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'Develop the market, we’ll be in'

Iconic luxury brands Gucci, Missoni and others think alike about India. It’s a huge market that needs to be stitched together, step-by-step. G Choudhury and S Bose speak to the experts.

business Updated: Mar 30, 2008 01:45 IST

Iconic luxury brands Gucci, Missoni and others think alike about India. It’s a huge market that needs to be stitched together — step-by-step. <b1>

“You have immense potential, Indian customers have very sophisticated taste and you need to build the market step by step, and develop India as a key market for the world,” Gucci CEO Mark Lee said at the third annual edition of the Mint Hindustan Times Luxury Conference.

As the conference came to a close on Saturday, questions cropped up: when will the “next big opportunity” in India translate into full-scale reality?

Gucci, the $2-bn Italian fashion giant, wants to harness India as its new playing field. It already has two stores here — in Delhi and Mumbai — and plans to open two more by the end of this year. The global brand, already present in 61 countries, is growing at a breakneck speed in China. Brands such as Sportswear Company and Missoni are yet to come in here.

“There’s a palpable desire among Indians to purchase luxury items, leading one to assume that the market is ready — but the infrastructure isn’t good enough,” Lee said. According to him, India needs to develop its retail sector as it is the only way for the market to grow.

Gucci plans to look beyond the metros and venture into other Indian cities, which Lee feels would be the future markets.
For Carlo Rivetti, chairman of Sportswear Company, “India is an unknown jewel and a big and enormous market”. However, he feels India should “find the Indian way of luxury”, and then call people from outside to fill in the space. “Don’t call me to find the Indian way of luxury. Find your own way to real luxury. It is much better to compete at home, and then open your markets to us.”

Rivetti said thousands of people in Europe are taking to Ayurveda in a big way and asked people to take a lesson about how to make brands global.

“Brands are not only fashion. Look at the way people are taking to Ayurveda. Ayurveda seems to be the right way to take India to the world,” he said.

Speaking about the commonality India has with Italy, Rivetti said: “India, like Italy, has great culture, great food and a great sense of fashion.”

Vittori Missoni, chairman of Missoni, who wants to develop “Missoni saris” one day, is enamoured by the colours of India. “It is a country like Italy, All about colours, I would want to develop Missoni saris one day. They are so elegant and so beautiful.”

Missoni is not very impressed with the new generation of ‘wannabe’ designers. “They don’t want to cut and stitch but they want to be designers. Look at Tommy Hilfiger or Gucci, they first learned how to cut and stitch and took to designing.”

Team HT:

The two-day Mint-Hindustan Times Luxury Conference was also covered by reporters Itee Dewan and Kirti Mehta. The pictures published were by photojournalists Ajay Aggarwal, Sanjeev Verma, Sunil Saxena, Raj K. Raj, Arvind Yadav and Virendra Singh Gosain. Vinod Nair coordinated the coverage.