That the iconic American fashion designer Tom Ford will launch his signature label in India next month does not come as a surprise given that almost all international luxury brands that have captivated global markets are now here.
What is surprising, however, is the way Ford is viewing the India market and the buying habits of its consumers. The man who turned around Gucci and later parted ways with the group to launch his own label five years ago, finds the Indian consumer to be very discerning, someone who is looking for quality, authenticity and the highest level of service.
“With fashion becoming increasingly globalized and people wearing the same thing in New York and in New Delhi, the consumer is looking, more than ever, for personalized luxury,” he says of the Indian consumer.
At a time when no two numbers put out by luxury specialists and research agencies on the size of the Indian luxury market and its growth rate match, a conversation on bespoke sounds fanciful. But managers of international luxury brands in India say that bespoke, or personalized luxury, may be “in” sooner than imagined.
It’s true that for Indians customized goods such as tailored apparel and made-to-order jewellery has been a way of life. But it may be an oversimplification in the context of branded luxury goods.
Gaurav Bhatia, luxe expert and marketing director at Moët Hennessy India (part of French luxury group LVMH), says bespoke is a natural evolution from the days Indians indulged in custom-made jewellery and haute couture. “When it comes to bespoke, a sophisticated consumer understands that there is no such thing as too much luxury,” he says.
For instance, when a valued customer of Dom Pérignon, the vintage champagne produced by Moët and Chandon (again a part of the LVMH group), requested the brand to help in celebrating an event, the company created a bespoke menu to pair food with Dom Pérignon for the occasion. A chef was specially flown from Champagne (in France) for the purpose. For another customer, Dom Pérignon delved into its cellar to pull out two bottles of the bubbly of 1969 vintage, the birth year of the client, and shipped it to India.
Consumers with such demands may be few and far between, but they exist and are looking for bespoke in everything, from apparel and watches to furniture. So Jay Makhijani, business development head at Dia Precious Jewellery, was not surprised when he received a request for a Ganesha dial in a Piaget watch. His company represents Swiss luxury products such as Chopard and Vacheron Constantin, besides Piaget in India.
Graphic: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint
For the time being, the bespoke services in men’s apparel are limited to requests for fits. But that may be changing. Instead of buying Versace suits off-the-shelf, Indian customers are now asking for a particular style in, say, a different fabric. Abhay Gupta, managing director of Blues Clothing Company that represents Versace, Corneliani and Cadini in India, admits entertaining such demands. However, customization is rampant in the furniture segment. A Versace piece in leather at his newly opened luxury furniture store was recently ordered for a client in non-leather material.
Even with the best brands available off-the-shelf, the fetish for bespoke is not hard to fathom. Bespoke has largely to do with the self—it’s an instant ego booster. In Bhatia’s words, bespoke is the ultimate pat on the back, a totem of power, affluence and taste.
In fact, the brands are more than happy to indulge and acknowledge your personal preferences even if you are paying for it. So you don’t mind paying a premium for a customized Louis Vuitton bag with your initials, hand-painted or hot stamped against the traditional monogram.
Even the Lebanese chocolate brand Patchi offers personalized product in terms of flavours, shapes and packaging. (It even creates chocolates in the shapes of companies’ logos.) Patchi in customized packaging—in glassware labels such as Ferro Murano, Tiche, Mario Cioni, Rogaska, Rosenthal and Lalique—could cost between Rs 5,000 and Rs 100,000, or more.
But the diehard luxe experts insist that beyond a point, luxury becomes art and it is impossible to put a value to it. So the price of a Dom Pérignon bottle with your name inscribed on it or a Louis Vuitton bag with your initials is immaterial. It is more a transaction between the buyer and the seller.
Moët Hennessy’s Bhatia recalls getting a cologne created for himself by the House of Creed at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. “The cologne was based on the fragrance notes that appealed to me, including Tabarome (tobacco leaves) and Jasmal (jasmine),” he says. On why a bespoke cologne was important to him, he adds: “It was personal, unique and the ultimate whimsical fantasy.” His tribe of consumer seems to be growing.
Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org