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Bowled over by Bebel

By Sinead McManus

If you have never heard of the Bebel store before and zip by the Calangute outlet with just a passing thought, you could almost be forgiven. I say almost because once you know what secrets it holds you will regret not stepping into it earlier.I have a weakness for fashion – resortwear in particular – which I share with a large number of my friends. Having been put through the same regret of having not stepped into Bebel earlier, I will spare you the same and introduce you to this gem of fashion findings in India.

Bebel was begun by this lovely French woman Isabelle HernandezLelli, whose parents and friends abbreviated her name and it simply stuck. She first came to Goa on a Christmas vacation with her husband Noel Viegas eight years ago and immediately fell in love with Mobor beach in south Goa where they were staying.

The beaches were breathtaking, the weather was perfect, the fish was fresh and the people very warm and welcoming. So they stayed on. But she wasn’t working in fashion back then. Isabelle actually completed an MBA at the prestigious Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas (ESADE) in Spain and then worked in the corporate world for more than a decade, mainly as an expat around Europe and Asia.

But fashion was always a hobby, and the exposure in the places she worked in provided her with a well-rounded insight into changing trends and an uncanny knack for knowing what’s to come.

Her store in Calangute today houses pretty much everything you would need to dress up in Goa. There are cotton trousers and tops, linen day dresses, printed tunics, beach kaftans, evening and party wear. It focuses on western resort wear, styles that are chic, trendy and yet laid-back and comfortable.

Bebel could possibly have one of the best collections of curated accessories in India. Isabelle has such an eye for detail that shoppers are likely to find mostly non-conventional items from various Indian designers. There are also one-off pieces from acclaimed European designers, mainly Italian, as well as tote bags, hats, belts and gorgeous scarves. I was quite taken aback by the beauty of the Murano glass collection accessories. Simply stunning!

The great part about shopping at Bebel is that you are guaranteed outstanding quality and access to pieces that no one else will have. There’s a whole barrage of tourist clientele that make their way to her store – with a vast majority being chic, elegant Indian visitors who know their fashion.

Goa is the most apt place for her to set up her store in India. She finds the ambience relaxed and the people very open-minded, which is not as easy to find in other parts of the country where life is quite fast and hectic. It’s the perfect platform to set up business and allows her to monitor response from a very eclectic clientele.

Bebel stocks exclusive pieces from major trade shows across Paris, Milan, Madrid and Barcelona. Shelves have witnessed creations from the likes of award-winning international designers such as Giugiu’di Angela Caputi, Atellier de Montsalvy, Croxe’, Cat-B, Laura di Magio, PasottiOmbrelli, Nanni Milano and Capogiro Firenze.

Currently, her hot favourites to stock are pieces from Hot Pink, a Swedish designer with a relaxed style and extraordinary quality; Delhi’s PiaPauro, who Isabelle believes is the queen of resort wear at the moment; and Goa’s own StephanyD’Souza whose colourful drape dresses literally fly off the shelves.

Everything in Isabelle’s collection must adhere to three facets: chic factor, impeccable design and quality. She also looks at wearability and value when selecting items for her stores. You will find glass and Swarovksy crystal jewellery, rings with vintage buttons, colourful boho-chic charm bracelets and earrings, gold-plated silver jewellery and statement neck pieces in the designer jewellery section. There is everything from leather clutches, totes and evening purses to hats, stoles, chains, and crochet or leather belts to provide accessorising options.

Some of the labels I’ve seen at Bebel also include BE’s range of pretty linen dresses, smart casual jumpsuits and chic evening-wear; Pink India’s boho-chic resort wear, Syne’s playful style, Mineral’s elegant collection and Badita Malkani’s dresses and gowns. Pieces from prominent Indian designers including TarunTahiliani, Malini Ramani and Surili Goel also line shelves and drape hangars.

For men, there are deconstructed linen shirts from Stephany, casual trousers and embroidered shirts from Pink India, printed cottons from Syne, smart casuals from PUDU and more. Isabelle also has an outlet in Morjim that moved from exclusively stocking designer accessories to offering women’s fashion and now a niche menswear department too.

Isabelle believes there is a lot of talent and quality in Indian and Goan fashion. Judging by the droves that find beautiful pieces in her stores every day, she will soon realise her dream of taking Bebel to the rest of India.


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