Introducing Kardo – Interview with Rikki Kher

From time to time we notice the arrival of something interesting and new in the stores we habitually browse for retail therapy. Kardo is a name that kept popping up, so when they contacted us asking if we were interested to know more, we nodded inquisitively.

A few questions later and here we are, the lowdown on Kardo, in the words of its founding father, Rikki Kher.

Tell us who is behind Kardo and how it came to exist?

My name is Rikki Kher and I am the founder and creative director of KARDO.  Born and raised in London, from Indian Punjabi heritage, I moved to India in 2004 for a job in garment sourcing and production and set up my own sourcing business a few years later. 

I started Kardo in 2013, with a passion for preserving and promoting the rich heritage of Indian craftsmanship with a slow-fashion philosophy that went against existing fast fashion practices.  I wanted to showcase Indian craft through menswear. I was inspired to create a brand that celebrates India’s rich cultural legacy, imparting an educational element to its wearers by being transparent across our processes.

You’ve been around for ten years now, how has that journey taken shape?

Over the past ten years, we have pioneered Indian craftsmanship around the world. We started as a small boutique menswear brand with a focus on celebrating traditional artisan led Indian textile techniques.  We started with a small workshop with one tailor, one pattern cutter and one sewing machine.  We now have a team of more than 60 people!  

As our dedication to fusing Indian heritage with contemporary menswear has gained recognition, we have been able to take our artisanal approach further, using more complex techniques and supporting a wider range of artisans across India. We started with one agent in the USA and slowly over the years we have gained sales support in many more regions.  The journey has been shaped by the efforts of our team and the artisans who support us, plus the overwhelming support from our customers.  

You are creating clothing that has an education within it, fusing Indian heritage and craftsmanship with modern silhouettes. How difficult it that to do?

It has been both a challenging and rewarding process. It has required a delicate balance to ensure the essence of Indian heritage is preserved without compromising. Our designs are created in close collaboration with artisans, weavers and crafts people. Embracing their expertise and cultural knowledge is important to ensure we highlight their work correctly and with the meaning it intends. Each piece of clothing is meticulously crafted, with intricate details that carry the story of Indian artistry, making it both culturally enriching and visually appealing.

How has the brand been received by people not so au fait with what you’re doing?

Judging by our steady growth, we would assume that the brand is being received well.  We also receive positive messages from customers and people who have discovered the brand.  They appreciate our collections because they are different and because of our transparent storytelling about the products.  

You are based in New Delhi, how important is being based there to the brand and its authenticity. Can you explain?

Being based in New Delhi is vital to our brand’s authenticity. We are an Indian brand so it’s important to be based here.  New Delhi serves as a hub to stay in close contact with artisans and to discover new ones, as well as to understand the complexity of techniques and to collaborate authentically.

Which territories are your strongest and why do you think that is?

The USA is our biggest market.  It was the first market we went to that gave us a chance. We also managed to work with an incredible agent there, who has helped us grow our business and put us in some incredible stores.  Being part of a good agency helped us grow.  The UK is finally taking off as well, where initially, there was some skepticism.  But again, we signed with an incredible agent, who is building our brand in the UK with care and attention.  

Is the perception of made in India changing for there good do you think? Can you explain your thoughts?

Yes, the perception of “made in India” is changing. We were the first India-based brand to be creating such culturally rich pieces and actively telling stories about the workmanship of each craft we use. And in recent years, there has been a growing global appreciation for Indian craftsmanship, textiles, and sustainable practices.

Now Indian designers and brands like us are gaining recognition for their unique and ethically conscious creations. As consumers become more mindful of their fashion choices, they are seeking products with cultural and social significance, which aligns with our brand philosophy.

Can you tell us about the process your clothing goes through in being created?

The creation process is supremely collaborative. We are constantly researching and experimenting with traditional Indian textiles and art forms to identify potential designs. We are always exploring various weaving techniques and fabric combinations and we actively look for artisans all over India to highlight specific textile techniques to specific regions.

Once the fabrics and craft is selected and put into work, we design the collection around them.  Once the designs are finalised, the production phase begins, where the artisans meticulously handcraft each garment one piece at a time in our own workshop. Our eye for detail, quality control and sustainable practices is crucial, ensuring that every piece reflects the beauty of Indian heritage, that it is ethically made and fulfils our obligation to have the lowest impact on the environment as possible.

What is the main ambition for Kardo over the next few years?

Our primary ambition is to expand our global presence and create deeper awareness about the cultural significance of Indian craftsmanship. We aim to continue to showcase the depth of Indian artistry on prestigious platforms worldwide. Our goal is to continue our trajectory as India’s leading menswear brand that celebrates heritage and makes a positive impact in a fashion world that is often culpable in causing environmental harm.  

We also want to start opening our own standalone stores (watch this space!)

Find out more about Kardo here

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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