A day before the bog party last weekend, the posh south Delhi farmhouse was all chaos. The stage was being readied, a band was in rehearsal, clothes had been hung for display, models waited their turn to walk on the elevated grass ramp, and someone obsessed over the angle of the tea cups on the shelf.
In the middle of all this nervous excitement were Raul Rai and Simran Lal – party givers, lovers and founders of the latest fashion and lifestyle label in the market, Nicobar. Raul’s intern‐like, vivacious energy and Simran’s warm and welcoming demeanour; in a way, define the philosophy of the label – young, energetic and affable. The two have been married for a decade now. Nicobar sprouted above Kala Ghoda café in Mumbai on March 7, and a pop‐up shop has been set up in Tulsi Farms, Chattarpur, till April 17. The label will soon launch a store in Delhi as well.
“Nicobar is a state of mind. It’s relaxed, easy, informal, and is inspired by our journeys across the Indian Ocean,” says Simran, daughter of Anita Lal, who founded home décor brand, Good Earth, 20 years ago. The aesthetic has obviously rubbed off on Nicobar, which Anita refers to as her “grandchild”. “The DNA is the same. Both Good Earth and Nicobar believe is creating an aesthetic, they’re inspired by history and crafts, and both use natural fabrics. But Nicobar is a fresh expression, more youthful and every day in nature,” says Simran,42.
The other difference, as Raul 47, points out, is that Nicobar leads with clothes, with 60 percent of their products being apparel for men and women. At the make‐shift shop in the farmhouse are colour‐coded sections. It includes dull gold chanderi dresses and tops, floral skirts, green and lemon shade pants and culottes, a rack full of shirts and pants for men in dark shades and surprise embroideries. Curated alongside are travel bags, tall kulhars, coffee mugs and bed and table linens. Everything is priced between Rs.400 and Rs.7500, and the duo plans on adding new things to the collection ever so often.
“Nicobar is a lifestyle, a movement, not just a label,” says Raul, as he enthusiastically takes us on a tour of the farmhouse. A tiny canteen with a high table in the middle, open offices with glass windows for natural light, a park where photographer Samar Jodha is babysitting his two sons, and finally to Simran’s spacious office with a tree jutting out in the middle. “We conceptualised Nicobar about two years ago, and frankly, are surprised at how it’s been received in the last month itself,” says Raul, as he takes one through the customer feedback on Instagram. Apart from shipping across the country, Nicobar has also received orders from Singapore, London and Israel, informs Raul. "You know when I first met him, I thought he was 27 but he was in fact 37 years old. Imagine the energy he had then,” says Simran, as she watches Raul talk about his journey of growing up in India, working in the US, and meeting her. “We complement each other beautifully. There is obviously so much faith and trust, but more than that he is a people’s person, he is very informed about culture, and his work experience as an investment banker makes him want to collaborate. Imagine, we run an internship programme at Nicobar – something I would have never thought of. He’s very inclusive. He also writes to every customer, asking for feedback. Who does that?” she says. It is this desire to collaborate that led the two to also come up with NicoJournal, an online blog, which documents behind‐the‐scenes pieces, cocktail recipes and playlists. “I interviewed 250 people for the first 10 jobs in Nicobar. We can’t do this alone after all,” says Raul.