Luxury Attire and Accessory Stores Woo the Well-Heeled

The well-dressed—and well-heeled—Indian is being wooed in innovative ways by multi-brand luxury attire and accessory stores.
Npooli Visavanathan had lost eight kilos and all his clothes were loose on him. He needed a new wardrobe. He could afford the best: His property development business took him around the world, and had treated him well. But the 55-year-old from Tirunelveli (a district in south Tamil Nadu) had very particular requirements: In keeping with the traditions of his community, he wears only white.

At the Chennai outlet of The Collective, a super-premium fashion retail chain, they knew just what to do. “We offered him whites in Armani, Versace and Lagerfeld,” says Amit Pande, brand head of The Collective. “This was our ‘last mile’ translation, finding the right connect [between] brand and individual.”

The Collective, like other Indian retailers of high-end fashion, is learning, on the fly, to understand its customer.

High Street India
There was a time when India’s rich perforce had to do their luxury shopping abroad. But in the post-liberalisation years, the number of affluent people—and the amount of disposable wealth they have with which to indulge themselves—has mushroomed, making India an attractive market for the world’s luxury brands, and they have been coming in over the years, via the franchise route, through distributors, then joint ventures (JVs) and now majority-stake and wholly-owned companies.

It started with less upmarket brands like the French clothing firm, Lacoste, which entered India through a JV with local firm Stencil Apparel in 1992, followed by other giants like Reebok and Benetton a few years later.

By 2003, more exclusive brands like Gucci, Guess, and Hugo Boss, had all come in, either through franchises or distributors. When, nearly a decade later in 2012, India’s regulations changed to permit 100 percent foreign direct investment in single-brand retail, many foreign brands quickly set up majority-owned JVs.

Also along the way, Indian fashion designers began to find their feet and a clientele, and many opened their own stores.
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