MUMBAI – When Pooja Dhingra launched her first patisserie in Mumbai, India the concept of a macaron was as exotic as necessitating your everyday fashion needs at a Prada. She was fresh out of Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and the year was 2010. Luxury in India was still reserved for those who spent summers in London and spring in France.
For the rest of us, a cupcake was a novelty and Zara a splurge. Fast forward 2015, four stores and countless collaborations later, Pooja Dhingra has officially made the macaron a lasting fashion statement in a country that constantly changes its opinion on what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’.
Much like toting a Starbucks cup makes your morning rush seem legit, a Le 15 patisserie macaron box instantly gives you the air of a well-travelled, well-fed evolved Indian. Eventually it’s all perception. And Le 15 is perceived as food for the fashion God’s.
Sounds a bit exaggerated? Ask Dhingra to elaborate and she can tell you how she caters to almost every dessert table at the cities exclusive fashion soirees, besides of course dropping a jewellery line inspired from her desserts. Oh did we also mention capsule collaborations with the city’s up and coming designers? Her recent collaboration with Masaba though, isn’t just visually delightful; it’s also easy on the waistline. Wittingly called Jump, equal attention was paid to packaging as much as taste and quality. After all no one better than Dhingra to know the perks of dressing up your wares. It’s not that the macaroon was a stranger to the Indian palette. But before Dhingra put it in a glass wall housed in a candy pink white striped store we really never gave the French delicacy much thought. Add to her vision, a smart wielding of social media mediums, and you have a business maverick who is able to transcend her product to cult status.
BACO Contributor Sholeen Damarwala talks to Pooja Dhingra on how you require just more than flavor to launch a trend!
BACO: How did the journey to building a fashionably conscious dessert brand in India kickstart?
Pooja Dhingra: The first meeting I had with my design team starting Monday, around six years ago, we decided that we would treat Le15 like a fashion brand. We would have seasons and change the product based on them. We changed our packaging to match each season and that’s how we started building our little brand.
BACO: How important do you think is the visual appeal of a product besides the quality of the product?
PD: I feel it is extremely important. When we were in culinary school our chefs always told us one thing – you eat with your eyes first. For any food product not just the visual appeal of the product but the way it’s presented and packed is extremely important too.
BACO: Why is it so easy for you to collaborate with fashion designers?
PD: Our first food and fashion collaboration was with Nachiket Barve. Nachiket was working on a collection called Caravan, which was inspired by the silk route. Using the spices from the silk route we created a line of macarons that looked like his designs! Food and fashion seem to be a great fit.
BACO: Your latest collaboration with Masaba has been hugely talked about and widely appreciated. How did you both manage to retain your individual aesthetics while creating one singular product?
PD: I feel that food and fashion make for a great combination. Especially desserts! We were both involved in the food testing (and tasting) process as well as picking a look and design for the box. But I think we had the most fun making our teaser videos for instagram!
BACO: The packaging is another standout factor from this collab. Tell us a little bit about the creative process?
PD: The concept of Jump is not so much about low calorie desserts but about bringing wholesome goodness and balance into your life. The idea was in my mind for a long time but I really felt the urgency to implement it when I started training for the marathon last year. For someone who is so obsessed with dessert, I still wanted a sweet fix but didn’t want it to affect my training and so I thought of coming up with a line that will not only taste good but will also give you some nutritional value. I’ve worked with a nutritionist on the entire menu and the entire focus was not about cutting calories, but adding value. Once I explained this to Masaba we both worked towards a design creative that fit with our vision for Jump – fun, energetic and happy. I’m a big fan of not only Masaba’s work but also the person she is and felt that she fit perfectly with the concept of Jump.
We created Jump to give consumers that extra energy you need to make it through crazy manic days and satisfy your sweet cravings at the same time.
BACO: Besides the Masaba collaboration, Le 15 has always focused on little details like packaging, colours and dessert boxes. Has blending design with quality desserts always been a conscious decision?
PD: When I lived in Paris, what I loved about the pastry shops there was their eye for detail. I loved the little touches not only on the dessert but the boxes, branding and other packaging and knew that when I started my own store we would pay attention to all the little details.
BACO: Tell us about the rather adorable jewellery line you are working on?
PD: It’s still very nascent and we are working on it. It will be a line inspired by our goodies and a full line will launch very soon.
BACO: Lastly, what next can we look forward to from you?
PD: A very interesting collaboration with another fashion designer who I admire and respect but I can’t reveal much now. We are also looking at more stores, collaborations and another book soon.
“The Big Book of Treats” by Pooja Dhingra is available on Amazon.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: ERA Olive Oil: Liquid Gold, Gnam Box: The Hipster’s Dinner Party, EXPO GUIDE TO MILAN, Mumbai’s Le 15: Chewing on Couture, Alessandro Enriquez of An Italian Theory , Interview with Russian Oligarch Yelena Baturina, Brigitte Niedermair on Man’s Fixation with Fashion, Food