Whether it’s the tall and fiercely independent Maasai warriors of Africa and their great heritage of craftsmanship, or the chic and cool capsule collection sourced from the heart of Paris, Dilip Kapur, President and Founder of Hidesign, is obsessed with design and workmanship. His unique brand of handbags, with their hand-buffed leather finish, tanned by vegetable dyes are legendary. It could be his Scandicci collection inspired by the artisanal district of Tuscany to the East India collection with its blond sheen and natural grain or the Pondicherry Paris collection with its smooth and glamorous texture, Dilip makes sure that Hidesign moulds history, art and culture into a piece of art.
Dilip loves to say, “A handbag holds huge sentimental value for a woman. It is a fashion statement that can either break or make her style.”
Dilip is a man of great accomplishments himself, and with a spectrum of other interests too. Though he was born in New Delhi, he moved to Puducherry at the age of six. Later, he moved to the US to study at Princeton and completed his PhD in International Affairs from the University of Denver.
When he returned to India in 1977 to live in Auroville, he started Hidesign and has been the mastermind behind the brand ever since. And so, from its artisan roots of just one cobbler and Rs 25,000 to a multi-crore company with several exclusive stores across the country, Hidesign has consistently focused on innovation and quality.
When he is not working, Dilip loves to take long walks in the forests of Auroville with his dogs, ride his Royal Enfield Bullet, enjoy a glass of fine red wine or take off on an adventure to explore the world.
When YS Weekender caught up with the man behind the iconic brand, we discovered many other facets of his unique personality….
Much of Dilip’s year is spent wandering across the world. “I travel way too much but this kind of travel does not inspire me,” he says.
“What inspires me is discovering cultures and going to beautiful countries. I love Africa, which inspired my Maasai collection. I loved Sudan, the Sahara and Afghanistan as well. I enjoyed travelling through Myanmar and Borneo too as these cultures are alive and different. They inspire you to do different things.”
When Dilip travels on work to countries like China and Hong Kong, he makes a beeline to the restaurants and haunts he loves most. “I enjoy trying out new food, and of late, I have been fascinated by Taiwanese cooking. However most of these places are not inspirational. Whether it is New York or Delhi or Hong Kong- all cities are more or less the same.”
Dilip is also deeply involved in the task of preservation of heritage buildings of Puducherry.
“Twice a year, we host a special festival where we invite people to come and talk to the people about the importance of preserving the buildings and culture of the city. During these meetings, we bring up various issues and problems and invite architects and government officials to discuss them,” he says, adding that whether it is a civic issue or an issue with heritage sites, every aspect of the city is given close attention and much love.
His love for ecology stems from the same roots.
“I have lived in the middle of a forest for several years,” he says. “Ecology is a part of our lives. Day in and day out we need to take care of Auroville in the best way we can.”
Dilip has a great fondness for wines but admits ruefully that he has no access to fine wine on a daily basis. “We don’t get the greatest wines in our country,” he says. “People know I love good wine with my food, so they keep bringing it for me. I also hound people to get me certain wines when they travel.”
Dilip is very fond of wines from Tuscany and Bordeaux.
“I went to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France recently and tried the wines there. I discovered that there are so many different types of wine in the world and so many different ways of making them too.”
Dilip loves his old Enfield Bullet and takes it everywhere. “If you drive around a car in Auroville, you will get dirty looks from the locals as only tourists use cars. I like to walk everywhere or use my Bullet. However, I am not a biker in the true sense of the word as I don’t do any kind of racing or competitive biking.”
His two dogs, Rhodesian ridgebacks or African Lion Hounds as they are called need a lot of movement, which keeps him on toes. “I need to take them for long walks every single day,” he says.
“When you live in a forest, you start reading a lot,” laughs Dilip. “I read the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and a few Indian newspapers. I also read a lot of fiction but I don’t remember the names of the books I read. Since my son is a writer for the New York Times — he is always persuading me to read. On my birthday and for Christmas every year, he presents me with eight books each time.”
Dilip still teaches students International affairs in Auroville. “I also work with many young people from design schools,” he says.
“The most important thing I tell them is that they need to make mistakes. I tell them that it is important to work hard but innovation is the key to get ahead.”
As for me, ecology, innovation and sustainability are the three important aspects of my brand and my personal life.”