Conceived during a solo backpacking trip across Europe, in a quaint vintage store in Paris, stylist Divya Saini’s e-store Bodements began as a result of her obsession with collecting inimitable vintage pieces. An online boutique of handpicked, exclusive, vintage garments and designs from all over the world, Bodements has made its mark in the vintage market space, which is rapidly gaining ground. A quick scroll through their incredibly aesthetic Instagram reveals selective curated vintage creations from the late 60’s to early 2000’s, mostly from French designers and brands like Jean Paul Gaultier, Burberry and Saint Laurent. Each piece is a reflection of Divya’s broad and assiduous understanding of fashion and its nuances.
Born and raised in Mumbai, Divya was always inclined towards fashion and developed her fascination for up-cycling when she was as young as 12. From interning and contributing to multiple acclaimed publications, to now working with celebrities like Radhika Apte, Swara Bhaskar and Kiara Advani, she has come a long way and aims to keep on undertaking new projects to constantly learn, discover and evolve.
We connected with the stylist to know more about the formation of Bodements, a breakdown of the sourcing process that goes behind the curation of vintage clothing, the new normal and more.
About four years ago, I visited Europe without a plan or direction. You can say I was young and restless. It was one of those ‘I need to find myself’ trips. On my very first day in Paris I ended up in a vintage shop. I spent hours and hours going through some absolutely stunning pieces they had. I picked so many pieces that I would probably never wear but I loved the idea of owning these unique treasures. That’s probably when it all started. After that I visited five countries in Europe and I made sure I went to all the best vintage shops in each country. I had bags full of these beautiful pieces I wanted to bring back but I didn’t really have a plan. Some of the pieces were so grand, I didn’t even have an occasion to wear them. By the end of the trip, I had collected more than 50 pieces and even had to borrow my friend’s suitcase to get them back. Back in India, when I started wearing them, my Instagram flooded with comments that asked ‘where’s that from?’ Then the realisation dawned upon me — there was a demand for vintage clothing in India. I called up some of my model friends, packed my bags and took off for Alibaug where I shot the first Bodements launch campaign.
During the summer, we have been working on new connections and relationships to introduce some Italian designers to our catalog in the coming months. Within the past two months, we picked up pieces from Paris, Marseille, Greece and Spain. I am aware that the market I am catering to is niche and I like that. I want the pieces to belong to people who appreciate the value of its life and the story it comes with. Vintage fashion has always been around in many parts of the world, but never appreciated in India. In my opinion, it is going to blow up here in the next couple of years. What we will have to keep up with, is the curation. People are tired of these brands selling the same copied styles that everyone owns. They want something new, fresh and exclusive. Bodements is here to give them that.
As far as sourcing is considered, what I’ve learned in the past few months is that rule number one in the vintage industry is keeping all your processes and sources to yourself. I can tell you that organisation is also the key — I give myself goals for the day by identifying what type of garments I need to buy. Unfortunately, I can't be in Europe throughout the year so we have other people sourcing for us too. Technology helps a lot. I try to curate pieces that will never be available in India. Initially Bodements’ market position was mainly geared towards insiders, but now more and more people are going vintage, not only for the looks but also for the cause! Good places are hard to find and don’t last long, especially if you talk about them, but it isn’t a secret that garage sales are where you crack the best deals. When I’m buying for myself in thrift shops, I always ask friends what the best places are in their own region, like Europe, North America, et cetera.
I don't particularly follow a specific style when it comes to fashion, but I must say I have more affinity towards aesthetics that have a disruptive and innovative vision. I can be very sensitive to a groundbreaking minimal design, just as much as I can be moved by an oddly coloured and overflowing dress. The most important thing is being relevant and constantly evolving in relation to a given context — timing, values, history, et cetera. There are so many people that inspire me when it comes to fashion and for various reasons. People like Freddie Mercury and Cher — I am in awe of such unapologetic artists that never gave up on their vision and their personality. David Bowie was also a major inspiration for me, artistically and philosophically, the idea of creating his avatar Ziggy Stardust to explore a whole new universe, music and fashion wise, was to me pure genius. Another leading figure in fashion I consider as an icon is Grace Jones. I especially respect the way in which she wisely chose to collaborate with the most relevant artists of her time — Issey Miyake and Kenzo Takada in her early years, then with Jean Paul Goude, Andy Warhol and of course the regretted and insufficiently known, Azzedine Alaia.
On some of my personal favourite vintage pieces, there are two very close to my heart. One amazing non branded jacket from the late eighties that has a very Freddie Mercury vibe, which I stumbled upon in Berlin. The second one is an Emanuelle Khanh jacket from the early seventies with a unique dragon-like collar, the kind of garment you can only find in France. I'm pretty sure I will never let them go. Last week I acquired a pair of high-waisted printed Missoni pants from Paris that I can't wait to wear!
THE VINTAGE CULTURE
I think the culture of vintage in India is growing at a very fast pace. There is a radical and inevitable change taking place in the fashion industry. The millennial and Gen Z consumers are being more aware about the pressing issues that affect the world around them. We as a brand are trying to be positive about everything we put out. I know there is a lot of talk regarding Covid-19 all over the Internet. We want to be the breather our audience gets in a feed filled with Covid updates. We are making music playlists and engaging in conversations about all the topics we spoke about before like sustainability, fast fashion, over consumption and waste, fashion’s contribution towards climate change, et cetera. We encourage our customers to buy less. As a shop that preaches conscious consumption, we want our customers to commit to their clothes as the good friends they are!
THE PANDEMIC AND BEYOND
As a store that mostly sources from abroad, our processes have definitely slowed down, but fortunately, we have a significant amount of stock stored in India. Traveling often in a business structure like ours isn’t the most feasible, both ecologically and financially, which is why we consciously make an effort to minimise it. While sourcing, we make sure we pick pieces that aren’t just aesthetically pleasing but also have the ‘timeless’ factor. I do feel that the situation we are in has sort of forced us to re-evaluate how we live are lives, travel, engage and how we consume. We are being forced to stay isolated and indoors, and it feels like we are banished into our own houses to introspect the lifestyles we have been living, which is leading people to being more conscious. The dopamine rush from a new purchase seems like a dream and we are very fairly surviving. We are already seeing big brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent cancelling their shows and making a concrete statement on how they are moving away from the fast pace of fashion and embracing the slow movement.
Everything is becoming more transparent and honestly, it was high time. I feel like the fashion industry has led too many reckless years without holding any responsibility towards its employees and its consumers. Earlier people were oblivious to the fast fashion fads, the negative impacts of our beloved industry, but now people are more informed. We are in the anthropocene, and every step we take towards our ecosystem matters. Vintage clothing is the most sustainable option that exists. What can be more ecological than reusing and not creating more garments that will eventually end up in landfills? Here's a fact — there are enough existing clothes on the surface of this earth to supply global demand for at least two decades and that's a conservative estimate.
On a personal note, I am definitely taking each day as it comes. I know some days are better than the others. I have recently shifted to Goa and am also contemplating moving the Bodements office here. The enormous amount of time on our hands has made me realise how self-sufficient and disciplined one can be. Some days I enjoy doing absolutely nothing and other days I'm learning a new language, taking multiple courses online and reading profusely. It’s important to do what makes you feel good even if it is eating a whole tub of ice-cream by yourself.
Text Samadrita Khasnabis