This year marks the tenth anniversary of Louis Vuitton’s presence in India—it was the first luxury brand to open mono-brand stores in the country. Several major international luxury brands such as Prada, Max Mara and Ralph Lauren are still absent from the market, while others are slowly making an entry – some of the PPR Group and Richemont Group brands are planning mono-brand store openings, operated directly, by the end of 2013. French luxury powerhouse Chanel only has one mono-brand boutique in India, with the Imperial Hotel in Delhi.
Last year, marked the entry of Italian luxury jeweller Damiani but also the withdrawal from the market of Bvlgari. Alfred Dunhill and Versace have ended their previous distribution agreements and are reported to be phasing out a come-back to the Indian market in the near future.
Roberto Cavalli added a Cafe to its existing mono-brand store at Delhi’s Emporio Mall. Other mono-brand openings in 2012 included Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Zegna – each with one mono-brand store.
Historically, India has always had close ties with luxury. In 1925, India’s Sir Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala, granted Parisian jeweller Cartier its single largest commission: the remodeling of his crown jewels, a collection that included an exquisite 234.69-carat De Beers diamond. Vuitton’s connections with India go back over a century, when the Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir, Bikaner and Baroda, ordered customized trunks from the company.
For almost 44 years after independence, socialist India snapped all ties with luxury. It’s only in the last decade that the romance has rekindled. And it has to do with math. With a population surpassing 1.22 billion, and 81 million households falling into the upper middle class and high-income bracket, India is a serious market for luxury players. In fact, statistics show that India is one of the fastest-growing and largest luxury markets, with sales expected to touch $15 billion by 2015—nearly double what they are today. In November last year, Gucci opened its fifth and largest India store, spanning 4,220 square feet across two floors in Gurgaon (outside Delhi0 at the Oberoi Gurgaon.
But Kalyani Chawla, vice president of marketing and communications at Christian Dior, insists India is taking baby steps. The Western notion of luxury hit Indian shores only ten years ago. It’s still a country of salwar kameezes and saris. But the Indian buyer has grown interested in fashion, investing small but precious sums in brands. “Dior has seen a steady and encouraging growth. As is the case globally with most brands, accessories are doing very well [and] clothing is picking up,” she says, noting that this is partly due to the fact that Western wear has finally slipped into a bride’s wedding trousseau. And for Indians, marriage is the occasion for which discerning buyers splurge. Dior launched in 2006, and has three stores across the country.
“The media plays a significant part in introducing brands to readers by regularly allotting space, even if on page 3, where Indian film stars are featured,” says Chawla. And the recent gush of international fashion magazines has brought luxury closer to home. Despite the inauguration of Indian editions of Elle, in 1996, and L’Officiel, in 2002, it was the glitzy 2007 launch of fashion bible Vogue India that really got the magazine industry buzzing. It was quickly followed by Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia. Considering eight out of twelve magazine covers feature A-list actors brandishing luxury labels, one must acknowledge that Bollywood is India’s big game changer. “The stars don’t want to wear saris on the red carpet. They want to wear a Dior gown,” claims Chawla.
The February issue of Vogue India presented a seductive picture of A-lister Kareena Kapoor Khan floating in a black tulle Dior gown with a Philip Treacy hat. Architectural Digest was also an important glossy magazine launch, in 2012.
Although China has been hailed as the force du jour by the luxury industry, India is catching up. “I am a complete optimist on the India growth story. The luxury industry is growing at 25 percent, and is the next destination for brands, after China, which is now showing signs of fatigue,” argues Sanjay Kapoor, the managing director of Genesis Luxury, which holds Indian franchising and distribution rights for Burberry, Paul Smith, Bottega Veneta, Canali, Jimmy Choo, and Etro.
For Indians, luxury brands are still a case of curiosity, not conspicuous consumption, says India’s leading trousseau designer, Sabyasachi Mukherjee. “Indians aren’t blinded by luxury. But thanks to its population, luxury brands will enjoy the width of sales across India, if not depth,” points out Mukherjee. With his bespoke wedding lehengas priced between $3,690 and $22,141, he knows a little something about the high-end fashion market
adapted from style.com (author: Shweta Shiware); additional content by CPP-LUXURY.COM editorial staff
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