because it was so dynamic — you dealt with clients, buyers, brands…" The pop culture addict in us says, "Oh, that's what Rachel [from Friends] did at Bloomingadales!"

Ahuja laughs, "Yes. It involves buying products for stores, in my case, Macy's. My clients were Nike, Reebok and Oakley. That's why the exposure was great." Later, he worked with his uncle in his wholesale apparel firm, and then assisted his father. "At Macy's, I learnt what happens between store and customer. At my uncle's, I learnt about what happens between the factory and the store, and with dad, I learnt what happens in the factory. All the experience came in handy [when launching Bhane]."

After a stint at Amazon and a business degree from Wharton, Ahuja launched his indie label in 2013. "All these young designers from NIFT and other fashion colleges had a great aesthetic sense. At Bhane, we aimed to create clothes for young working people, who knew how to put their clothes together. So, the first line was basic, with very few pieces." The first campaign was shot by street style photographer Manou, and had non-models wearing Bhane. "That was a first for that time, and we did really well in the first year."
Then, came the challenge. "I listened to a lot of people, and we started too many things; the brand got diluted. We lost our identity. We are still trying to reclaim it. It's harder now, because there are so many people doing the same thing."

Along with Bhane, he now manages a shoe lounge that he launched with partner Abhineet Singh from the Brewhouse. The name came to him because Abhineet and he are like chalk and cheese. "Abhineet likes kebabs, I am vegan; he likes old school sneakers with a story, I am more into futuristic shoes and innovation." Now, even those who aren't into the fashion industry know his story.

And that's chiefly due to an active Instagram account, and actor Sonam Kapoor. When we segue into asking him who he thinks is India's most stylish celebrity, he doesn't hesitate to say, "Of course, Sonam. No one holds a candle to her." When we point out that we have seen the fashionista ditch her heels for sneakers lately, he laughs, "Yes, she does wear more sneakers now! Sonam has a casual, androgynous style, while Rhea [her sister] has more glamorous taste." Does she offer inputs on his work? "Recently, we hired a new creative director at Bhane in Deep Kailey, and I was telling Sonam that. And she was like, 'Oh, outside of Rhea, I only work with Deep'. So yes, she does have a lot of say. We talk about everything."

Our favourite Anand Ahuja Instagram moments

Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja

Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja

Sonam Kapoor and Anand Ahuja

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