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Hidesign: Handcrafted Success

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Pondicherry-based international leather goods brand Hidesign makes hand-crafted products even today with the belief that human hands have soul. Edited excerpts with an email exclusive with founder Dilip Kapur…

At Pondicherry-based Hidesign’s atelier, craftswomen work in groups to construct a bag along the brand’s belief that human hands have soul. In the era of fast fashion, Hidesign is still working towards handcrafting goods. The brand says that it knots every stitch ending by hand and its brass buckles are individually sand casted and hand polished.

Ninety per cent of the employees that run the brand’s atelier are women. Hidesign makes a conscious effort to empower women through employment. Most of the women it employs are uneducated and hail from rural areas of the country. The brand trains them in the skills to handcraft leather goods.

In 40 years of its existence Hidesign has taken various initiatives to support local communities residing in the villages surrounding its atelier. These include supporting small community groups and funding research and schools to offer free education.

Its community empowerment doesn’t just stop at hiring women, it also hires employees from religious minorities and the LGBTQ community.

Today, Hidesign is available in 25 countries including USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya, Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and UAE.
Few know that the brand was started by an Indian, Dilip Kapur in 1977 by setting up manufacturing in Pondicherry, it was first launched in San Francisco, London and Melbourne, where it established a reputation for being radically different.

Hidesign’s boxy bags manufactured back then, were known to be different from trendy bags of the 90’s and it won the ‘Accessory of the year’ award in the UK.

Its earliest bags were a small range of innovative bags created naturally and ecologically by skilled craftswomen.

Being unconventional made them an instant hit on Castro Street, California, then the gay capital of the world, shared the brand’s founder and president Dilip Kapur.

Edited excerpts from an email exclusive with Kapur where he speaks about the brand’s future plans and more…

What sets Hidesign products apart from others?
We use high quality, full grain vegetable tanned leather, and less than 10% of all leather produced globally is made using vegetable tanned leather. We are the only Made in India brand that makes responsibly sourced, genuine ostrich and deer leather bags. Our hardware is made from sand cast solid brass, only seen in high end luxury products.

We design theme-based collections that are not trend based but come through research into evolving lifestyles and cultures and hence the products are always unique and very Hidesign.

What is your business model?
Fully vertically integrated organisation – we vegetable tan leathers in company run tannery, hand craft bags and accessories in our own atelier, design our products, stores and communication in house and run our own stores to ensure a unique customer experience. We own our EBOs, run a full experience website, Omni, Ecom & MBO presence with leading players, corporate & international sales.

Conscious efforts by the brand
To craft the leather bags, Hidesign relies on the process of vegetable tanning. The process of using natural seeds and barks native to South India to create leathers that get better with age.
As a contribution to the environment, Hidesign uses solar powered energy to run its atelier and engages in 100% recycling of water at its tanneries. Furthermore, it uses its leather scrap to produce paper bags for its stores.

Who do you consider as your competition?
We have many competitors, changing as per markets. In India, we would consider Fossil and Michael Kors as our competitors.

How do you plan on making Hidesign the ‘it’ brand of the leather industry?
We plan to introduce new concept stores that will offer customisable luxury and exclusivity for our shoppers, making us the only brand offering this. We are also planning to offer QR code display to share collection and brand stories. The new stores would have an art gallery and will focus on experience for the customers.

What are your expansion plans for 2023?
In the last one year, we opened 10 new outlets.
In financial year 2023-2024, Hidesign aims to launch Hidesign Atelier stores through which we can share our values and present a personalised experience. We aim to cross 100+ stores within the year while also expanding internationally.

Are you planning any category expansions?
In bags and luggage category Hidesign makes work bags, sling bags, evening bags, briefcases, messengers, city bags, laptop bags, backpacks & wheelies. In accessories we have wallets, belts, wash bags, pens, card holders and masks. Hidesign also has hand-polished natural Acetate sunglasses and leather footwear. Last month we released our premium leather Jackets collection for the winter.
Hidesign has just launched its luxury collection of responsibly sourced Genuine Ostrich & Deer leather collection Atelier with price points between Rs.12995 to Rs.32595.

Where do you see the brand in the next 10 years?
We plan on opening flagship stores in important markets like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru and increasing our presence internationally with direct-to-consumer concepts through online sales and stores while decreasing dependence on distributors.
We will also continue research on vegetable tanning, making ecological colours for our leather.


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