Fashion moguls from India and Italy engaged in a Facebook live chat for HT Brunch recently (Shutterstock)
Fashion moguls from India and Italy engaged in a Facebook live chat for HT Brunch recently (Shutterstock)

Fashion: The great Indo-Italian merger

How fashion brings the two countries closer with a focus rich craftsmanship, culture and business growth
By Shruti Nair
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 02:05 PM IST

“Speak English, kiss French, drive German, and dress Italian,” is an age-old adage. And along the same lines Vincenzo De Luca, the Italian Ambassador to India, in his opening note at a panel discussion on Italy and India on the Future of Fashion says, “The success of ‘Made in Italy’ comes from Italian culture and creativity but also from the high-quality craftsmanship.”

Integral to the Indian fashion similarly is Indian craftsmanship, that boasts intricate detailing and influence of cultural art. So, when the fashion moguls from both countries engaged in a Facebook live chat for HT Brunch, it turned out to be a very engaging one. The platform put together by the Embassy of Italy and National Chamber for Italian Fashion, was also partnered by PwC Italia and Italian Trade Agency, Assocalzaturifici of Confindustria.

In his opening note at a panel discussion on Italy and India on the Future of Fashion, Vincenzo De Luca, the Italian Ambassador to India, said that the success of ‘Made in Italy’ comes from Italian culture, creativity but high-quality craftsmanship
In his opening note at a panel discussion on Italy and India on the Future of Fashion, Vincenzo De Luca, the Italian Ambassador to India, said that the success of ‘Made in Italy’ comes from Italian culture, creativity but high-quality craftsmanship

The Italian hand

With the exponential growth of the Asian market, specifically in India, Italian brands are amping up their presence across the country. The growing demand for luxury fashion has only furthered this, which is what Darshan Mehta, the CEO and President of Reliance Brands Limited notes: “Supply creates demand” while speaking on the virtual panel with his partner, Renzo Rosso. Rosso is an Italian entrepreneur and the President of the OTB group, the parent company of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Amiri.

Diesel had launched in India in 2008 as a joint venture by partnering with Reliance and since then, has seen massive growth in terms of stores across the country. The current number stands at 16.

“The numbers of luxury in India are increasing and I’m very happy to note this number. I love the attitude of this country, which is very unique. I set the momentum when the Italian brands were just thinking of expanding into India. People were so in love with my jeans and they’d go to New York or London so finally, when we launched first store in Mumbai, it was incredible,” recalls Renzo Rosso about the time when he initially launched Diesel, over a decade ago.

Renzo Rosso is an Italian entrepreneur and the President of the OTB group, the parent company of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Amiri
Renzo Rosso is an Italian entrepreneur and the President of the OTB group, the parent company of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Amiri

Then and now

When asked about how Diesel and RBL had fared during the pandemic, due to the focus on athleisure, Mehta says, “First of all, Italian brands have reached places in Indian markets, where lot of other brands haven’t been able to. We have trickled down to the last of our customers without compromising on the brand value, quality, pricing, etc. So, it has been a wonderful journey. As far as loungewear which took over in the pandemic year is concerned, denim has been a comfort wear, which is evident from our sales that shot up by 50 per cent last year compared to an actual 35 per cent, the year before.”

He also added that India is currently witnessing a second wave of luxury, wherein customers are creating the demand instead of waiting for it to happen.

The other aspects of the discussion focused on the footwear industry, which is another big aspect of Italian fashion. “If it comes to fashion, India and Italy are forward players, but when it comes to footwear, we are two countries that are irrelevant to each other. India is a small market but that being said, it will change in times to come because we know how much India loves fashion, beauty and quality. It will be great to understand how we can do better business. There’s a nice mix with the old heritage and for newer brands to convey modernism,” pointed out Salina Ferretti, CEO, Falc S.P.A., an Italian footwear brand.

Darshan opines that Italian brands have reached places in Indian markets, where lot of other brands haven’t been able to
Darshan opines that Italian brands have reached places in Indian markets, where lot of other brands haven’t been able to

Meanwhile, Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of another Italian footwear brand, Sergio Rossi, stressed on how it’s more difficult to understand the market for footwear and jewellery as compared to clothing. “To even build on story-telling is difficult. Sergio has used Indian embroidery so there is cross-influence but it needs to grow as it is still tricky,” he adds.

So far as the challenges in penetrating into the Indian markets go, the CEO of premium Italian menswear brand, Canali menswear, Stefano Canali says, in the initial stages it was a struggle to find the right target points so the focus was luxury hotels and slowly, this swept over to luxury malls and newer malls.

However, faced with logistics issues and setting up a publishing platform, he stresses on how both the countries have to work in tandem going forward. “Ethnic wear is also very important to India and that’s where Italian brands lose out on margin. However, with the newer generation focusing on Western fashion, it is seeing a change,” he adds.

Fashion on your fingertips

Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of another Italian footwear brand, Sergio Rossi, says it’s more difficult to understand the market for footwear and jewellery as compared to clothing
Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of another Italian footwear brand, Sergio Rossi, says it’s more difficult to understand the market for footwear and jewellery as compared to clothing

Even as the world is becoming smaller, thanks to technology, the prowess of fashion has also grown. Digitisation has helped to make this further possible and one of the leading fashion e-tailers, Myntra has seen phenomenal growth, especially over the year of the pandemic.

With offline shopping only being a distant reality, Myntra’s CEO, Amar Nagaram says, “Myntra has always been about making fashion accessible and democratisation of fashion. But as the younger generation has more disposable income at their hands, they are willing to spend on luxury and so the obvious next step, is to look at an extension to the app.”

He also adds that fashion e-commerce has helped in omnichannel retail and personalised customer experience, which has changed the game for luxury shopping. With voices of the industry echoing of growth in unison, it seems the future of fashion for Italy and India is in safe hands!

Follow @MissNair of Twitter and Instagram

From HT Brunch, February 28, 2021

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