The hippie capitalist
“A hippie? Really?” exclaims Dilip Kapur. “Is that what they’re calling me now?” He thinks for a minute and then looks around the room at his visibly amused team. “I don’t know. Am I a hippie?”
It’s certainly not the first description that springs to mind when you meet Kapur. He 1:1 replica handbags is, after all, founder and president of Hidesign, a 160 crore company with about 3,000 employees, 82 exclusive stores and a distribution network across 23 countries. In addition to the brand, which began with bags, then diversified into sunglasses and now plans to move into designing and producing shoes by the end of this year, he runs two boutique hotels in Pondicherry.
On the other hand he does display flashes of what could seem like nave idealism if it wasn’t for his setting: Pondicherry, strongly influenced by the culture of both Aurobindo’s Ashram and proudly utopian Auroville.
According to the now familiar “rags to riches” tale, told repeatedly (and breathlessly) by both National and International press, Kapur is the ‘hippie from an ashram in Pondicherry who began his company with nothing more than one cobbler and Rs. 25,000. Kapur leans forward and stage whispers, ‘Okay, I was a hippie. But I don’t tell people about it. It was when I was studying in America.”
He starts flipping through pictures on his phone and pulls up a particularly startling picture of himself scowling through a web of mutinous hair. “It was up to here,” he says pointing at his waist, as his son Milan peeps over his shoulder to look at the picture. “That’s a rowdy moustache,” Milan exclaims, bursting into laughter. Dilip sighs theatrically. “I went for my poor sister’s wedding like that. She didn’t forgive me for 20 years.”
Kapur’s personality, like his designs (not to mention his personal style) is a curious blend of wily sharpness wrapped in defiant individuality. At Le Dupliex hotel, as he poses for cameras besides a collection of his ‘Icon Bags’ in a pair of ripped jeans improbably teamed with a replica louis vuitton bags from china sedate designer shirt, he’s casually outspoken about himself, his business and growing up in the ashram.
When he was 15, he wrote to the headmaster of the Andover cheap replica handbags Phillips Academy (Massachusetts), asking for admission. He ended up staying in America for 15 years, graduating from Princeton, then going on to do a PhD and marrying an American woman. When he returned to India in 1977, it was the beginning of Auroville, and he joined the community in a fit of idealism, eager to “make a new world”.
Although he still lives in Auroville, a few years ago, he quit a number of the community’s committees and opted to take classes at its school instead. “I just got tired of it,” he shrugs, “So now I teach the children of Auroville.” He’s considerably less quixotic. “It’s not the same. These kids are not living in as much a culture of idealism as we were. Our visions have become smaller. The horizons are not as wide.” He adds, however, “Auroville is still incredibly idealistic compared to the rest of India. People don’t think it’s ridiculous to be this way. People here cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk accept idealism.”
Then his voice tapers away thoughtfully. “I don’t know. Or maybe people think I’m just a fool.”
The truth is he’s probably more cynical than he accepts, evidenced by his most recent quote to a newspaper: ‘only the paranoid survive’. He learnt the hard way. “I was horrible at business. In the first 10 years of Hidesign, I got cheated three times!”
Yet aaa replica designer handbags , growing up as a part of the Ashram has had an impact on the brand. “I think the simplicity of my designs comes straight from what Mother (Mirra Alfassa, who was the spiritual collaborator of Aurobindo and founder of Auroville) taught us,” says Dilip, “There is great beauty in simplicity.” He adds, “Whatever you do reflects your culture. In America I didn’t reflect the culture of the mainstream. When Hidesign began, we wanted to be different, to create our own personality.”
Despite adding some bling over the years to the famously sturdy bags, he says the brand hasn’t changed at the core since it began in 1978. “We never copy what happens in the mainstream. Most Indian bag designers follow Western trends. But ugh. Why would we want to create imitations of Prada, Chanel and Burberry? You can never do great design if you are not connected to your culture.”
In 2007, legendary designer label Louis Vuitton bought what Dilip calls a “tiny little stake” in Hidesign. “It gave me the confidence to say, ‘Yes, I’m from Pondi’ and say it openly. Do you realise how difficult that is? To be in the fashion industry and not be based in Paris, Milan or London?”
Looking through the Icon Bags, it’s clear that the brand is working hard to retain its essence. “When we started replica louis vuitton , the only bags in India were fake Chanel high quality replica handbags china made in Dharavi. I thought at that time that no Indian would buy my bags: my leather looked terrible to them. They called it rough. But I never wanted to change. I love the hand crafted look.”
Working from a balcony in Pondicherry, he slowly began to expand. “My sons Akash and Vikas were born then. Vikas went to law school, then got interested in his father’s business via a stint at Louis Vuitton in France, and now works with Hidesign.) Dilip continues, “In the beginning, everything was made by us, by hand. and then head to the beach with the whole family and friends to swim.”
Today, aaa replica designer handbags it’s admittedly less idyllic. The company is headquartered in a sprawling campus about an hour away from Pondicherry. They have three factories in Pondicherry and one in Himachal Pradesh, all together making about 20,000 bags a month. The bags are also changing. “Now they are really, really practical,” says Dilip, sounding a touch wistful as he studies a quirky ‘boxy bag’ he made in the eighties. “They never used to be practical because I didn’t give a damn then. I just wanted them to be cool.”
He adds, “For the first eight years we only sold to alternative stores. Our biggest sales were at Castro street in San Fransico. Our retailers were complete amateurs” He adds accusingly, “I didn’t know what I had created till the press started writing cheap louis vuitton bags from china about it I only became a capitalist because of you people.”
He’s joking. But there’s a grain of resentment there too. For success has come with a catch. He’s can’t be blithely rebellious anymore. “I make lots of bags that are not in cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk my DNA,” he says, adding “but they are in someone else’s DNA. It’s a different type of challenge understand your consumer and make something they want.” He picks Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags up the beat up old boxy bag again. “I’ve always thought it’s so cool, so innovative. That’s because the old bags were designed from the heart.”
He continues, “I’m 66 years old now. I don’t see myself doing this for much longer I think Milan will follow me. He loves it.” (22 year old Milan and Ayesha are his children from his second wife, Jacquline Kapur, a German who runs Casablanca and the Red Earth Riding School in Pondicherry and Auroville. Ayesha is best known for her role in Black, and is now in Mumbai, reportedly working on a movie by Shekar Kapur.)
Dilip adds, “Milan has learnt how to make bags, and his style is quite similar to mine.” Better? He pauses. “Do you want me to say yes? I don’t know. Does he have the same sense of adventure? After all, he’s inheriting a different world.”
Hidesign, Dilip states, was built in a very different atmosphere. “At that time we really believed in this idea replica louis vuitton bags of creating an example for the world. Of living in a community that you really care about. Back then it was accepted to be so idealistic. To believe that world can change. Now, I’m more cynical, in the sense, I know that it’s not happening. But I do believe you can make small changes. And I like the idea that this brand has now become is a living being.”
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