You know you have hit the big league when international celebrities like Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears and Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas) wear your clothes on the red carpet and in their videos. The edgy, glamorous yet ultra-feminine ‘feathers, sequins and prints’ dresses made by the husband and wife designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock have become a hit with many celebs abroad, especially those from the music world. “They are able to translate Indian embellishments and give them a stylish and international appeal,” says Marie Claire’s fashion editor Pearl Shah. “The drama of the dress turns the wearer into a style icon.” In fact, the rise of their label, FSP, is a result of the goal to be present in the global market. “Their success has been the other way round,” says Shah. “They got famous in the West and then in India.”
FSP stands out because it has managed to gain visibility in the international markets in just over seven years when more established Indian designers with 10-15 years of experience have been unable to do so. Typically, even when Indian designers do sell abroad, it is largely their Indian outfits (saris, lehengas and salwar suits) that find favour with the NRI population. Unlike them, till date, FSP has designed outfits for over 78 international and many more Indian celebrities, and work is underway for several more. “They are among the two international designers we have from India, the other being Manish Arora,” says Pradeep Hirani, owner of Kimaya, the designer wear retail chain. “They have the potential to become what Issey Miyake is to Japan and they have the focus and the determination to do so.” Hirani sells Falguni and Shane’s creations in India as well as abroad. “I see their loyalists growing across my stores.”
The Peacocks say they always knew they would focus on the international market even when they started out in 2004. “Over time, we acquired the expertise to do so,” says Falguni Peacock, basking in the praise their recent collection has won at the New York and London fashion week. She says that one has to think like the western customers when one designs for them. “One can use Indian embellishments, but the design has to cater to Western sensibilities,” she says, giving Alexander McQueen’s example. “He did an entire collection in zardozi [embroidery using gold and silver wires] but the cut of the dresses and their styling was absolutely Western.”
FSP is finding takers closer home, too. Falguni and Shane’s Western designs are being worn by stars like Bipasha Basu and Sonam Kapoor, and their bridal line is a hit with buyers who want traditional wear with a difference.
Married to their work, too
Interestingly, the husband and wife are both from non-fashion backgrounds but they were bent on a career in fashion. Shane got into an apparel export partnership after a course in fashion design from the JD Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai, as did Falguni, after a commercial arts degree from the Raheja School of Arts, also in Mumbai. They got together when Shane needed someone to paint one of his design collections. Falguni was moonlighting on the side to keep her interest in fashion alive. They got married in 2001 and their daughter was born in 2002. By 2004, they were ready to launch their own label. “We were already working in separate businesses on our own,” says Falguni. “We had a common vision. It made sense to start on our own.”
With an initial investment of ₹20,000, a machine and a tailor, FSP was launched. Towards end-2004, they also opened Pret Peacock, their own store in Mumbai. In the beginning, the store catered to the customised design market. “The way people bought then was different. They wanted the designer to be there when they bought the clothes and they wanted them to be customised,” Falguni says. “People are more open to picking up things from the rack now.” Today, their flagship store in India also stacks a ‘Spendthrift’ range that stocks tops and dresses in the ₹5,000-10,000. “We retail between $100 and $1,000 for our western range both in India and abroad,” says Shane. “The bridal line starts from around $1,000 and goes up as per the customer’s requirement.” In India, they also retail through designer wear retail chains like Kimaya, Ensemble and Ogaan.
In 2007, the designer duo started on their international journey and had a show in Los Angeles. “We have always been open to taking risks and are not afraid of challenges and hard work,” says Falguni. The following year saw them holding a show in London and in 2011 they finally had a showing at the New York Fashion week, one of the biggest fashion events in the world. It is these shows that helped them carve a niche for themselves. Their personal equation has helped. Shane is the vision and ideas person, while Falguni is in charge of execution. She takes care of the brasstacks — making sure timelines are met, operations run smooth and payments are delivered — and he looks at strategy, marketing and branding. “We have the same understanding and approach to work,” says Falguni.
After a couple of seasons in London, Harrods, the British retailer, signed them up for a retail contract. “The biggest mistake people make is that they do just one show and then stop,” says Falguni. “You have to keep at it constantly. You have to push your brand into people’s minds.” She also says that international markets lay a lot of stress on quality and timelines. “If you deliver later than the due date, the dresses come and sit in your shop,” she says. “Also, even the smallest of defects are deal breakers.”
Break ke baad
Their big break came when, after a private and celebrity-centric showing at LA, Fergie approached them to design her dress for the Fifa World Cup 2010. It was another major turning point. The acclaim opened more doors. Lady Gaga, Ozzie Osbourne and Katie Perry are all customers now. “Everything is difficult when one starts out,” says Falguni. “We do find it easier to get meetings, showings, etc. now.” She adds that several international tie-ups are in the offing. “We don’t want to talk about them till they are on ground,” says Shane. “But, yes, we are at a point that everything should follow.” On the whole, the business is growing manifold each year, Falguni says, but declines to share numbers. She does add that international sales account for about half of total revenue. “We see international sales becoming the bigger chunk of revenues in two or three years,” Falguni says.
Today, FSP retails in markets in Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi in West Asia, besides Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles and New York across stores like Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kimaya, and is set to sign up many more retail agreements. They already have agents in the US and UK to represent them, and they plan to open an office in New York shortly. “The office will also serve as a retail store and warehouse,” says Falguni. “This will give us a place to display our clothes in a space that we like.” In India, more stores are in the offing in Delhi, Ludhiana and Chandigarh — cities where spending is on a more lavish scale, especially for bridal wear.
FSP’s success has won the couple many accolades within the Indian fashion fraternity. “They have put India on the map for promoting Indian fashion and they have managed to do so by attracting celebrities,” says Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India. “This will definitely give a fillip to other designers as well.” What is also striking about the designers is their absolute clarity on their ultimate objective. “Just the other day, I was telling Shane that our brand should be so big that even when we are not there, it should continue,” says Falguni. Investments in brand building exercises like fashion week showings and travel, magazine photo shoots and advertisements, are the designers’ biggest expense today. “Once we are seen in the right way, everything else will follow,” says Shane. He emphasises that the brand promise is also extremely important. “No amount of brand building helps if you cannot back it up with good work,” he says. For now, every dime they earn is being ploughed back into the business. “It is what the business demands,” says Falguni.
Industry experts agree. Hirani feels Falguni and Shane are making the right investments in platforms that will help the business achieve scale in a few years. “They are the ones to watch,” he says. “They are different and they are blazing their own path to go where no one has gone before.” If the FSP order book is anything to go by, they are well on their way already.