How péro redefined our idea of luxury


How péro redefined our idea of luxury

Pure textiles, handcrafted pieces and comfortable silhouettes is the design mantra at Péro

By Supriya Dravid  March 3rd, 2016

03 SLIDERS pero1

Photograph: Nishanth R

Aneeth Arora is an anomaly in many ways. She’d be just as happy to be anonymous. Invisible, even. The kind of girl who might brush off fame as annoying lint. Yet she manages the cult following that her clothing label, péro, has achieved, with an unself-conscious ease. I’d like to believe that she is fashion’s favourite outsider. Tiptoeing at the edge of convention, péro is a calming antidote to our age of excess. Just like Arora, who exudes an air of stillness. 

We meet on a cold January afternoon when I make the trek to Arora’s factory at East Delhi’s Patparganj Industrial Area. From where she is sitting, in a glass cubicle that seems to be suspended mid-air, she can keep tabs on all comings and goings. Her brother, Jasmeet, sits in another cubicle opposite her. He quit his job at Citibank to help restructure her company. “He said to me, enough of your jugaad set-up, let’s get real,” she laughs. The restructuring has helped her streamline her unit and make it cohesive for her production team.  

Her phone rings off the hook; something tells me Arora’s not much of a phone person. The only disturbances she allows once we start talking is when her embroiderers stop by to check on something, like a pattern, the colour of thread, the stitch. She listens to them carefully and patiently; she knows they are the backbone of her company. Slow, steady, organic growth has got Arora to where she is today. Over 80 artisans work for her, many of whom have been with her from the very beginning, in 2009, when she started in a small flat with one tailor and a runner.

Her office has no frou-frou accoutrements; it’s clear she comes here only to work. Samples lie strewn on her desk. A laptop remains half-shut. Just behind her office runs a long, empty corridor that will soon turn into a péro archive. “We need to do it, we’ll do it soon,” she half-says to herself. Arora has been busy. She’s just finished designing her fall/winter collections at Pitti Uomo (a black and white palette that uses wool from Himachal and block prints from Gujarat) and the first chota péro (her children’s wear line) show at Pitti Bimbo, Florence. She’s also sent off her first consignment of Lazy péro, a new off-shoot line that she launched last October, to Bombay Electric in Mumbai. 

02 Facebook pero1

péro's timeless pieces are cerebral as well as playful. Photograph: Nishanth R

Fuelled by an alchemy of optimism and talent, Arora has, in a short span, allowed her strength to shine bright through her work. Creating beautiful concoctions with an almost subliminal appeal, she is tempting us with a new fashion paradigm. But let’s get one thing clear: péro is not about statement-making clothes. It’s about quiet, crafts-based fashion that is representative of old-school luxury. It is classic, practical and flawlessly constructed to appear lived-in. Arora feels that most people don’t get that comfort is the real luxury. “People often feel that excessive surface ornamentation, an intrinsic aspect of Indian fashion, explains and justifies the high cost. But at péro, we care deeply about how cloth feels against skin and we go to great lengths to make our fabrics. A péro woman is someone who is sensitive to what she is wearing and we respect that,” says Arora whose origami-esque visiting card introduces her as a ‘textile and dress maker’ rather than a designer. 

With a deep passion for textiles, she mixes fabric — the strange and the beautiful, the old and the new — to create timeless pieces that are cerebral as well as playful; you could live your whole life in them. There is a refinement to the textiles that is created by skilled labour, which explains its cost. “I don’t follow trends or forecasts,” she says. The idea is to effortlessly transcend season and space. “There is a conscious effort to not define our clothes. I leave it to the wearer to decide how and when they choose to interpret my clothes,” she says, admitting that her pieces are ‘less red-carpet and more art-gallery opening’. She adds, “I design for the girl who might team her favourite vintage lacy lingerie with her boyfriend’s jacket. It’s for a girl who believes in handpicking pieces and is searching for the stories behind the garment.” You’ll know this is true if you take a peek at the brand’s Instagram account (@ilovepero), which features fans like artists Dayanita Singh and Mithu Sen, film-makers Mira Nair and Kiran Rao, writer Arundhati Roy, as well as supermodel Natasha Poly. 

 

03 SLIDERS Arundhati

Author Arundhati Roy, a dedicated péro fan

“I travelled extensively to Kutch in Gujarat to learn about blending the yarns and fibres that change the face of the textile. That’s what motivated me to develop my own textiles,” recalls Arora, about her time studying at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. About a year before she designs a collection, Arora develops organic fabrics through a laborious process that travels to different regions in West Bengal (for checks and cotton), Andhra Pradesh (ikat), Gujarat (block print), Madhya Pradesh (Chanderi), Rajasthan (tie-dye) and Benares (brocade). “We work with over 500 different artisans. When a thing is handcrafted and passed on from one craftsperson to another, across India, it results in something intrinsically pure, a different kind of luxury.”

That’s the first step. “The next is to start work on the collection in a free-flowing form that allows the fabric to dictate how it can be moulded. While the textiles resonate a strong Indian connect, the clothes have a decisively international aesthetic,” says Arora. As a rule, péro doesn’t have a separate collection for the international market. She says, “We have one lookbook that goes to all our buyers across the country and to the 200 stores we retail from worldwide. The mood of our exhibits at tradeshows like White in Milan or Tranoï in Paris remains the same so people across the spectrum can identify with péro. By the time we show in India, all the overseas shows are done. So I showcase the bestsellers at the fashion week here.” 

Determined and sure-footed, Arora is a risk-taker. At Amazon India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016, she threw one hell of a pyjama party to launch her new line Lazy péro. “I wanted to push the envelope with this collection as I thought the time was right to showcase the concept of off-duty dressing as daywear. Everyone gets tired of wearing overly fitted dresses,” she smiles. As the lights dimmed, and the music got louder, the stage was set for a super fun slumber party filled with wit and whimsy. What followed was laughter, pillow fights, dancing and a dress-up session with the models trying on clothes laid out on the beds on stage.  

The clothes were wonderfully frothy confections. Besides handwoven striped khadi jammies, the silhouettes were a mix of comfortable trousers, light-weight linen jackets, crop tops, dresses and shorts in creams, whites and blues, many of which stood out for their impeccable hand-stitched detailing. Despite the comfy simplicity, there were a few twists in the details. Diaphanous hand-embroidered tops were paired with shorts with crochet detailing done by a small group of Afghani refugee women. The dresses, of which there were so many variations, included long gowns (our favourite was the dungaree style worn with a crochet top inside) and baby dolls, with subtle silver and gold polka dots or foliage-like embroidery running through them. “I wanted to add a little quirk to the collection so that it doesn’t look monotonous; and péro’s signature kanni selvedge appears on the hems and edges of the garments. I worked with Kerala kasavu saris,” she says. Soft and sensual, the clothes floated like a dream thanks to the use of handwoven, stamped and embroidered mulmuls, Bengal linen, muslin smocks and sheer cottons from Chanderi. 

Humorous and full of heart, these clothes may be fey and frothy but that doesn’t hide the bold, searching intelligence of their designer. The show was a hit because it affected the women who saw it. It was massively sexy in an understated yet confidence-boosting way.  Explaining how the line was born, Arora says, “I was looking for a way to recycle all the leftover fabric from my earlier collections. Given that an increasing number of people are drifting towards comfort wear, the time was right for me introduce an easy-to-wear, anti-fit,
relaxed line of clothing.” Lazy péro will be made annually and priced under four figures.

Aneeth Arora has come a long way from the tricky start she had at the Gen Next show at Lakmé Fashion Week in 2007. People felt then that her eponymous collection of handstitched, chemical-free, naturally-dyed garments were expensive. “Sabyasachi [Mukherjee], who was mentoring us then, told me to stick to my guns but add a little bit of machine work to reduce cost,” she says. Arora took the next two years to rebrand herself as péro, which means ‘to wear’ in Marwari. Despite the success that followed, she feels she doesn’t quite belong in this “fashion world”. But she’s still here, taking it by the horns. “I am always fascinated by the fact that god gave us the power to create life. That’s why I always put my heart into everything I do.”  

 Styling: Gauri Verma. Art Direction: Valay Gada. Make-up and Hair: Sonam Kapoor. Models: Merrylin Boro, Troyee Barua Dutta, Princess Pea, Rinchen, Prabhleen Kaur. Location courtesy: Julian Parr. Assisted by Devika Wahl, Moumita Sarkar.

 

03 SLIDERS pero1

Photograph: Nishanth R

Aneeth Arora is an anomaly in many ways. She’d be just as happy to be anonymous. Invisible, even. The kind of girl who might brush off fame as annoying lint. Yet she manages the cult following that her clothing label, péro, has achieved, with an unself-conscious ease. I’d like to believe that she is fashion’s favourite outsider. Tiptoeing at the edge of convention, péro is a calming antidote to our age of excess. Just like Arora, who exudes an air of stillness. 

We meet on a cold January afternoon when I make the trek to Arora’s factory at East Delhi’s Patparganj Industrial Area. From where she is sitting, in a glass cubicle that seems to be suspended mid-air, she can keep tabs on all comings and goings. Her brother, Jasmeet, sits in another cubicle opposite her. He quit his job at Citibank to help restructure her company. “He said to me, enough of your jugaad set-up, let’s get real,” she laughs. The restructuring has helped her streamline her unit and make it cohesive for her production team.  

Her phone rings off the hook; something tells me Arora’s not much of a phone person. The only disturbances she allows once we start talking is when her embroiderers stop by to check on something, like a pattern, the colour of thread, the stitch. She listens to them carefully and patiently; she knows they are the backbone of her company. Slow, steady, organic growth has got Arora to where she is today. Over 80 artisans work for her, many of whom have been with her from the very beginning, in 2009, when she started in a small flat with one tailor and a runner.

Her office has no frou-frou accoutrements; it’s clear she comes here only to work. Samples lie strewn on her desk. A laptop remains half-shut. Just behind her office runs a long, empty corridor that will soon turn into a péro archive. “We need to do it, we’ll do it soon,” she half-says to herself. Arora has been busy. She’s just finished designing her fall/winter collections at Pitti Uomo (a black and white palette that uses wool from Himachal and block prints from Gujarat) and the first chota péro (her children’s wear line) show at Pitti Bimbo, Florence. She’s also sent off her first consignment of Lazy péro, a new off-shoot line that she launched last October, to Bombay Electric in Mumbai. 

02 Facebook pero1

péro's timeless pieces are cerebral as well as playful. Photograph: Nishanth R

Fuelled by an alchemy of optimism and talent, Arora has, in a short span, allowed her strength to shine bright through her work. Creating beautiful concoctions with an almost subliminal appeal, she is tempting us with a new fashion paradigm. But let’s get one thing clear: péro is not about statement-making clothes. It’s about quiet, crafts-based fashion that is representative of old-school luxury. It is classic, practical and flawlessly constructed to appear lived-in. Arora feels that most people don’t get that comfort is the real luxury. “People often feel that excessive surface ornamentation, an intrinsic aspect of Indian fashion, explains and justifies the high cost. But at péro, we care deeply about how cloth feels against skin and we go to great lengths to make our fabrics. A péro woman is someone who is sensitive to what she is wearing and we respect that,” says Arora whose origami-esque visiting card introduces her as a ‘textile and dress maker’ rather than a designer. 

With a deep passion for textiles, she mixes fabric — the strange and the beautiful, the old and the new — to create timeless pieces that are cerebral as well as playful; you could live your whole life in them. There is a refinement to the textiles that is created by skilled labour, which explains its cost. “I don’t follow trends or forecasts,” she says. The idea is to effortlessly transcend season and space. “There is a conscious effort to not define our clothes. I leave it to the wearer to decide how and when they choose to interpret my clothes,” she says, admitting that her pieces are ‘less red-carpet and more art-gallery opening’. She adds, “I design for the girl who might team her favourite vintage lacy lingerie with her boyfriend’s jacket. It’s for a girl who believes in handpicking pieces and is searching for the stories behind the garment.” You’ll know this is true if you take a peek at the brand’s Instagram account (@ilovepero), which features fans like artists Dayanita Singh and Mithu Sen, film-makers Mira Nair and Kiran Rao, writer Arundhati Roy, as well as supermodel Natasha Poly. 

 

03 SLIDERS Arundhati

Author Arundhati Roy, a dedicated péro fan

“I travelled extensively to Kutch in Gujarat to learn about blending the yarns and fibres that change the face of the textile. That’s what motivated me to develop my own textiles,” recalls Arora, about her time studying at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. About a year before she designs a collection, Arora develops organic fabrics through a laborious process that travels to different regions in West Bengal (for checks and cotton), Andhra Pradesh (ikat), Gujarat (block print), Madhya Pradesh (Chanderi), Rajasthan (tie-dye) and Benares (brocade). “We work with over 500 different artisans. When a thing is handcrafted and passed on from one craftsperson to another, across India, it results in something intrinsically pure, a different kind of luxury.”

That’s the first step. “The next is to start work on the collection in a free-flowing form that allows the fabric to dictate how it can be moulded. While the textiles resonate a strong Indian connect, the clothes have a decisively international aesthetic,” says Arora. As a rule, péro doesn’t have a separate collection for the international market. She says, “We have one lookbook that goes to all our buyers across the country and to the 200 stores we retail from worldwide. The mood of our exhibits at tradeshows like White in Milan or Tranoï in Paris remains the same so people across the spectrum can identify with péro. By the time we show in India, all the overseas shows are done. So I showcase the bestsellers at the fashion week here.” 

Determined and sure-footed, Arora is a risk-taker. At Amazon India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016, she threw one hell of a pyjama party to launch her new line Lazy péro. “I wanted to push the envelope with this collection as I thought the time was right to showcase the concept of off-duty dressing as daywear. Everyone gets tired of wearing overly fitted dresses,” she smiles. As the lights dimmed, and the music got louder, the stage was set for a super fun slumber party filled with wit and whimsy. What followed was laughter, pillow fights, dancing and a dress-up session with the models trying on clothes laid out on the beds on stage.  

The clothes were wonderfully frothy confections. Besides handwoven striped khadi jammies, the silhouettes were a mix of comfortable trousers, light-weight linen jackets, crop tops, dresses and shorts in creams, whites and blues, many of which stood out for their impeccable hand-stitched detailing. Despite the comfy simplicity, there were a few twists in the details. Diaphanous hand-embroidered tops were paired with shorts with crochet detailing done by a small group of Afghani refugee women. The dresses, of which there were so many variations, included long gowns (our favourite was the dungaree style worn with a crochet top inside) and baby dolls, with subtle silver and gold polka dots or foliage-like embroidery running through them. “I wanted to add a little quirk to the collection so that it doesn’t look monotonous; and péro’s signature kanni selvedge appears on the hems and edges of the garments. I worked with Kerala kasavu saris,” she says. Soft and sensual, the clothes floated like a dream thanks to the use of handwoven, stamped and embroidered mulmuls, Bengal linen, muslin smocks and sheer cottons from Chanderi. 

Humorous and full of heart, these clothes may be fey and frothy but that doesn’t hide the bold, searching intelligence of their designer. The show was a hit because it affected the women who saw it. It was massively sexy in an understated yet confidence-boosting way.  Explaining how the line was born, Arora says, “I was looking for a way to recycle all the leftover fabric from my earlier collections. Given that an increasing number of people are drifting towards comfort wear, the time was right for me introduce an easy-to-wear, anti-fit,
relaxed line of clothing.” Lazy péro will be made annually and priced under four figures.

Aneeth Arora has come a long way from the tricky start she had at the Gen Next show at Lakmé Fashion Week in 2007. People felt then that her eponymous collection of handstitched, chemical-free, naturally-dyed garments were expensive. “Sabyasachi [Mukherjee], who was mentoring us then, told me to stick to my guns but add a little bit of machine work to reduce cost,” she says. Arora took the next two years to rebrand herself as péro, which means ‘to wear’ in Marwari. Despite the success that followed, she feels she doesn’t quite belong in this “fashion world”. But she’s still here, taking it by the horns. “I am always fascinated by the fact that god gave us the power to create life. That’s why I always put my heart into everything I do.”  

 Styling: Gauri Verma. Art Direction: Valay Gada. Make-up and Hair: Sonam Kapoor. Models: Merrylin Boro, Troyee Barua Dutta, Princess Pea, Rinchen, Prabhleen Kaur. Location courtesy: Julian Parr. Assisted by Devika Wahl, Moumita Sarkar.