Nestled in the Municipal Industrial Estate of Lower Parel lies the Gopi Vaid studio, workshop and design lab. The label Gopi Vaid by Arnaz and Gopi. The label is best known for its range of kurtas and tunics which is also exported, and takes requests for customised bridal wear.
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 a gold-medalist ENT while Vaid studied to be a lawyer and businesswoman. The two reconnected after their weddings and Soonawalla learnt the Vaid had been harbouring a dream of starting her own label someday. “I said let's go ahead, 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.
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 that supports indigenous crafts of India.
Many of the craftsmen 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 give and take. It's always a fusion of what Arnaaz and I think with the karigars. Our staff has a very strong 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 the core philosophy on which its functioning rests. Vaid veers towards the bold, glamorous aesthetic while Soonawalla prefers are quieter take on the garment. “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 there 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.
Studio address: Gopi Vaid by Arnaz and Gopi, 98 Municipal Industrial Estate, Opposite Lady Ratan Towers, Lower Worli. Tel: 022-2230825391