With growth in Asia being the focus, many Italian brands are looking to have a foothold in India, especially the luxury market (Shutterstock)
With growth in Asia being the focus, many Italian brands are looking to have a foothold in India, especially the luxury market (Shutterstock)

Fashion: Where luxury lies

Symbolic for fashion, Italian companies are setting their foothold as Indians amp up the demand for luxury brands
By Sujata Assomull
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 04:08 PM IST

When it comes to luxury, “Made in Italy” is often the benchmark, as it is a country that believes in traditions, heritage and craftsmanship -all that is an integral part of the Indian design language. With growth in Asia being the focus, many Italian brands are looking to have a foothold in India. And though there is common ground between the two countries, Italian fashion companies find the protocol, systems and legal framework of India confusing. Conversation is the best way to demystify the process. “Italy and India in the Future of Fashion” is a platform put forward by the Embassy of Italy and National Chamber for Italian Fashion, where Indian retail experts were able to engage in dialogue with leading Italian fashion brands. Also partnering up for the event, was the Italian Trade Agency, Assocalzaturifici of Confindustria and PwC Italia, whose research and data revealed that India was indeed a key market. According to the latter’s research, the Indian apparel market will reach a total value of $93 billion by 2025, making it one of the most important markets in the world.

Entering the market

Kicking off the conversation were two fashion powerhouses, starting with Renzo Rosso, the maverick Italian entrepreneur behind OTB, whose labels include Diesel and who happens to be one of the first Italian brands to enter the Indian market. Called the ‘Jeans Genius’, he has, since acquired several other labels including Marni, Victor & Rolf and Maison Margiela. Accompanying him on this virtual panel was his partner in India, Darshan Mehta, President and CEO of Reliance Brands Limited. RBL has a portfolio of over 50 brands in India and the first Joint Venture it signed was with Diesel in 2008. Mr. Mehta has been behind some of the most important brand launches in India since the early 2000s. Rosso was clear that as his brand is more about lifestyle, it was one that was already known to India. While this is important in itself, it does not negate the importance of having the right partner. They have 16 selling points in India, which includes cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Surat.

Called the ‘Jeans Genius’, Italian designer Renzo Russo was on the virtual panel was his partner in India, Darshan Mehta, President and CEO of Reliance Brands Limited
Called the ‘Jeans Genius’, Italian designer Renzo Russo was on the virtual panel was his partner in India, Darshan Mehta, President and CEO of Reliance Brands Limited

Mehta noted that denim (and Diesel, more importantly being a premium denim brand) had fared well in India during the pandemic and was a category that worked for the climate here. Diesel, a brand known for its out-of-the-box collaborations, has worked with IPL cricket team, Mumbai Indians, a few years ago to create capsule collections. “Thinking Local”, when it comes to marketing is key to India. RBL also announced that it is looking to launch one more brand from Renzo’s OTB, Marni. A high-fashion label known to experiment with shapes, it may be considered a little avant garde for a country new to international luxury. “Supply creates demands,” says Mehta, and he believes there is a second wave of luxury about to happen in India.

Feet first

Of course when it comes to shoes, there is no country known more than Italy. Despite that there are not many specialized Italian shoe brands that have entered the market, making it a hot point for discussion. The panel included Riccardo Sciutto, the Group CEO of Sergio Rossi- a company started by the legendary shoemaker Sergio Rossi, Salina Ferreti, CEO of Falc S.P.A, an Italian shoe manufacturer that owns brand brands such as Naturino, Falcutto, and Voile Blanche. She is also Vice President of the Italian Footwear Association. Ferreti noted that there was much work that needed to be done between the two countries--- India is also the second largest producer of shoes, although it hardly exports any of its products to Italy. With the wedding industry being such a focus, it is surprising that not many luxury Italian shoe brands have tapped the market. Both, Scuitto and Ferreti have visited India, and it is very much on their mind and conversations such as these help in gaining awareness.

Canali ‘s group’s president and CEO Stefano Canali recalled how when they first launched there was no real location for luxury stores
Canali ‘s group’s president and CEO Stefano Canali recalled how when they first launched there was no real location for luxury stores

The future of Indian retail

Canali has had its presence in India since 2009, with currently six stores in the country. The group’s president and CEO Stefano Canali recalled how when they first launched there was no real location for luxury stores. Therefore, luxury hotels, by default, became the first port of call. He added that India has been a market that turned profit since its first year and remains one of Canali’s top markets. This brand made a local connect with their Nawab jacket, Canali’s take on the well-known Indian bandhgala jacket. As part of the RBL portfolio, Canali will soon be available on AJIO Luxe, something that the Italian brand head believes will see his brand grow further.

Top of everyone’s mind was of course the digital conversation, with Myntra’s CEO Amar Nagaram, India’s largest fashion e-tailer, seeing its festive sales grow by 100 per cent last year. While it is at the more mass and premium-end of the fashion chain, it is all about making fashion accessible to all and Italian luxury brands are on his mind. He believes ‘Middle India’ is now ready for luxury—and this where players like Myntra can play an important role. “The biggest challenge is access to Italian luxury brands,” said Nagaram. He also revealed that Myntra too was looking at exploring a luxury platform as the next step— making it evident that Indian retailers are set to welcome Italian luxury players.

Sujata Assomull is a Dubai-based fashion journalist and author

From HT Brunch, February 28, 2021

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