July 5, 2024 | By Anurima Das

Mrunal’s Boutique is a multi-designer store and surface design atelier located in the heart of Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. The boutique, established in 2007, is the cornerstone of Oman’s budding fashion scene. With the growing demand for well-crafted, sustainably sourced and unique clothing, this designer store houses more than 15 designers along with a team of highly skilled craftsmen and assistant designers to Mrunal Khimji, the founder and owner of the boutique. Originally inspired by the desire to bring the rich diversity of Indian storytelling to the Middle East, the boutique now caters to a diverse clientele, both locally and internationally.

In conversation with Khimji herself to decode her story of growth with fashion, for fashion.

Inception and Journey to Oman
I moved from Manhattan to Muscat after my wedding in 2005. Although my husband’s family is originally from India, they have lived in Oman for over 140 years. India has always been close to my heart, and from a young age, I had a fervent desire to represent India wherever I was. When I moved to Oman, I noticed a void in the representation of Indian arts and craftsmanship. I have always been fascinated by Indian textiles and the craftsmanship in fabrics. This passion led me to study the industry, learn from experienced individuals, and interact with artisans from India. Eventually, I realized my calling was to showcase India’s rich heritage through textiles, craftsmanship, and embroidery. In Muscat, there was no boutique specializing in ethnic textiles like handloom or Indian fashion labels, so I decided to bridge that gap.

Growth & Challenges
Inspiration comes easily when you love what you do. I am proud to come from a country with a rich heritage and live in Oman, which is culturally diverse and hospitable. My Guru’s message, “Have clarity of mind, have purity in your heart, and have sincerity in your actions,” keeps me focused. To grow, you need to constantly improve and learn from your mistakes.

Challenges are life lessons. One of the initial hurdles was finding the right collaborators, be it suppliers, talent for the atelier, or resources. Despite the difficulties, I was determined to see my vision through. Another challenge was finding the right artisans from India to showcase their rich heritage. My family supported me immensely, inviting their friends and associates to the launch of Mrunal’s Boutique. Their support, combined with the spread of word of mouth, laid the path for our success.

Product Diversification & Engagement
We started small, trying to understand the market and the limitations of locally available raw materials. The proximity to India was a blessing in sourcing the right artisans. Hosting trunk shows for upcoming Indian designers garnered interest and eventually led us to offer space at the boutique for promising Indian designers who shared our vision.

I am always accessible to my clients, ensuring I am available for consultations and meetings. Our social media channels provide regular updates, and we keep clients informed about new launches and events through personal messages and calls. The workshop is on the same floor as the atelier, allowing clients to see the work and interact with the team. During the pandemic, I started doing reels to showcase our offerings and educate clients on textiles and Indian craftsmanship, which received positive feedback.

Marketing Strategy
Personal experiences and word of mouth are the best marketing. Meeting clients, guiding them on fashion choices, and maintaining relationships make all the difference. Our clients are our biggest ambassadors.

Logistics and Fulfillment
The pandemic brought significant changes to logistics. Our logistics partners have improved their services, ensuring smooth import and export. We have an in-house delivery service for orders within Oman, making fulfillment efficient.

Unique Selling Proposition
We have been size-inclusive from the start and focus on bespoke pieces without charging a premium. We have adopted practices of slow fashion and sustainability for the last 16 years. Our commitment to promoting hand craftsmanship and using ethically sourced natural fibers sets us apart.

Keeping it Trendy and Exclusive
We choose designers or labels that align with our principles of hand-craftsmanship and ethical sourcing. Quality is paramount. To maintain exclusivity, we often collaborate with designers to tweak their designs for Oman, such as through a special colour palette or fabrics. While we pride ourselves on hand-craftsmanship and slow fashion, we do not heavily rely on new technology for intricate surface design or embroidery, as it does not align with our brand principles.

Future Plans
We plan to collaborate with more upcoming brands and showcase our collections in other regions. Collaboration is crucial in the fashion industry. We aim to address sustainability to a larger audience and spread awareness about this important topic.

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