On a rather cloudy day, a Delhi-based fashion brand called OLIO that I had faintly heard only delightful things about, allured me to the launch of their new short story called Bean at the Blue Tokai.
The smell of coffee, the ruminating vibe of artsy fashion, the uneven white walls and the jazz music blending astonishingly well with the confused murmurs in the background — Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters took me by surprise as I made my way towards it through the narrow lanes and bylanes of Sainik Farm. It was peaceful in a very artistic form — just the kind I like.
As I made myself comfortable on a bar stool with a cup of hot coffee, I was introduced to two wonderfully dressed and cheerful women. The smiles on their face was contagious, their vivacity infectious. Aashna Singh, garbed in a Chili Mocha Midi and Sneha Saksena, decked in a Cold Brew Midi dress — both from their latest collection Bean — began the journey of OLIO in October 2015.
“We both worked at Bhane before this and we got together and started working last October and launched our first collection in November.” Singh chirped. “Really quickly. We worked so hard. It was built up and so much work came out of us.” added Saksena.
The story of OLIO is one of discovering true potential within oneself through rigorous hard-work and true-blue camaraderie. “We realised our potential to work incessantly only last year — when you are not distracted by things like Facebooking, chilling or not working — when we had come up with our first collection really quickly because we didn’t want to launch through the winter months. We didn’t want to wait for the summer. The best bit of that short period of unperturbed focus were the two stories that we strung together. One was Binary which was simple, monochrome, white and minimalistic designs. The other one, Circus — inspired by the form, fluidity and playfulness of performance artists and use of vibrant elements such as woven jacquard, colourful cords, and rich tassels — was just the opposite. We also did two different kinds of jewellery and also, boots. The accessories in Binary take inspiration from geometric shapes whereas those in Circus are vibrant, and use cords and tassels.” Singh and Saksena told me in synchrony like they were reading dialogues out of a script. Their compatibility was remarkable. “Our skillset are complementary so we are able to maintain a perfect balance.. We click really well. Aashna handles the communication and branding and I do design – so it’s pretty clear cut. All the stuff that she hates to do — I love to do and vice-versa.” declared Singh.
OLIO is also about learning from your mistakes as you move ahead. It is about understanding what works and what doesn’t. “We started with a bang where we had three product categories, but then realised that it wasn’t the best idea essentially because just the two of us couldn’t handle it.” said Saksena. “Creating a brand from scratch requires planning right from the start to the end. From the first strokes of designs to the distribution. We found that clothes was something that people liked and bought more. Our jewellery, on the other hand, is very minimalistic — the market for which is like a developing nation in India. Indians are more into bling and heavy jewellery and they are still in the process of getting used to the idea of the kind of jewellery we design.” Singh added.
Their recent collection called Bean — comprises of nine pieces — is inspired by the journey of coffee from seed to cup; the changing hues of a coffee seed. Through drying, roasting and grinding, as its colour evolves from a deep burgundy to cocoa brown, whilst steadfastly maintaining its tough exterior. “Our concepts are stories. We don’t like to have collections based on the various seasons because we feel that people connect to stories and the essence of meaning connected to clothes.” affirmed Singh. “We wanted to do a collaboration with the Blue Tokai and we came up with the idea of Bean which was derived from the concept of coffee and how much people love it. The collection before this was about food and called Sunny Side/ Up. It consisted of a sushi dress, a tempura dress, a fried egg dress and other foods that we liked.” she added gleefully.
Their clothing line includes a-line midis, shirts, vintage-y co-ord, button down skirts and button-down midis in fabrics such as khadi, cotton, poly cotton, and jacquard which are all breathable materials.“We like to add a lot of minimal detailing in our clothes. Some of our dresses from this collection have actual coffee beans casted in metal as a button. Also, comfort is our key inspiration. We make what we want to wear. That is why most of our silhouettes are very airy and voluminous. Aashna’s name is no-pants-aashna because she hates pants and so we stick to dresses and skirts,” said Saksena.
In this fast-moving generation, where things get picked up as fast as they’re dropped, OLIO targets to launch a new story every 10 weeks. “Because it is a small team, we can respond really well to what our customers want and need because we are the final decision makers. It doesn’t have to go through people for approval to put a collection together.”