Anand Ahuja is a Delhi based businessman and entrepreneur with brands like Bhaane and VegNonVeg as his brainchild.
GoodTimes: When did you realize you were a sneaker head? Tell us about your first pair of sneakers?
Anand Ahuja: I never really felt like a sneaker head, that’s a more recent term, more like a sneaker geek. I’ve always been interested in the innovation behind sneakers, so that’s why I say ‘geek’. I like the materials, I like what they are used for, I like new shapes, new ways of making them. That’s what got me into it, I was always interested in finding the newest, the lightest basketball shoe when I was a kid. So, I look forward to that every summer. That’s how I first got into it. I’ve always been into shoes since I was a baby, my mom still tells me. Can’t tell you my first pair of shoes. But I don’t really say sneakers, like a geek around it, you know.
GoodTimes: What made you conceptualise modern minimal stores like Bhaane and then VegNonVeg?
Anand Ahuja: Bhaane first started in 2011 and we launched in 2012. And the idea was, when I came back to India, I’d been out for 9 years in the US and I saw there was so much young talent in India in design, in creative fields, in music and art and photography, journalism and blogging and everything. And, we knew what was going on in the world but didn’t have access to a lot of it. My family is in prime manufacturing, we were just thinking like how can we use the resources that we have and create a product, that’s really truly world class but for the young the Indian creative, so that’s how Bhaane started.
VNV, VegNonVeg, I was always into sneakers and my co-founder Abhineet, from creative agency Bru House, him and I used to talk about it. And when we were opening the first Bhaane Store, we thought of making like a sneaker store in the basement and you know, we just weren’t able to do it, we weren’t able to make basement our first location. A couple of years went and then, Nike had called me for this event in Bombay and I was just telling them this concept that we had and they loved it. They were just like you have to do it because all the brands also want a place to showcase their sneakers with other brands, Adidas and all the other brands were completely supportive, that’s how it started. The minimalist side just comes from really trying to appeal to the earthy adopter, especially when it comes to Bhaane.
GoodTimes: Which collaboration you have been most excited about?
Anand Ahuja: Last couple of years have been a lot like really really strong collaborations and sneaker brands, there is a company called A Cold Wall and they do this thing with Nike which is very good. One of my favourite shoes is Daniel Arsham, who’s an artist, his collaboration with Adidas. These are two really really amazing collaborations. Atmos is a Japenese store, they do really collaborations with both, they do with Nike and Adidas and they do with New Balance. So, a lot of really good ones but the ones that really comes to my mind is this one, A Cold Wall, they have done some really nice stuff with Nike and of course Off white, his virtual stuff with Nike is also very popular. Then Daniel Arsham, his stuff with Adidas is great. And of course people also love Kanye stuff with Adidas.
GoodTimes: Do you think Indians are receptive consumers to the luxury sneaker movement?
Anand Ahuja: Absolutely, you know I mean luxury sneakers are sort of what I see as designer sneakers, like the designer brands. VNV, we don’t call luxury sneakers. We know the price is expensive, you know India is an Import duty, so it’s expensive, it’s already expensive and that makes it even more. VegNonVeg is not really luxury sneaker, I mean it’s a sneaker and it’s expensive. Sneakers have got a history and story behind them, that’s what appeals to people and people are buying it. So, they are buying into the story, they are buying into the history of it and that creates a little cult behind it, you know.But the luxury sneaker part is also growing. That’s not something we really participate in, but you go to a luxury mall, and you find those there.
GoodTimes: The 3 must have accessories every man needs to have.
Anand Ahuja: Even though I love sneakers, I also like formal shoes. It’s nice to have a good black boot that you can wear with jeans, you can maybe sometimes wear it with formal pants, that’s always nice. Then you need like a, to me a good running sneaker. I have one, sort of brownish, greenish colour, it’s like Nike colour Shanghai, it’s like that. That becomes like some shoe I can wear especially while travelling and I also use it for my runs. And then it’s good to have like a really good basic sneaker. For some people it’s black, for some it’s white, for some it’s grey. White gets really dirty in India. The one I’m travelling with right now is a navy blue one from Adidas.
But, I don’t really have many accessories. Also, like a nice bag pack is also nice for guys. If you want to carry your iPad and whatever else it is. I don’t do really much, I wear an apple watch and don’t have any bracelets or anything. But I would say, if you got a shoe you got a bag pack and good slim wallet is a must have. You know those big wallets should not be the case. Like a nice card holder for the money is a nice combination.
GoodTimes: What’s your take on gender neutral fashion?
Anand Ahuja: Yes, it’s great. And Bhaane does a lot of it. It does require some sort of, a certain comfort with fashion forwardness, for people to be able to wear it, it’s not for everyone. Sonam always tells me that she likes me in a very classic silhouettes that’s really nice. So, I try to keep it very classic and try to keep it very simple. But it really works well on some people. She obviously can rock that.
GoodTimes: A trend according to you that’s the biggest ‘stayer’ of the season
Anand Ahuja: Sneakers is really here to stay for guys. Something I’ve also been noticing with the bags, guys and guys using these sort of fanny packs. And these are gonna evolve in very interesting ways as well.