Bespoke brigade rises
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Bespoke brigade rises

Customisation is hot as India's high-end consumers seek products and services that give them the luxury of a unique identity, special experiences and self-expression. Rachit Vats & Himani Chandna Gurtoo write.

business Updated: Feb 26, 2012 21:40 IST

Take a look at a rich menu: special evenings over rare cigars and wines, fine dining outings, golf guide services, art rentals, personalised wildlife safaris and yacht sailing.

There's more: suits cut and stitched especially for you in Italy and delivered in India; clothes with your initials or designs selected by you; bags created with designs of your choice, with your initials …

Bespoke, or "custom-made" products and services are now courting a richer India that is not shy of big-time spending.

According to retail consulting firm Technopak Advisors, higher visibility and acceptability of luxury brands have led to consumers – old and new elite alike – to seek new experiences. Bespoke services account for 15% of the Rs 1,300 crore luxury apparel and accessories market in India, for example.

"Consumers today are ready to splurge on experiences that are different," said Nikhil Agarwal, sommelier and director, All Things Nice, which provides wine tasting and personalised eating services.

Pratap Bose, the Mumbai-based chief operating officer of an advertising agency, forks out a mini fortune every year to go on African safaris. He pays nearly Rs 60,000 per night for a trip personalised to suit his taste, spread over several days. "Consumers are looking for better experiences, done the way they want it, for private or corporate consumption," he said.

"I spent around 15 days at the Leela, Goa. I asked for the best bespoke wine service and tasted Château Petrus, popular among eastern European travellers. I spent Rs 1,45,000 for the exotic wine combination – it made my holiday," said Harkirat Singh, 36, brand manager at a multinational company.

"Pay a little premium and make the product completely yours," said Rohan Jaitley, 23, a law intern and loyal customer of Paul & Shark that personalises its t-shirts with customer initials, and colour and design choices.

Sachin Vaish, a bespoke tailoring expert, recently arranged an evening over cigar and wine, and a five-course meal for his friend, a cigar enthusiast, on his birthday. Those invited took away customised cigars packed in leather humidors.

A group of entrepreneurs regularly gets together at a Delhi bar to puff on hand-rolled Cuban and Dominican Republic cigars over wine tasting sessions. The informal cigar club is an initiative of Shariq Curriombhoy, who runs the herbal cosmetics company founded by his grandmother, Shahnaz Husain.

"Personalised evenings and get-togethers, for which consumers are willing to pay a premium of anything over 25%, are catching on," said Kajal Malhtora, who owns Delhi-based Cigar Republic and runs luxury brand management company Kreative Marketing. She offers fine dining services, which she plans to take to sea and on air now.

"Today, a consumer leading an average lifestyle doesn't hesitate to rent out a yacht for a leisure evening," said Aashim Mongia, managing director, West Coast Marine. A yacht rents at Rs 20,000-40,000 for an evening.

Demand for bespoke products too is rising – signature perfumes, personalised watch dials, name initials on handbags and t-shirts, cut-to-fit suits – which are helping luxury brands such as Brioni, Louis Vuitton, Paul & Shark, TOD's and Canali in India. Consumers are spending 30-50% more on such products.

Canali's ‘Made to Measure' service offers suits stitched in Italy. "Twice a year, the Canali master fitter comes from Italy to take client appointments across our boutiques in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad," said Sanjay Kapoor, managing director, Genesis Luxury, franchisee for Canali and other major luxury labels. "We have many first-time discerning customers who are ready to pay a 25-30% premium."

Louis Vuitton personalises initials, patterns and colours. "A client's order is a relationship in the making, the personalisation of which is an integral part," said Patrick Louis Vuitton, head of special orders.

"Rich, especially the newly rich, use expensive customised or special edition products as powerful symbols of differentiation and self expression," said Darshan Mehta, president, Reliance Brands, which partners with several major international apparel brands.

Clearly, the smell of a once-socialist India that frowned on consumerism could be smothered by the whiff of a gourmet cigar in the air.

First Published: Feb 26, 2012 21:00 IST