In the contemporary world, streetwear is not just about trending fashion. It’s a lifestyle. One that intersects art, music, sports and more. Quickly becoming fashion’s biggest buzzword, international streetwear labels finally found their way into India, circa 2018. All thanks to the ingenious duo, Bhavisha Dave and Meenakshi Singh. With brands like Odd Future, Thrasher, HUF and Stussy, CAPSUL has distinguished itself as a frontrunner in this dynamic community. So, when an opportunity to speak with the founders arose, I said yes! No questions asked.
Where does the love and drive to build not just a business but a community come from?
Bhavisha & Meenakshi: On the surface, we are retailers of products. But at the core, we are in the business of culture. And people are one of the biggest and strongest pillars of the business of culture! The community is not just something that we absolutely love for what it represents but is also a very natural progression for us. Our past experiences allow us to take our learnings and put them in our own business setup.
Even when streetwear started, brands that are now becoming mainstream were originally only meant for niche communities. They were known to certain communities and not outside of that. On the outside, fast fashion was something that would work. We have seen that the whole concept of streetwear is becoming increasingly powerful and famous. These communities are expanding and hence the business is also expanding. Which is why it’s very important for us to make it ‘community first’ and everything else – content, commerce, money follows.
Can you share with us a memory of when you first figured that ‘This is it. This is what we want to do’?
B & M: During our stint with the global team of PUMA we were in tight proximity with easy access to the modern markets which are culture-forced commerce powerhouses. It was when we explored the lengths and breadths of foreign markets (mainly Russia) and realised, each country has a different flavour when it comes to streetwear. And, India certainly has a space of its own for it.
Russia is a very fashion-first market. We would take trips to different cities together, to discover the streetwear and fashion concept store scene. What we realised about the fashion stores and sneaker boutiques is that they are situated in places that are the ‘real cool of the city’. They are in the coolest neighbourhoods that have the best fashion, best bars and the best gigs happening. You really have to be a local who is in with the key opinion leader crowd to know about it. It was this entire youth culture and the energy was unmatched! It gives us gooseflesh just talking about it, to this day. This was when we first gave a thought to “Is it something we wanna do?”, “How would we do it?”, “How many brands?”.
Fun backstory: Post the birth of this idea, Bhavisha and Meenakshi locked themselves up in an apartment in Salzburg for 48 hours. The idea was to not step out unless they came to a conclusion on whether or not they wanted to pursue the dream. A key moment in the making of CAPSUL. They then set up on a journey and not everything materialised as they had envisioned in 48 hours. Yet, here they are three years later with a brand of their own.
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What’s the story behind the name CAPSUL?
B & M: When we were getting introduced to the whole streetwear world of fashion, we would come across the term ‘Capsule’ with an ‘e’. This is because it’s used as a term for smaller, limited edition drops. It’s called a capsule collection and CAPSUL as a term for our business fits because the nature of our business is primarily limited edition. Unlike fast fashion, streetwear does limited quantity production. And access to those products plays a huge role. Don’t buy too much, buy less but buy well. We connected with the term and further capsulised it by removing the ‘e’. We hear from people that it is a very easy name to recall too.
As the culture and community in India grows for streetwear enthusiasts there seems to be a shift in who dictates these trends. How do you cope with such rapid changes in the fashion scene? Does it affect you at all?
B & M: At the surface streetwear seems to be an ‘in the moment’ kind of business but it is also very well organised. There are trade shows that happen ahead in time. It’s where we know what trends of the streetwear products are going to be, approximately 8 months down the line. That definitely helps us.
However, to answer your question about who are the key opinion leaders, tastemakers and game changers in this whole space. Technically, streetwear has been around for 40 years. Streetwear founders and designers are actually the creative leaders of the industry today. Kim Jones, Alessandro Michele, Virgil Abloh (may he rest in peace) to name a few, are all streetwear legends who understood and respected the OGs. This is because they all have a background in streetwear. Luxury houses want to be associated with or want to seem more relevant to the crowd donning streetwear.
That entire marriage of streetwear and luxury has happened. Streetwear today is considered a luxury, not just because of the price but because of the acknowledgment. It does not seem difficult to keep up with anything at all because to us, it’s an entire movement which is organic in its being. It feels like a natural progression. For us, as a business, it’s not tough as we are in the epicentre of what’s going to be the next trend in the sense of graphics or something which is loved by the youth.
What is it like for you as women in the streetwear community?
B & M: We are one of the very few women in the streetwear business globally. For us, every day is a learning experience and we take it one day at a time. Though we face a lot of challenges, sometimes being a woman also opens doors when people wonder “Oh, what are these girls up to?”. We treat that as an advantage and play along. Hilarious story, we had an important meeting with one of the top brands and the gentleman on the other side was surprised to see us. He mentioned that he expected a Mr. Dave and a Mr. Singh on the call. That’s a common experience because streetwear is male-dominated, globally. We are trying to find our own path and make our own story here.
In India, the community plays a huge role when they come out to support us. There’s an event called ‘SneakHER’ which happened in Delhi – a sneaker event for women only. Events like these bring more attention to what the requirements for ladies in the streetwear industry are. For example, making women’s sizes available in sneakers. At CAPSUL our goal is to always make unisex fashion renowned. We have a property called ‘CAPSUL Women’ where we feature all women who are interested in or adorn streetwear on a daily basis.
The free flowing ease of expression is something that binds the community together. What are some other qualities that stand out for you?
B & M: A standout trait that we see is an attitude of fearlessness in the community. Look at skaters, physiologically they probably don’t have a bone of fear. Even people who wear streetwear are different. To be able to wear mismatched sneakers without the fear of judgement. Somewhere their brain does not seem to register fear. The intent and hunger to blaze your own trail and to be able to stand out independently is something that’s prominent.
Another thing is the fashion aspect. Streetwear aficionados are considered rebels. They might come from alternative backgrounds and career paths. However, when it comes to fashion you will see that they are able to wear products that might be defined as a representation of surprise glitches that life throws at you. They are interpreted in a very artistic and reinventive form. Streetwear fashion needs guts and the power to bring glory to the community. While it’s only surfacing in India now, it’s been there in the community forever.
CAPSUL has multiple renowned brands that now (thanks to you) cater to the Indian market too. How do you plan to bring together this diversity in a physical form?
B & M: We have a beautiful heritage house for all the amazing and incredible brands in the heart of Bangalore. Streetwear is leading charge in the new way of doing retail. Stores are not just places where people come in to make purchases, they are a community first space. Our entire store is filled with products but it looks like a curated art gallery. The products on display are being showcased in a different way which is cutting edge to people. Even though each brand has an outstanding tone of voice, they have been brought in as a connector. Streetwear is the connector that puts them all under one umbrella – the CAPSUL umbrella if you will.
Additionally, we regularly curate and host community events in our store. Like an oasis, the property is a 200-year-old bungalow where our idea is to bring different communities together. For one of our recent pop-ups, we collaborated with young chefs who are into artistic experimental cuisines. They took inspiration from a 90s nostalgia drop and created an aphrodisiac based on it. We encourage and give a platform to Indian homegrown brands with an international voice too.
Streetwear is the power dressing in the casual wear world. For people to understand and recognise that these are not just T-shirts with some graphics on them, we provide a space to build and grow a community of innovators.
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