Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…Style shops

This week, let me take you around the Indian fashion market. What is the scene like and what does the future hold? For several years, the buzz has been about an expanding market for style goods and consumer items, the demand fuelled
by an exploding middleclass whose spending power is ready to hit the sky. That this segment mainly consists of those employed in India’s IT industry and BPOs is a fact, and that in real terms the percentage of this workforce cannot be more than a single digit figure. Yet, given the country’s one billion-plus population, even this translates into huge numbers.

It is predicted that India will become the world’s fifth largest consumer market in about two decades from now. The nation, which currently holds the 12th position, will overtake Germany. By 2025, India’s middleclass would have grown almost 12 times from 50 million today to 583 million, with 23 million being among the country’s richest.

So, can we blame all those style shops inching their way towards the Indian market?

America’s number one brand, Calvin Klein, is here in India. Once the company changed the way the world looked at men’s inner wear, and with its minimalist feel, Calvin Klein is all set to redefine the Indian fashion scene.

Often termed provocatively sexy, Calvin Klein dressed celebrity women. What is more, it transformed jaded Janes into pretty Pollys. Kate Moss is an example. When she started her relationship with Calvin Klein in the early 1990s, she was young and innocent, but not glamorous. The company changed her. Today, she is not just fabulous, but also really beautiful.

Calvin Klein plans to open 40 stores across India, and it firmly believes that classic becomes fashion, and fashion becomes classic. Let us wait and watch how this process evolves.


Britain’s luxury men’s brand, Dunhill, is also here in collaboration with S. Kumars. Dunhill plans to set up eight shops in the next five years, and Hindi film-maker Karan Johar is the brand ambassador for it. So, will it be Koffee with Dunhill?


The great French fashion label, Christian Dior, is also eyeing India, and plans to invest directly in retail space. Makers of some of the most delightful perfumes in the world – remember Miss Dior – Christian Dior is a name to reckon with, smell and feel. Why, but of course.


Finally, Ralph Lauren is talking with the Tatas to bring in premier brands like Polo.


All this is fine. But here is my forecast. The great international fashion houses will have to bear in mind that the Indian, however rich he may be, tends to be conscious of the price. Some of Gandhiji’s simplicity still remains etched in him, and if he can do with a Park Avenue shirt at half the price of a Dior, he would go for the desi stuff.

In the city where I live, I have seen this happen. There is a swanky Lacoste (that great French brand renowned for its T-Shirts) showroom bang opposite an equally upmarket mall. Here, a fascinating variety of T-shirts can be had for prices that are a fourth of the Lacoste wear. When I asked the manager at the Lacoste showroom how he coped with such competition, he said that they had a dedicated clientele which believed in quality, style and durability. Honestly I could not find any appreciable difference between what Lacoste promoted and what the mall sold. And, who wants a T-shirt to last a lifetime? I drive by this showroom at least twice a day, and I always find it bereft of customers. The only thing that strikes me about the shop is its wonderful window display, changed ever so often. Yet, people are not coming!

(Webposted June 19 2007)