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'Middle class taking to luxury brands'

The two-day Mint Luxury Conference, now in its fifth year, saw the most well-heeled of society and the Indian industry huddling up to share notes and brainstorm on luxury in the environs of Taj Land’s End, Mumbai.

business Updated: Mar 24, 2012 00:22 IST
HT Correspondent

The two-day Mint Luxury Conference, now in its fifth year, saw the most well-heeled of society and the Indian industry huddling up to share notes and brainstorm on luxury in the environs of Taj Land’s End, Mumbai.

“Luxury is not just a style statement or a way of presenting yourself. Luxury is aestheticism and craftsmanship. Money does not guarantee taste — you either have it or you don't,” minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning Ashwani Kumar said, pointing out how the middle class was slowly turning into a big market for luxury brands.

The saree was the attention-grabber of the day as two leading fashion designers — Diane von Furstenberg and Angela Missoni — expressing their fascination for the Indian apparel.

As the day progressed, the speakers delved into more serious issues such as the future of luxury in India and the impact of 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) on luxury, and the challenges for luxury brands in India.

“The problem with India is tax duties, which are three times more than that of the European Union and two times than China,” said Armando Branchini, executive director, Fondanzione Altagamma, the Italian association of luxury goods. “The condition of 30% local sourcing for 100% FDI can also be challenging,” he added.

The post-lunch session witnessed some lighter moments, especially when a gentleman dressed in ethnic Indian clothes pointedly asked Stephen Alden of the Maybourne Hotel Group if his hotels treated guests on the basis of the way they dressed, or their net worth.

Caught off-guard, Alden quickly recovered his composure to compliment the man on his sartorial taste and assure him that clothes were immaterial as long as the guests knew how to mind their manners.

Adding that dash of glamour was Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor, who revealed how she became interested in fashion. “Naked models,” she chuckled.

Earlier in the day, the inauguartion got underway with a rescheduling of the first two sessions. The inaugural session had to be pushed back after the keynote session by Kumar got delayed.