How Pernia Qureshi built India’s go-to online fashion store. Plus, her summer style guide
To call Pernia Qureshi a fashion polymath won’t be an exaggeration. From styling (she put together India’s first fashion-forward film ‘Aisha’ starring Sonam Kapoor) to discovering some of the coolest fashion labels to helming one of India’s most popular e-commerce websites Pernia’s Pop-Up shop, Qureshi understands style. Having started her multi-label online store nearly seven years ago, and dealing with the challenges of a nascent luxury market in India, Qureshi has built a brand that is today a go-to for fashion aficionados in the country on a look out for chic Indian labels. A suave fashion entrepreneur who balances her knack for business with her love for labels (check out her style guide for the summer, above), she recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Mumbai, having opened one in Delhi October last year.
We caught up with Qureshi to talk business, style, and how she has managed to carve a niche in a developing luxury market.
What gap did you observe in the Indian market that prompted you to launch Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop?
Pernia’s Pop Up shop is six-and-a-half years old. That time in the market there were no other luxury shops selling designer wear in India. Online shopping was a new phenomenon. There were talented designers all over India in different cities but there was no one place to buy them. So, it was a great time to launch Pernia’s Pop-Up shop. It was also the time when websites like Myntra and Flipkart were spending lot of money in advertising, teaching people how to shop online and my clients were also learning through the process.
What were your initial challenges?
When you are an entrepreneur life is a challenge; there is no specific routine. When I started, I was in my mid 20s, and I wasn’t being taken as seriously as I would have liked. But one of the biggest challenge was to handle people and make a team; to hire the right kind of people who can work as a community. It is important for people who work with you and for you to take you seriously. Building a good work culture within the team is a great challenge.
Do you think an off-line presence is a great add-on now?
It is important to have online and offline presence. When we started, online was just booming. But as the time has passed, I have come to realise physical presence is also very important. In fashion, trends are going back on how it used to be. It is replicated in how people used to shop. It is now back to becoming a very personal experience e.g, personal trunk shows. Luxury fashion consumers are in need of that personal touch. So to have a space where you can interact with a customer is very important. Matches Fashion, the e-commerce luxury giant, has also graduated to open to brick and mortar space in London.
How have you seen the market evolve?
When I started, the e-commerce industry was non-existent and now it is tough to imagine a world without it. But in India the concept is very new, even though our country has taken to e-commerce very well. The market has grown really fast but there is still a lot of potential. Initially, the few big players who started did a very good job of educating customers. Internationally, I used to look at Intermix, matchesfashion.com and Net-a-porter, whose founder Natalie Massenet was revolutionary. In college, I used to shop from shopbop.com. So the idea of shopping being so convenient was a stimulus that pushed me to think of starting my own commerce business.
We are expanding. We recently opened our Dhan Mill Compound flagship store in Delhi, and one in Mumbai at Kala Ghoda. Customers can spend time and decide what works for them, the spaces are colourful and well curated. Besides this, we already have two stores in Delhi and Mumbai. Our third parallel is an exhibition, Pernia’s Pop-Up Show. We want to expand to more cities.
Besides this I also have my own label Pernia Qureshi Label and have added more labels to the umbrella. I design and produce in-house. We have also done a collaboration with Swarovski for jewellery. I have launched a website, perniaqureshibrands.com, which only sells my brands. We are coming out with two more brands – one that focuses on kaftans (something that fits everyone is a no-brainer), and another one out of the need of time (it is a fully organic cotton brand).
What is happening with styling and other pursuits ?
Styling is something that I started my career with. Mostly I enjoy styling in-house, for my label. Besides this, dance is something which I am devoted to since I was very young. I started as a Kathak dancer but now I am learning Kuchipudi and training under Raja Radha Reddy, a stalwart in his field.