There is a truly laid-back attitude that is exuded by the founders of the House of Malabaar. As we settle into the conversation, despite sitting in the bustling city of Mumbai, Shalin Shah and Krishnaraj Kilachand seem to have an air of lightness about them, that only comes from a mindspace that is slow and intentional. Their brand of breezy, coastal-inspired resort wear for men was launched in October 2023 but has been something they have been working intently towards for almost a year before that. This is not a brand created on a whim or simply with a market gap in mind.
Sure, as a best friend duo who harbour a love for nature and the coast especially, they dream of retiring soon to a beach town where Shalin can surf, and Krishna can indulge in all the coastal fare to his heart’s content. But for now, they are realising that dream through their venture - House of Malabaar which was founded and named with “a Malabar state of mind” at the core of it. While Krishna and Shalin met during their education in the UK, they came back to Mumbai and started working on their own different paths and grew their own individual skill sets.
While they worked away at their jobs, perhaps coming together time and again for breaks to the beach and hikes among the hills, eventually all their winding paths led to the ‘‘House of Malabaar’. As someone who hails from a family that has been involved for generations in the textile industry, Shalin learned the ins and outs of manufacturing and operations and handles the back-end aspects of the label. Krishna brings his marketing prowess into every aspect of the brand, from the choice of designs to the social media assets, there is close attention to detail that has helped this newly debuted brand create a cohesive vision.
With each of the founders bringing in their skill set, they were able to create a brand whose processes are mindful and intentional. Their unified vision was simply - to create a resort wear label that rivals international quality and standards in terms of design and functionality, but is truly homegrown and fit for everything from lounging about Alibaugh to riding a few waves at Varkala.
The Value Is In The Details
‘House of Malabaar’ is a brand that can quickly become a holiday companion - with their lightweight, breezy and effortlessly stylish attire with quality made at an affordable rate. While their designs make one aspire for a day at the beach, what makes the brand work is in the actual smaller details. When asked about what truly sets their brand apart, Shalin and Krishna spoke most passionately about ‘the experience’ of wearing a piece from their brand.
Sure, clothes are about looks - but quality resort wear is also about functionality. The extra comfortable mesh and fabric used inside their swimwear is something that they vouched for again and again. They even went so far as to mention a couple of people who’d tried out their products at a recent pop-up including someone with sensory issues, who found the 'House of Malabaar' swimwear to be the only one in a long time that truly felt comfortable to them.
But being a Homegrown brand creating resortwear in a practically non-existent market is not as simple as one would make it out to be. The brand is not competing with existing brands, but rather with sporting goods stores like Decathlon, and trying to justify their premium price point. But staying resolute in their vision to be a Homegrown brand, keeping the prices accessible, all the while trying to justify that their pieces are worthy of the investment, has been studded with difficulties galore.
From having to source high-quality fabrics that fit into their vision from Italy to having to find fasteners, zippers and tags that can stand the test of time and salt water from Japan, providing a premium product at a justifiable price in India is a slow game. But rather than scaling, the brand is looking to create ‘House of Malabaar’ loyalists who understand and value their products.
Aimed at the free-spirited souls who care about the environment, the brand also tries to stay true to the values that they consider sacrosanct - slow, conscious, and close to nature. The two production units for ‘House of Malabaar’ is primarily solar-powered. According to Shalin, “Our Ahmedabad factory is equipped with 124 panels, generating 150 kWh per day in winter and an impressive 220 kWh per day in summer. This has resulted in a substantial reduction of our electricity usage by 78% during winter and an impressive 83% during the summer months.” Rather than going for fancy boxes and elaborate packaging, the team packs up their products in biodegradable mailing covers - choosing to forego the pomp and circumstance of branding and rather letting their clothes and their value speak for themselves.
From their tagline of, ‘Shift Gears, Take It Slow’ that came up during a heated branding discussion, to the choices they’ve made every step of the way with House of Malabaar - whether that is through design, function or organisationally, the journey of the label has been organic and it promotes much more than their products. They are appealing to those who aspire to an elevated lifestyle, one where they value relaxation and mindfulness and perhaps hold a never-waning love for the beach.
You can follow them here.