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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014
Shopping: why our God lies in retail
Sujata Assomull Sippy, Hindustan Times
February 21, 2014
First Published: 20:56 IST(21/2/2014)
Last Updated: 20:27 IST(22/2/2014)
Sujata Assomull Sippy has been a fashion commentator for almost two decades. A columnist and brand consultant, she has worked at Elle and Verve and was the launch editor of Harper’s Bazaar India.

The first issue of Brunch in Delhi came out on February 1, 2004. Nine months later, with the launch of the Hindustan Times in Mumbai, Brunch was introduced to readers there as well. The Delhi Brunch completes 10 years this month.

And so we bring you a special two-part anniversary issue, on the theme 'Look How We've Changed!' We asked writers and specialists in their field, to do a series of essays for us, chronicling these changes.

In this essay, fashion commentator Sujata Assomull Sippy talks of the arrival of mall culture across India and gradual shift in position of the Indian consumer as we turned from hoarders to spenders.

The brand buzz
Be it Armani or Zara, nearly every major international fashion brand has opened shop in India. If not, they have India on their plans. Luxury brands are easily accessible in every major metro thanks to the malls.  All the major fashion magazines are now in India. We have the choice, we have the experts and we have the locations. And all this has happened in just 10 years. And the major outcome of this is that shopping is no longer something we do out of necessity, it has almost become a favoured pastime. Shopping is a way of life.

HT Blog: luxury business need to grow in India

On the brandwagon: Fashion is no more seen as an indulgence. (Photo: Getty Images)

A decade ago this was not the story - we were hoarders, we waited to take that trip abroad to stock up on our fashion necessities and perhaps indulge in a few style buys. If a cousin or friend was travelling, then we would be happy to give them a shopping list. For women, lingerie and make-up normally topped the list. You shopped in India out of necessity, for a wedding, for an occasion and when there was real need. Many of us bought fabrics and headed to the darzi. Otherwise, options were limited.

Ten years ago, the only international luxury brand available in India was Louis Vuitton, located at The Oberoi Hotel. An intimidating location for many potential customers. For Indian designerwear, the elite headed to designers' private studios. Recalls designer Suneet Varma, "You had to climb over pot holes and come to a designer's studio. If there was a wedding or you were buying for a season, it was normally a two-day process. We had fabrics books and swatches and we worked from those."

HT Blog: Luxury brands with long-term vision like Louis Vuitton will work in India

Cut to Suneet Varma's 2,200 square foot store at Emporio Mall today, right next to Tarun Tahiliani's flagship and just above Dior's and Gucci's stores.

The arrival of malls
It has been a process. Though there was Delhi's MG Road as well as Ansal Plaza ten years ago, they did not really make the shopping process more enjoyable. Sanjay Kapoor is the man behind Satya Paul and also Genesis Luxury, the company responsible for bringing a bouquet of luxury brands to India, including Bottega Veneta, Canali and Jimmy Choo.

The first malls to get it right according to him were Select City Walk which opened in 2007 and after that DLF Promenade. And for luxury, Delhi's five-year-old DLF Emporio is still considered to be the blueprint. There is no question that without these malls, international brands would have not even looked at India as an option. Luxury is all about location, location, location.

Read: Shopping and impulse don’t mix

The correct anchor stores, be it Zara at Mumbai's Palladium or Louis Vuitton at Emporio, the right non-shopping activities - the cinemas, restaurants, food courts, salons, and play areas for children - is what makes a mall. Says Dinaz Madhukar, senior vice president, DLF Emporio and DLF Promenade Malls, "We have consciously worked to make malls into destinations."

How we dress has changed too, as international brands have made us more western in our day dressing, but also kept us Indian when it comes to occasion wear

The mall has been the catalyst that changed how we look at fashion. Malls have made fashion part of a larger picture. A mall is where teenagers, after school, "hang out", families spend their weekends and ladies lunch. The mall culture means shopping is now no longer about an investment or the need to buy. It is something you do casually, perhaps on your way to a film.

Read: Outdoors is out, kids pick malls, cafes over parks

Indian fashion: changing tide
Fashion is no more seen as an indulgence, it is simply what you wear. Says Madhukar, "Dressing well is something people are comfortable with, you feel like a laggard if you don't do it."

How we dress has changed too, as international brands have made us more western in our day dressing, but also kept us Indian when it comes to occasion wear dressing. Says Kapoor, "International brands have hurt Indian designer brands. Indian wear has become more occasion wear and Indian designers have reinvented themselves. They have become more Indian, which is a good thing." Now an Armani can be compared to a Satya Paul.

Read: Global Indians, pioneers who rocked the fashion world

It can also be a positive for Indian fashion. Being in the same location where Armani is a neighbour means Indian designers are now seen in the right company. This has also forced Indian designers to be more conscious of commercials. Comparison can be a good thing. Says Varma, "I had a client who bought a Rs. 6 lakh wedding outfit from me, and saw a dress at Armani for the same price. She wanted to wear that dress to another occasion but found the price tag a bit too heavy. So she came back to me and I made her a dress at a much better price."

The mall is really what has changed fashion in the last ten years, it has put India on the international fashion map, it has made us fashion aware and most of all, it has made shopping part of everyday lifestyle. So the fashion industry has a lot to thank malls for.

Sujata Assomull Sippy has been a fashion commentator for almost two decades. A columnist and brand consultant, she has worked at Elle and Verve and was the launch editor of Harper's Bazaar India.

From HT Brunch, February 23

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