Rather than do a formal runway presentation, designer Vivek Nagrani invited editors to his one-of-a-kind retail space on East Houston Street on Monday, January 29, where models mingled with guests showing off the many looks of Bruce Wayne (the alter ego of Batman and Nagrani’s inspiration for his collection), ranging from super-sleek tuxedos to gorgeous cashmere overcoats to stunning transitional jackets made of wool and cashmere. While there, MR had the chance to discuss Nagrani’s unusual business model, his must-have picks for fall ’17, and his plans for the future.
Q: Why on earth would you switch from wholesaler to retailer at a time when so many retailers are struggling? What do you know that they don’t?
A: In general, most retailers have failed to create an “experience” for their customers, a low-pressure environment where guys can relax, have a drink, be themselves. What’s more, retailers focus on their existing customers rather than seeking out new ones. Our space is for young (or young at heart) successful guys: we make them feel that they’re respected, that their money is respected. That’s the main reason they want to come to a place like ours: no pressure to buy but they sense our passion for the product and they love to learn how things are made, why they’re worth the price, etc. It’s also why we made the space like a bar/restaurant. We carefully curate our assortments so we offer only the best pieces in the best fabrics in the best make. But it’s not about status labels: our customers want something special that they can’t find on the internet. They don’t want meat-and-potatoes basics.
Q: What two special items are must-haves for fall ’17?
A: First: a wool jersey jacket that works as both sweater and jacket. It’s easy to wear, lightweight, and works with ties and/or jeans. It mixes with everything, and it’s easy to travel in.
Second, all guys should have a great leather piece, a jacket that transcends from work to weekend, something he can layer since weather is always unpredictable.
Q: Are you still doing some wholesale business these days?
A: Yes, in a few progressive stores who believe in what we’re doing including MartinPatrick3, Garmany, and Badowers. We’re taking the trunk show concept and elevating it with digital lookbooks that can be sent to select customers. What the customer chooses is then sent to the store, totally reserved for that particular customer. The store gets 40 percent of each sale, and we take back what the customer decides he doesn’t want.
Another promotion we do at our own store is to team up with nice restaurants in our neighborhood. We give them a $500 gift certificate to our store that they award to the best-dressed guy in the restaurant that week. It creates considerable buzz, gets us new customers and, when word gets around on social media, inspires other guys to dress better.
A: My grandfather always said “A man’s presence should be felt never heard. When you walk into a room, people know you just stepped in. Not a word said or any loud clothing. Just energy.” To me, Bruce Wayne is the epitome of this – whenever he enters a room, his presence is immediately felt. He doesn’t have to announce himself or do anything flashy – his entrance is enough. He is the ultimate gentleman.
Q: What have you learned from your years in the business (or what do you know now that you wish you’d known then…)
A: When I started my company, I wanted to create something that would stand the test of time, serve a social responsibility and inspire others to pursue passion over treasure alone. Over the years, I have learned that it’s not about the clothing. It’s about how the clothing is designed to create a systematic, functioning wardrobe. What is special about VK Nagrani is that all pieces are key, staple, go to’s which allow the client a more enjoyable life. You don’t stress about what to wear or how to pack. It’s all here. No need to think which means more time to deal with other things in his life. The average guy spends about 15 minutes a day thinking about what to wear. We have brought it to less than 5 with a net savings of 10 minutes a day. Sure, it’s small, but over five years that’s a savings of over 300 hours that you could have to enjoy so much more than thinking about what to wear!
I would not change a thing about my journey because everything that has happened has made me who I am today. I like who I am.
Q: Any other news for MR readers?
A: Yes. We’ll be adding a small capsule collection of women’s clothing. Our guys often come in with wives or girlfriends who never fail to try on the men’s cashmere jackets. We think this should be a winner!
(Editor’s note: Upon walking into the shop, I went right for a suede trim cashmere baseball jacket!!)