“Paani Puri clothing is unique because of the passion behind it”- Rish Oberoi

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One of things I love about my job is that I get to talk to people who are passionate about their art, be it directing, acting, music and even t-shirts. T-shirts, you ask? Yes, and if you are a regular reader you know we featured an interview with the fabulous Rish Oberoi, founder and owner of the cool clothing brand called Paani Puri. (Read his first interview here). I got the chance to catch up with Rish and instead of an interview it was just two people talking, which was totally cool and fun. We chatted about how things have been going, lots about the launch of the online store (April 5th!), and even more about the difference that Paani Puri wants to make in how art is presented with Paani Puri by “thinking outside the puri” and so much more.

How things have been going since the last time we talked:

Things have been going well, but the fact is that there is always a factor in there that will stop production and things do go wrong that you don’t expect. Basically, we have been plugging along and understanding how to not let that happen again. Whenever you trip you learn that it is more important to tie your shoelaces than it is to go along tripping. You learn and then you stop tripping. It has been a bit of a roller coaster, but it has been fun, and that is the thing that matters. The business stuff is the toughest side and always will be, but the creative side has just been fun. I’ve been working with Eureka on more and more things, more and more developments. It has been cool, been thinking of doing new things, new ways of doing things. It has been fun. I have been talking to newer artists about different thought processes. We have our next season actually ready to go once we see how this goes. So, it has been awesome.

The online store is opening on the 5th:

Yes, and it is getting pretty intense now. I am excited, but it is like a bittersweet thing. You know, it took me a whole year to get here. From understanding India, to understanding the cotton market, to understanding the design world, to understand how people think and how they don’t, colors, fashion, styles. Going from being in investment banking to this is just a huge jump. It has taken me a year to get where I am now. Just to know that this is going to happen now is scary! I am scared and yet at the same time very excited.

On to the cool ad created for the launch:

Eureka sat herself down for six days. I was in Dubai, and they did not tell me she was doing this, and she came out with this ad. It is brilliant; it turned out so cool. When she showed it to me I had a tear in my eye. It is like wow, this is insane. I was touched. Honestly, if you go to any large advertising agency and you speak to them they are going to charge you an arm and a leg. Being where I am now at the beginning, you can’t just pay that money. Advertising is a cost that you incur after making a profit is usually how it works. So, when she came up with this, I was like, this is a million dollar ad. It is awesome. It is not something that people would think of off the bat. Then we had the beat done within six hours. I stayed up for six hours, from midnight to 6 am the other night, working with a friend of mine in the US. It came out nice. I was very excited. I have had a good response from the ad, which I am very happy about, and that is very exciting.

Have a look at the coolness:

The next ad has been written, we know what we want to do…. It is going to be awesome and probably one of the coolest things we are going to do. I wrote it because I wanted to give it to Eureka as a gift. After she did her ad, I was like I have to step up my game and beat her on this game we are playing now… of who is cooler than who. I wrote this ad out and I talked to five different ad agencies and asked, is this how the format should be, etc. It turned out really good, I am excited about it. [He is talking to a BW star to be part of it but I will make you wait to see it to find out whom! – ed.] It is very cool concept and it is actually to talk about our next season, which is called Freedom of Speech. What we want to show is that today on Earth a lot of things are subdued. People are always asking you to say things in a certain way; everybody has to hide themselves for some reason. For example, when you are taking an exam you are forced to just study that subject, you are forced to know history from this time period to that time period, and you have to know it so well that you can get an A and that “pushes” you further in life. But why do that? When someone asks you to write, why not write creatively, write something freely, write something you want to write. You know it is like you as a journalist and maybe you know you don’t want to write about the war in foreign countries… I want to write about how my toes were painted today. They write because they want to write – it is not because they have to do this. Life has become too monetary in that sense… it is because of money and because of grades is why people are writing the way they do. What we want to do is to incorporate life into artwork which would allow an artist to actually freely speak their mind without thinking anyone is around, you know? It gives you an absolute freedom. It is a different feeling. The whole concept of what we are going to do is based on that freedom and it is what we want to push forward. I hope we make a success out of that next. We’ll see, hopefully. We got to get the first one out!

Here is what will be in the store first:

What we are going to do is start with five to ten designs. I want to let people know what we are doing; that is what is important to me. All the work that went into this this past year, it only makes sense that we let people take a few minutes and a step back and realise this is what they are doing, this is why they are doing it. So, thinking of that, I only want to have five to ten designs. What I really want and hope is that people understand why we did what we did and to see the difference. It has never been done in India and you want to be able to push something different and I feel that people will be responsive. Hopefully they are.

So the first 7 designs, which you exclusively get to write about…

Too cool for school: This is a design with a samurai dude. Eureka loves Japanese and Chinese artwork, she is obsessed with it. She made this guy swinging a sword and we were like: ‘Dude it would be cool if he were swinging it a paani puri like in the movies’. The way she made it, there is intensity in this guy’s eyes and when you look at the shirt you will see the intensity in his eyes. He looks so cool. I mean I wish I were him in high school, like honestly I just really wish I were him. That is why I named it To Cool for School. He is just too cool, this guy. It is like something every boy wants to be – the samurai cool guy that has the sword and is slicing through a paani puri. I mean you can slice through a watermelon – that thing is huge, but you slice through a paani puri, something that small, that is cool, man. The way she did the work and the way she portrayed that is just too awesome.

Pop Puri: This is more of an Andy Warhol feel and it is a dedication to him and a dedication to the Pop culture world. Pop culture has been such a big influence in everyone’s lives in the art world that it would be like a sin if we did not give it any kind of tribute.

Viva La Puri: About this one… I call him Chii but his real name is Che Guevara. Eureka kicks me every time I do this. I say ‘so, the chii shirt’ and she says,’it is Che Guevara!’ I couldn’t think of a name so it became long live the puri. See in India, Chii I mean Che, he is excessively used everywhere in the t-shirt world. He’s everywhere and what we want to do is use him in a different way. When you see the shirt you will see why we used him. It is something different. What it also does is kind of show the rebellion side of Paani Puri and that we want to be different than other people. In that respect it defines a lot about our brand.

I spilt a guitar? This actually happened during one of our meetings. I spilt some water on the table and it looked very funky and it had this shape that I could almost construe as something. I thought how cool would it be if a paani puri could spill out a guitar. That whole imagery came to our heads and we got really excited and decided to do this one where the paani puri water spilled out a guitar. Thinking back on it now, I am like wow, it is really cool we thought of that.

Paani Phuri: This is a tribute to Pink Floyd. It is an awesome band and their prism album (Dark Side of the Moon) cover is just fantastic. That was very inspirational on its own. It is such a classic album. It is something that people really relate to and it is something that we really love also from our end, so, we were like, we have to do this one. We came up with Paani Phuri. The ph-uri is because of Floyd, we needed the f sound so it is ph-uri.

Alien Puri Takeover: That one is completely dedicated to Bombay in the flooding season. When I was 13 years old, my dad was actually producing a movie in India and we were here for a year. I remember that we left for dance class, me and my brother, which was 15 minutes away. What should have taken us just 15 minutes to get back home; because of the floods it took us nine hours. When I look back at it now I think wait, there is no way humanly possible that this happened. People sitting on top of a rickshaw and things of that sort. Experience wise it was really awesome, though I feel bad for people who were living it and going through it. But I was thinking only an alien could do this. This shirt is part one of an Alien series that we are starting which is called I am Not Human. It is our first step to that line…things like this only happen to non-humans or they create messes like this.

Bleeding Star: This was created because of communism, the star is actually like a common star and it leaks. Not to be to politically incorrect, but I don’t feel communism is a correct way to express yourself politically or express it upon anyone else and that is something we have taken to heart. Living in India, it is a very democratic society. People are very free – like whatever you want. Based upon that is why we created this – it is like we are melting away communism to build a more peaceful, friendly world where people have an opinion and a thought process. Again, that really helps and builds our brand… to express that we don’t want to suppress anyone’s ideas, thoughts or feelings or desires. That is something I, personally, as an owner of a company, don’t want to ever do. Whenever I am talking to a new artist I tell them one thing: if you want to draw it, draw it. Don’t ask me, is this cool, does this look good, does this work with our concept. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it is what you created, it is what you sat down and did. When it comes down to it that shirt defines a lot about our brand, what we want to be and what we want to be perceived as in the future

So those are the seven first shirts!

Life is funny, how it takes you places you never thought you would be.

Two years ago I was sitting in Deutsche Bank; 60 Wall Street was my office number. I am sitting in that banking office, I am dealing with investment bankers, with bonds, with government bonds and General Motors calling for this problem, to getting laid off, to not knowing what I was going to do with my life for almost a year a half, to know that from that point to a year later… from that day to today… here I am and I am actually scared. I have two more days to launch a brand, which has already got more publicity than I could imagine without even being launched, which is insane, it doesn’t make sense. It’s cool, but it is scary at the same time. I hope this lives up to everyone’s expectations and I hope things do well.

It is the people who have always supported me like my parents, Imran, my brother Akshay; it is the people that support you that are important. It is great feeling, and they know how much heart you have put into this. It is now up to the people and whoever wants to buy will buy. It is not a movie where on a weekend I make or break history… it is not like that. This is my life from now until the day I die, that is what I see Paani Puri being. I don’t see it being a cash cow where I am raking in money for the next four years and then it is gone. I don’t want that. For the past year, this is all I have wanted, for the next 40 years this is all I want. I want to retire knowing I made a difference to a different way of speaking. I just want people to express things completely differently. I want things to be done differently. That is something I am very passionate about. I was telling a friend last night: In all honesty a t-shirt if you look at it, if you look at 15 different designs and you decide which color goes with which shoes, which goes with what – the minute that you put that t-shirt on you won’t think about the design any more. It will be the fit, the quality, how you feel in it and what people say to you, that is actually what will make the difference if you will buy that product again. That is why Diesel and other companies are so good, they have this fan base and it is because of that, that is the reason they have people coming back to them. So, you take extra time to do things for longevity. I didn’t just want to make a shirt that you would wear to go to the gym tomorrow. I have read books on t-shirts around the world and they inspire more than anything else. They have explained what they have done to their brand, they way they have developed their brand, the way they have used art work to define what they wanted to define and what they thought was right. I don’t want our shirts to be something that would be tucked away in a store or thrown to the curb for no reason. So, you put a lot of extra effort and time into things you really want to build. It is very important to me that is what happens. I just really hope it does, that would be a dream come true. I would be grateful to God at the end of the day for all that.

What makes Paani Puri different:

CNNGo did an interview with t-shirt companies in India and she has five brands on there and she asked me are you similar to any of them? You know you have a company that invites artists to do what they want and they print them on generic shirts and they sell them. Then you have other brands were they pick up designs that are popular around the world and they print them on their own style of shirts and fits and sell them. Then you have someone like us, who I would say we are more like a Diesel, when Diesel first started. When the owner first said, I want to make dirt-looking jeans. There is a certain image that goes with this. That is what Paani Puri wants to be, we want to define something very differently, we want to express something differently, we want to talk about something differently. We want it to be very free to do something. I swear on God it is not the money that matters to me. I mean, of course, covering the cost and of the investors is always going to play on your mind, but at the end of the day I don’t want a profit. I am very happy living in my bedroom under my parents roof if I have to. At least I will get to express what I wanted too. That is very important to me. That is the biggest difference between us. I really hope that people understand that.

That is what I like so much about your company that it is not just t-shirts, it is what is behind each t-shirt, what each t-shirt means and your aim and your goals. I really like that.

Thank you. That is what I want people to understand and I really hope they do.

Manish Malhotra and I Hate Luv Storys:

It is going to be a surprise, I can’t mention which ones are going to be used. Manish Malhotra did end up picking up ten of our shirts, which is really cool. Manish Malhotra is a guru when it comes to fashion out here, and for him to even acknowledge our shirts and come pick up the shirts from me was a very cool experience. I was so nervous that day. I got this really cool shopping bag, made sure all the shirts were folded perfectly and packaged really nicely, I put a thank you letter to him. It is very, very rewarding to know that someone of that caliber is now picking up your shirts, the first person to ever pick up your shirts. It was awesome. It was one of the coolest experiences. I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life. The shooting is still going on for the film and from I have been told they will potentially be used for the last song. Let’s pray that they do, I hope it fits what they do. If anything I know that Imran will be wearing them. I saw him wearing the Two Cool for School shirt last week. I was like what you doing; he is like I am wearing your shirt. It is cool because he has really good taste in t-shirts.

Next Paani Puri in stores, Paani Puri jeans and shoes:

Yes, we are starting out a bit slower with a softer launch, it will be just the website from Monday onwards. But end of month, early next month is when we will go into stores. I just want an organic growth. We have some really big interest. We have interest to launch in the UK as well. Then eventually over the year I want to get into different things. I am already looking into shoes now…Paani Puri shoes. How we want to go about using that as a platform for artists. Then after that jeans. I have actually started talking to some guys that are very big in the world market of jeans, just understanding the fabric and how it works and the stitching and the cuts for it. Once I get more involved and do that I just want to keep on going for the next 40 years. I just want to take it one step at a time so launch the website, get 5 designs coming out each week, get people interested, see how it builds. Build it that way then push it out to stores and then start with the other apparel.

Why our readers should buy a Paani Puri t-shirt:

It is unique, they are different. It is something that hasn’t been done, especially in India. It is one of the more niche markets. There is a different feel to it and we have a completely different outlook on life, on things. That is what we hope people will buy them for rather than ‘I like and will buy this because it has blue in it and purple in it’. I would rather people look at it more like this is cool, this more like me buying the Mona Lisa. The reason I want that is that I know how much it took for the artist to do what they did. Even if I conceptualize it and I say, hey, Eureka, this would look great on a shirt. I know how much she went to get that design on the shirt just to make sure I like it. I know how much she put into to it so her mom would like it, you would like it, my friend Ritu would like itm anyone would like it. It is that, that passion that people put behind it. That is what I think that makes our brand unique. That is why I try to strive us to do different things or more creative things. I think it is so different compared to anything anyone has seen in the online space when it comes to t-shirts. We just want people to recognize that there is a difference, that we are trying to make a difference, with different art forms, in people’s mentality ,If people want to buy shirts it is because I want them to buy itm I don’t want to force any one to do. I passionately love it and I hope that they will passionately love it just as much as I do. We have a bunch of people, which I am very grateful to have, which are constantly on email, Facebook, or Twitter asking, when is it happening? When is the release? I thank them for it because it is people like them that make you understand that there are people who are passionate about your brand and you want to build that society with it. It is really nice to know that. We are still a t-shirt company. We are still a clothing brand. We could be everywhere where everyone else is, but what we put behind it is what matters to us the most. That is what we want to reflect as much as we can through our website, through our concepts and everything.

One of the reasons I love these t-shirts so much, is that besides how amazing the art is, it is how much thought has gone into each design, what they want to say and how they, as a company, want to change the world and open up the freedom of art. I am all for that, and know you will be too, when you see the coolness and amazing art that is Paani Puri. The online store is opening on April 5th, check out www.paanipuriclothing.com and get your “taste” of the wicked designs!

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