SPECIAL FEATURE: It’s not all smooth sailing (or power-boating) for India’s luxury market

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There are high hopes for India’s luxury market and there is still a lot of ground to cover if markets will reach expected targets. India’s highly connected consumer is not your traditional ‘luxury customer’. Luxury brands with boots on the ground should look at India’s luxury market as quickly evolving (read: bored?) and need to be as organic as the market itself.

Luxury car brands and fashion labels are focusing on India only trims and editions in a bid to evolve and adapt to the changing marketplace.

When it comes to India and luxury, Abhay Gupta is the man to turn to for the most informed perspective and he offers some crucial marketing advice and innovative concepts for luxury brands so they don’t miss the boat (either sail or power):

Collaborate, not compete: The success mantra for luxury brands

Whilst the Indian luxury domain continues to grow at a whopping pace of approximately 25% PA CAGR, a sure shot success formula is yet to be ascertained. Last projected at 18.7 b USD, the industry is stated capable to touch 180 b by 2025 by none other than Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO Niti aayog.

Brands across sectors have however been trying to find and define a success formula that can ensure commercial success without compromising on the carefully crafted brand position, ethos and value propositions. Can collaborations be a direction to adopt?? A quick check shows that this does seem to be a direction adapted from the west but seems to work for the east as well!

Collaborations and History : Historically, collaborations have been a methodology quite frequently used by luxury brands. A few of the globally successful associations that have worked extremely well in the west are :

Licensed to thrill with a license to kill:  From the DB5 in the 1964 Goldfinger to the DB10 in the 2015 Spectre, Aston Martin, the luxury sports car has been 007’s choice of vehicle in 50% of the James Bond movies. In fact, one of the most successful collaborator in the luxury world, James Bond a fictional character, has been instrumental in helping write success history for brands like Aston martin, Omega and Belvedere Martini with famous lines like shaken not stirred.

Mercedes-Benz and Lufthansa Technik: The ultimate VIP flying experience: In 2015, Mercedes Benz, the undisputed leader in comfortable luxury road travel equipment partnered with Lufthansa Technik also in the comfortable private jet air travel space to form a perfect hand and glove collaboration for their clients. Sharing a common value proposition, the brands as well as the clients immensely benefited.

BMW & Louis Vuitton-the Art of Travel: In 2014, while introducing the most progressive & revolutionary sports car, the advanced plug in BMW i8 Hybrid, a special luggage collection was developed by Louis Vuitton to precisely fit into the available boot space. Both the brands share a profound appreciation of tradition and continued commitment to further enhancement & development. The collaboration was acknowledged as a ‘pure expression of the art of travel’.

Alexander McQueen & Globe Trotter: Likewise, Alexander McQueen and Globe Trotter luggage, two iconic powerful British luxury brands collaborated to make a special limited edition collection that strengthens and accentuates both brands appeals to their classic luxury audiences.

Louis Vuitton and art: Luxury fashion brands have been collaborating with art, artistes & artisans for several decades. A Louis Vuitton collaborating with cult names like the ones below has seen phenomenal success in furthering the brands popularity, revenue as well as prestige. The stream continues even to the current days and seasons as a legacy of what was initiated long back by iconic names like Marc Jacobs:

  1. The Strephen Grouse collection by Marc jacobs : A first of its kind, the neon graffiti monogram bags 2004, brought in a very vibrant injection of an inherently New York and very rebellious attitude. This saw a marked an exciting direction for both the brand and fashion at large. With no surprise for anyone, the collection sold out immediately.
  2. The Takashi Murakami collaboration : In SS2003, LV introduced by now the very famous collection designed by Takashi Murakami which brought in multicore monogram accessories on a white back ground in the for front. Famous names like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan further immortalised the collections via the cult movie Mean Girls.
  3. The Richard Prince inspiration collaboration: The Spiritual America exhibition by art world anti hero, Richard Prince in 2007 was a source of inspiration for Marc Jacobs. Collaboration was unveiled on SS 2008 runway show. 12 models including Naomi Campbell were dressed as nurses carrying the brand accessory bags and caps showcasing each letter of the word Louis Vuitton.
  4. The Yayoi Kausama collaboration: In 2012, the legendary Japanese artiste famous for her fascination with polka dots created the most visually captivating collection and stories with bold polka. Stores across the world carried the signature dotty look at the commencement of the collection. The Selfridges at London also carried a window complete with an eerie realistic wax replica of the designer wearing a red wig.
  5. Cindy Sherman & the Iconoclasts 2014: At the 160th anniversary of the brand, a collaborative collection called ‘The Iconoclasts’ created by six art and design legend. Famous names like Karl Lagerfeld, Rei Kawakubo, Frank Gehry, Cindy Sherman, Christian Loubitton & Marc Newson came together for their interpretation of the mono gram LV into their design and product sensibilities.
  6. The Chapman brothers: Dake & Jino Chapman brothers have been tapped twice by Louis Vuitton for creating collections. The first one being in AW2013, the latest collaboration, that of subvert safari animals in SS2017 has been hugely successful and instagramed by all attending the launch show.

Many such similar examples of collaborations in the luxury real estate, hospitality, travel, fine dining, art & fashion, beauty etc can be found. Collaboration by luxury brands in trying to reach out to a larger audience was executed by HnM partnering with names like a Versace, Kenzo, Erdem etc are fairly well known.  Absolute Vodka, Chivas regal, Johnny Walker etc have been collaborating with designers for limited edition bottles, cases by Dunhill with JW blue label etc have been further category examples of successful collaboration.

One could then quite well decipher that collaboration in luxury brands are for sure, not a new methodology.  In order to be truly and surely successful, luxury brands have to be leveraging relevancy, ambitions and exclusivity, always keeping the customer at the fore front. The luxury customer is today seeking out experiences which are far more than just an outstanding product innovation. By collaborating with companies who target a similar profile and add further value to the brand product / image potential, could perhaps be the best to partner with. Brands can further maximise their impact and create unique experiences, if the collaboration is well conceptualised & executed well right till the end, results in a better all round success rather than in just parts of the process.

In India, some of recent collaborations which have been creating some waves are:

Luxury Real Estate: Globally, branded residences entirely designed by a lifestyle designer have been taking shape for quite some time now. In India, the trend was initiated by a few names like,

Lodha & Armani: In early 2012, Lodha builders announced a partnership with Armani casa for the design of common spaces and residences in their iconic project, ‘World One’, stated as the world’s tallest residential tower at 117 stories. The World Towers interiors are a combination of the culture and ethos of India, while also reflecting the various facets of Giorgio Armani’s aesthetic sensibility. His hallmark sense of comfort and functionality are well defined by way of soft lights, tonal gray colours, and unique spaces as a true representation of his unique signature style, leading to an atmosphere of the balanced combination of form, texture and aesthetic.

Homestead – Michael Schumacher: Homestead, a London based speciality player in branded residences launched the unique concept of formula living as a tribute to the legendary Michael , Schumacher. Christened as ‘Michael Schumacher World towers’, the project boasted of 28 high rise floors with a limited number of just 100 homes, a helipad all encompassed in a unique aerodynamic building design.

Ballet by Maria Sharapova:  Ballet by Sharpova was designed as a unique architectural masterpiece exuding her graceful feminine personality, charm, athleticism, elegance & serenity. Once again, an initiative by Homestead, London, the project boasted of a 42 stories iconic tower with just 120 residences, a tennis academy, complete with a balanced athletic lifestyle.

Supertech with Disneyland: Supertech has tied up with Disney India for Disney inspired interiors and exteriors at their proposed residential project, Fable Castle, part of an integrated township, Golf Country, located at Yamuna Expressway, Greater Noida. This association will bring Disney characters to the projects where fans can choose from their favourite Disney stories or their beloved Disney characters and own family spaces that are colourful, timeless and inspiring.

Fashion & Lifestyle: Several associations of collaborations between Indian fashion designers with international brands and or Indian manufacturers have been unfolding recently.

Tarun Tahiliani for Timex: What started as a experiential trend by Titan by roping in Rohit Bal to design a range of watches in 2003, seemed to catch on as a flavour for Indian corporate brands to associate with designer names. The association between Tarun and Timex has been one of the longest standing and profitable ones since October 2010.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee for Bombay Dyeing: This perhaps was the next big and successful association created as early as 2007. Now what is a routine branding exercise between the textile giant for its range of bed sheets and towels, was then a great association to have formed a trend that led to collaborations between many designers and corporate.

Sumeet Verma for Judith Leiber: Historically, the most famous association in true luxury was perhaps the one between Sumeet Verma and Judith leiber. A first of its kind, this tie up was announced in 2009 and was perhaps the most successful association due to the magic created by Sumeet and the comfort provided by the manufacturing skills of Judith Leiber. The collection was an instant hit at a time when international luxury had just begun to surface on a wider premise in India.

Confluence by Swarvoski: Austrian crystal maker Swarvoski, collaborated with eleven top Indian designers including names like Rohit Bal, J.J.Valaya ; Suneet Verma amongst others to create a India inspired line of jewellery launched through various multi brand designer stores and portals. Available since late 2016, this avant garde progressive designer line is meant for gifting within India and the overseas markets of USA and Europe. It is expected to bring in the required numbers to the designer goods category as a whole.

Wedding of the year by J.W.Marriot & Abu Jaani – Sandeep Khosla: Taking the collaboration trend into a completely higher level of experience and emotion, is In one of the most appealing associations of the year, christened as ‘Wedding of the Year’. This relationship between renowned designer duo Abu Jaani – Sandeep Khosla & the hospitality brand Marriott International was unveiled on 21st July 2017 at New Delhi’s JW Marriott Aerocity.

Sussanne Khan for Rustomjee elements: October 2017 saw the launch of another unique collaboration when Rustomjee elements chose Sussane Khan of The charcoal project to design and accessorise the apartment concept of Rustomejee. The unique combination of style, comfort and celebrity sensitive elements have all been taken care by the detail oriented celebrity designer.

Abraham & Thakore for Obeetee carpets: Obeetee carpets, a 100 year old organisation recently commissioned a collection of 18 unique designs by Abraham & Thakore to showcase their ‘Proud to be Indian’ initiative. The line was unveiled in Delhi in December 2017, before the collection travels to Germany and the US. The organisation envisions to enrol more designers into this imitative to show case the weaving skills of Indian weavers via their globally accepted carpets.

Forward by Doron Levy, Main article by Abhay Gupta, Founder & CEO, Luxury Connect & Luxury Connect B School

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