Tucked away in the Municipal Industrial Estate of Lower Parel is the Gopi Vaid studio, workshop and design lab. The label Gopi Vaid by Arnaz and Gopi, is best known for its range of kurtas and tunics and customised bridal wear, on request.... As well as an export range of dresses, shirts and tunics.
The creative force behind the label—co-founders and designers Gopi Vaid and Arnaz Soonawalla met each other in school. Soonawalla went on to become an ENT surgeon while Vaid studied to be a lawyer and businesswoman. The two reconnected after their weddings and Soonawalla learned that Vaid had been harbouring a dream of starting her own label someday. “I said let's go ahead, i am with you. The label all yours, I don't know how long I will be able to work on it but let's get this going,” says Soonawalla. They never looked back!
Vaid's family has always been a patron of the arts. “I grew up in a bungalow where all the artisans worked on the ground floor, and mummy was so dynamic in the way she thought—she used to work from nine-to-nine, and as children that had a huge impact for us,” she says. The influence is hard to miss—besides her own eventual foray into the creative arts, her sister Radhi Parekh started the Artisans' gallery in Kala Ghoda which supports indigenous crafts of India.
Many of the artisans at the Gopi Vaid studio hail from the same families of karigars that once worked in Vaid's mother's atelier. “All the workers are really members of the family. Their creativity is important, there's a lot of giving and take. It's always a fusion of what Arnaz and I think, our sense of design and aesthetic with the karigars artistry. Our staff has a powerful identity,” says Vaid.
How do you go from friends to work partners? Most business people would discourage the idea of working with someone who is so close to you personally, yet for this label, it is what makes the label what it is today. Vaid veers toward the bold and glamorous while Soonawalla adds a quieter, subtler touch to take the garment to its final version. “We balance each other out,” says Vaid.
Customisation is the key at the studio. “Everything just evolves. When a client walks in, you can immediately tell if somebody can take a richer look, somebody has a more subdued personality so you swap with a different colour. I think a garment should ultimately be in tune with the person wearing it—it can be a little elaborate, it can be something you never imagined yourself to be in, but someone has to visualise it for you,” explains Soonawalla.
The duo is excited to own space in the heritage district of Kala Ghoda, the area that is increasingly gaining popularity as the design district of Mumbai. The label will stock a mix of their export line with the local line. The idea is for the customer to experience a new range of garments each time they visit the store. “We don't want to take away the customer that comes to Aza. What will be available at the store, is going to be something that you can wear without thinking too much and will be available at an affordable price tag,” says Vaid.
“We don't want to stock heavier pieces in the store because we won't always be present to customise them. For that, the clients will have to come to the factory,” says Soonawalla, further cementing that some things will never change at Gopi Vaid, and that's just how the founders want it to be.
They have a store at 49 Kala Ghoda, behind Rhythm House, Mumbai.
Gopi Vaid by Arnaz and Gopi, 98 Municipal Industrial Estate, Opposite Lady Ratan Towers, Haines Road, Gandhinagar, Mumbai