NEW DELHI — Market studies have been predicting the real turning point for luxury markets in India for some years now, with 2014 and 2015 often mentioned as the defining moments of change.
In this context, the Mint Luxury Conference focusing on the next decade of luxury in India was more than the hand wringing over lack of proper infrastructure and high real estate costs.
The conference, held March 22 and 23 at the Taj Palace Hotel here, provided a real hard look at the market, bringing in the political perspective from commerce minister Anand Sharma, giving it an edge with the experiences of luxury brands from Europe, then adding views from Indian companies that work with luxury as well as real estate experts and an analysis of the market by Bain & Co.
It was clear from the discussions that the new Indian maharaja is now the luxury customer, and his goal is often the possession of global luxury brands, including watches, accessories, jewelry and certainly cars.
The conference started with a note of caution from Sharma. The minister made it clear that the government was inviting change and that foreign investors could only benefit from the large and aspirational market in India. He said that luxury had seen fast growth in certain segments, for example with diamonds and jewelry. “It is also important to understand that if India is coming up as a market, it is also a rich source base,” Sharma observed.
Looking ahead, he said a key turning point would be the free-trade agreement with the European Union, which has been under negotiation since 2007 and is expected to make some conclusive headway in the talks scheduled for April 14 and 15.
“It will be a most ambitious trade agreement for India, covering 96 percent of India’s tariff lines,” he said.
Joydeep Bhattacharya, head of consumer products and retail practice for India at Bain & Co, described the traditional luxury market in India as worth $6 billion. Cars are one of the fastest-growing categories, with a growth rate of more than 40 percent. The personal luxury goods segment, which has had year-on-year growth of between 15 and 20 percent, is worth $1.5 billion, he said. This includes jewelry, watches, apparel, accessories, fragrance and cosmetics. He said that brands are responding with increasing awareness to India, with new brands entering the market and more innovative marketing and exclusive events. He said the appeal for visible luxury has been growing, and retail for luxury has been growing beyond the five-star hotels into hybrid malls, with about 60 luxury outlets in India.
The key has also been the growth of high net worth individuals in India, which have had a 200 percent increase, from 46,000 in 2006 to 132,000 in 2013. These are individuals with more than $1 million in onshore liquid assets. Meanwhile, households with an annual disposable income of more than $100,000 have gone up by 60 percent in the last seven years, from 700,000 in 2006 to 1.1 million in 2013.
India’s luxury market is much smaller than that of other countries, however, and compares with $75 billion in the U.S., $25 billion in Japan, $20 billion in China, $10 billion in Hong Kong and $4 billion in Brazil.
Missoni, which has recently signed up to launch in India with the Infinite Luxury Group, is expected to open its first store in New Delhi this summer. Alberto Piantoni, the company’s chief executive officer, told WWD that the growth for the brand was imminent in India, as was perhaps cooperation with a young designer who could interpret things in a Missoni way. “We have to cooperate and look at new challenges. The real challenge for India is how we can cooperate with the traditional sari even though we have our iconic items, which sell all over the world,” he said.
Armando Branchini, executive director of the Altagamma Foundation, has been closely watching the luxury space in India and noted that Indians shopped for luxury goods while traveling. “People buy European products and smuggle them back in, and the government is losing customs, and it is losing value-added tax and it is losing foreign investment and preventing job creation,” he said while observing that the free-trade agreement the minister had mentioned could make a key difference for European brands to work with India.
The critical factor for luxury in India has been whether the market is ready and the timing is right for the brands. “So, are we at the inflexion point?” Sanjay Kapoor, managing director of Genesis Luxury, said. “We’re close to it. A lot of people look at India and see the inflexion point coming closer. The reality is that the numbers are quite exciting. The same store growth has been 20 to 30 percent annually even though the economy has been slowing down. A lot of Western markets are slowing down and are looking at India now.”
Genesis Luxury has brands such as Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Canali in the country. Kapoor observed that luxury was a market that was in the throes of growth, and would continue to expand, despite the challenges.
Mark Henderson, chairman of Gieves & Hawkes, was more cautious. He said the men’s wear brand had 120 shops in China and none in India so far. “We would like to be in India, but how would we approach it? India is different from China. For India we have to know how we would manage the bespoke tailoring, the sourcing of products, the distribution. I think the penny is dropping. Culturally, does India want to follow the Savile Row style? It’s going to come down partially to how we engage,” said Henderson.
Other speakers at the conference included Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo, vice president, Salvatore Ferragamo; Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani; Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser, and Renaud Dutreil, chairman, Tigre Blanc.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye