JUNE 3, 2008
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> Estée Lauder, Hermès ready for launch
> Ferragamo to open 10 Indian stores by 2013
> Dior launches couture cellphone
> De Beers dabbles in diamonds and legends
India News Model
Hermès readies for Indian launch
Legendary French luxury house Hermès is all geared up for its first store in India at The Oberoi in New Delhi. The luxury marquee held a soft launch at the store in the last week of May, and will soon be open for business. Promoted in India by Neelam Khanna of Khanna Specialty Retail Pvt Ltd, the Hermès store is spread over 120 square meters and will stock leather products, men’s ready-to-wear and accessories, fragrances, jewellery, watches and its famous silk scarves. Prices will be about 20 per cent higher than Paris due to high import duties, with wallets starting at US $450, and the average price for the famed Birkin being US $9,000. The Oberoi in Delhi also houses Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Bvlgari.

High style on the high seas
Earlier this year, hotelier and sometime-actor Vikram Chatwal launched a boutique hotel on the high seas, called the Fathom. Based in the South of France for the summer, Fathom is a sleek, white 135-foot yacht that’s designed to be a luxury destination on the ocean. If a budget of US $250,000 a week is within your budget, you’ll get a Bond-worthy boat with underwater cameras, water ski and jet ski gear, an eight person Jacuzzi and a crew of nine at your disposal. Did we mention Fathom will winter in the Maldives?

Estée Lauder to launch four stores this year
Estée Lauder is set to open the first of four freestanding stores in India, a boutique in Mumbai’s premier luxury mall, the Galleria, this month. Over the next six months, Estée Lauder is also scheduled to launch a store in Bangalore’s luxurious UB City Mall and two more stores in Delhi. All stores will feature the brand’s best-selling products, as well as products specifically chosen for Indian consumers. Specific initiatives implemented for India include six additional shades of Double Wear liquid and powder foundation, developed specifically for Indian skin tones, and a colour collection called ‘Jewels of Summer’, created by Aerin Lauder, Senior Vice President and Creative Director, Estée Lauder.

Ferragamo on a spree
Salvatore Ferragamo SpA has big plans for India. Having signed a 51 per cent JV deal with local real estate company DLF, the Italian luxury goods company has announced that it plans to open 10 stores in the country by 2013. This year, new stores have been planned for Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. DLF, India’s largest real estate company, has also inked JVs with Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana in India.


‘Stud’ied selection
Burberry is scheduled to open its second store in India at the luxury mall Emporio in New Delhi this month. Ardent shoppers can find for the first time in India the Burberry Prorsum women’s wear collection, along with the full range of ready-to-wear for men, women and children from the Burberry London collection. What’s more, the entire accessories line, including the hot-selling ‘Warrior’ bag, will be up for grabs.

Couture calling device for Dior
Taking a leaf out of its heritage, Christian Dior has indulged in a couture brand extension. The luxury brand has launched a stylish new mobile phone called Diorphone, a clamshell jewel-like device, which will retail for approximately US $5,100 starting this month. Adding that this is a luxury approach to mobile phone design, Dior’s CEO Sidney Toledano has said that the Diorphone comes with a miniature “twin” that a woman can clip to her purse or wear as a pendant, to avoid digging through her handbag to answer a call. The mini “My Dior” phone boasts impressive sound quality and has a mirrored display screen that can double as a compact.

Chocolates for the discerning customer
After bespoke clothing, footwear and fragrances, here’s your chance to customise chocolates to your heart’s desire. English chocolatiers Sir Hans Sloane Chocolate House in Surrey consult with clients to learn their preferences in a variety of spices, wines, fruits and fillings, before being offered a tasting of different couvertures, or chocolate coverings, and fillings. Master chocolatier Bill McCarrick then creates a chocolate profile for each customer and maintains records for future orders. Finally, 60 customised chocolates are presented in a handmade rosewood and maple inlaid box, and another 60 are held in reserve, all for a cool price of US $2,400.

Bottega Veneta: Mixing the old with the new
Bottega Veneta has inaugurated a new boutique on Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes, in the south of France. The ultra-stylish 648-square foot store features aerodynamic, vertical window louvers made from palm wood and steel, ultra-suede covered walls, mohair upholstery and custom-dyed, pure New Zealand wool carpets. Housing handbags, footwear, jewellery, small leather goods and home accessories, the store will also be home to the travelling exhibition, “The Knot: A Retrospective,” which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the brand's iconic clutch. The exhibition will display over 50 versions of the rounded box clutch, before moving on to other flagships worldwide.

Davi harvests luxury skincare line
Mondavi, the brand synonymous with California wines, is now making its mark with luxury skin care. Established last year by Carlo Cesare Robert Mondavi, Davi Skincare is made from a blend of natural ingredients, including by-products of the winemaking process called Polyphenols. This is a naturally occurring antioxidant believed to combat free radicals that cause aging. The derivative is combined with grape and fermented wine extracts, green tea, raspberry, black currant and bilberry extracts, among other ingredients, to create Meritage, which is at the core of all its products.

De Beers: Diamonds and legends
Jewellery brand De Beers has unveiled a 13-piece high jewellery collection inspired by the mythical Indian Valley of Diamonds. The collection features exotic cobras, a Komodo dragon and a diamond-studded phoenix, all in keeping with the fabled tale of a beautiful valley laden with diamonds, guarded by walls of fire, birds of prey and snakes. De Beers’ designer Raphaele Canot has combined rough and faceted diamonds in shades of brown, yellow, and white, with the King Cobra ring featuring a 7.62 carat rough brown diamond set among 15 carats of diamonds. The collection ranges from US $30,000 to $200,000.

Sula Vineyards at dusk

Bacchus would be proud. The sleepy wine region of Nashik in northwestern Maharashtra, long famous for its unique grapes, is today at the heart of a US $100 million wine producing industry. What’s more, it’s been steadily growing at over 30 per cent in the past three years, thanks to more-than-ideal climatic conditions, well-irrigated land resources and a growing middle class that has been consumed by the heady intoxications of superb quality Shiraz, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Says Sula Vineyards CEO Rajeev Samant, “Nashik wine has been a stupendous success story. Sula was the pioneer when we planted the first wine grapes in the late 1990s and produced Nasik’s first wine in 2000. Today, there are 35 wineries in Nashik and I wouldn’t be surprised if the number hits 100 in the next five years. Quality-wise, Nashik wine is considered the best wine in India. The climate is incredibly versatile, allowing us to grow many different grape varieties, a lot of which are expressing terrific varietal character.”

Samant is optimistic about Sula’s future in Nashik

Which brings us to that often-quoted moniker for the Nashik wine region: The Napa Valley of India. Is it fair to make such comparisons just yet? Says Ranjit Chougule, Managing Director, Champagne Indage, one of the oldest wine producers in the country, also based in Maharashtra, “Indage’s winemaking operations have been based in Narayangaon since 1982, almost two decades before the first winery in Nasik. With our crush exceeding 18,000 tons in various parts of Maharashtra, including a small portion in Nashik, Narayangaon is the largest wine producing region in terms of winemaking. The tag for Nashik being called the “wine capital of the country” emanates from a large number of small producers as well as several table grape farmers exporting the fruit to the overseas markets.”

However, Samant says that even though it’s a bit premature to hail Nashik as the Napa Valley of India, he’s optimistic about the future of this region. “Napa makes some of the world’s best red wines, and Nashik has quite a way to go, but in just eight years Nashik has made tremendous strides. We are compressing into a short period of time what would have taken other regions many more years to do,” he avers.

Luxury wine tourism gets a push
Considering how the Indian wine story is bubbling over with action, major wine manufacturers are now going beyond making wines to promoting their vineyards as tourist destinations. Vineyard hopping over the weekend is fast gaining prominence, giving luxury wine tourism a much-needed push in the right direction.

While Samant has recently launched Beyond, a stylish villa just outside his vineyards, Indage has launched a winery and boutique spa resort called Tiger Hill, named after the region where its wine is produced. In fact, Ranjit Chougule says Tiger Hill is a first step in the direction Indage has taken to invest heavily in building and creating world class leisure and F&B facilities in Nashik. “We are also planning to expand our vineyards by 5,000 acres in the region through new and existing contract plantation,” he adds.

Rest and rejuvenation at Tiger Hill Spa and Winery

Meanwhile, Tiger Hill winery and spa, conceptualised and promoted by the older Chougule brother Vickrant’s designer wife Kavita, ably reflects the stylissima’s desire to create a modern and vibrant wine brand. Says Kavita, “I’ve always aspired to create a world-class wine brand that embodied new world winemaking techniques and my skills in fashion and avant garde trends, hence Tiger Hill wines. The spa is an integral extension of our wines, where guests can get a tangible experience of the brand’s promise. With a record number of guests visiting Tiger Hill, it’s clear that such a facility was required in Nashik.”

Sula Vineyards’ Beyond is giving vineyard hoppers a reason to cheer

Adds Samant, “We have so many visitors coming to our Tasting Room— almost 600 on some weekends—and many ask us about accommodation, so it was inevitable that we would open a place like Beyond. It is stunningly beautiful, bang in the middle of a Zinfandel vineyard, with a swimming pool and a wonderful lake view. It's exactly the kind of experience one wants in wine country. Anyone going there is never going to forget the experience, and of course, that is a great thing for Sula!”


‘Net’ting gains online

Fashion Industry expert and writer Imran Amed thinks it’s only a matter of time before the Web 2.0 revolution hits luxury in India

The e-commerce site for Neiman Marcus

After consecutive years of explosive revenue and profit growth, many luxury brands and retailers are beginning to grapple with the consequences of what could prove to be a challenging 2008.

The economies of North America and Western Europe are experiencing varying degrees of softness, and the much-vaunted luxury explosion in Asia, while still promising, will take years to deliver a return on the large investments that have been made, even with astronomical growth rates. Empty luxury shopping malls in China and ongoing structural challenges in a nascent Indian market are proof of this.

Thankfully, there is a bright spot on the horizon that is still undeniably promising for the luxury sector in the West. Just consider these striking facts: The Saks 5th Avenue website is now the second largest contributor to revenues after its iconic New York flagship. Its closest competitor, Neiman Marcus, reported that its online site generated revenues in excess of US $500 million in 2007. European luxury brands from Gucci to Louis Vuitton are also reaping the bonanza of the online luxury frenzy, recognising the luxury consumer’s increasing comfort with and desire to buy goods online.

But in India, luxury e-commerce has yet to take off. For now, Indians seem to value the experience of walking into a bricks-and-mortar store more than the convenience of shopping online. Even if customers wanted to shop online, broadband internet penetration in India remains stubbornly low and unreliable, meaning that it is harder to use bandwidth-intensive shopping experiences that have become standard fare on pioneering luxury e-commerce sites like Net-a-Porter.

The good news for India is that the potential for luxury on the internet is not limited to e-commerce. Today, a luxury brand’s homepage is arguably the single most important point-of-call for consumers looking to learn about a brand’s heritage, products and DNA.

Unfortunately, when consumers turn to many luxury brand websites, they often don’t find anything new and different. Sure, they can find recent ad campaigns (which are already in every magazine), images from the most recent runway shows (which are ubiquitous on the internet anyway), and a video or two (these are few and far between). What consumers really seem to be looking for is an opportunity to engage with the brands and each other.

Let’s talk!
In recent years, a wave of emerging interactive technologies has transformed how people spend their time online. Referred to generally under the umbrella-term Web 2.0, online tools such as blogs, social networks and wikis have marked a shift from an era of one-way ‘read-only’ communication on the internet to one which is characterised by a collaborative dialogue among groups of individuals.

Net-a-porter’s online fashion magazine, Notes

In the luxury space, passionate groups of consumers, in their millions, are talking about luxury brands on blogs and social networks. In France, Café Mode’s independent perspective on the latest runway shows and fashion trends has become so influential that L’Express, a leading daily newspaper, now houses the blog on its own website and pays its blogger a salary. Manolo, an American who writes a popular blog on shoes and celebrity, earns a six-figure salary from his blog and has a column in the Washington Post. Every month, hundreds of thousands of Japanese visit @Cosme, a Japanese consumer review website dedicated to the cosmetic industry. The recommendations are so influential that they can make or break a cosmetics brand in Japan.

Some of the most prolific participants in these communities, said to be about 1 per cent of internet users, may know more about the brands than the brands even know about themselves. As trusted authorities, these experts have the potential to become a brand’s most fervent evangelists — or detractors. What’s more, through the active engagement of these passionate communities, luxury brands can also gain valuable feedback to understand what consumers want and what they expect.

But where is the ‘Blogger’atti?
It’s a mystery to me that India (a country that loves nothing more than to debate and discuss everything) does not yet have an indigenous fashion blogosphere. Indians are notoriously chatty — the Indian blogosphere is already buzzing with technology and Bollywood news. Indians are smart shoppers who like to research before they shop. They actively seek recommendations from friends and family, making word-of-mouth recommendations extremely powerful. Finally, blogs and social networks are not bandwidth-intensive, so are still easy to access even in India’s low bandwidth environment.

Given all of this, it’s only a matter of time before Indians, particularly those of the younger generation, like their luxury compatriots elsewhere in the world, begin to actively turn to the internet to learn more about luxury brands.

The only question is: Who will be the first to answer their questions? The luxury brands, or the bloggers?

Imran Amed is an advisor to the fashion industry and is Editor of The Business of Fashion at

‘Hyper-consumption’ is out, ‘unique experiences’ are in

Futurist and Love Travel Guides author Fiona Caulfield holds forth on the future of luxury travel

The serene Amanpuri from Amanresorts

The future of luxury travel is defined by five core elements: Time, Privacy, Involvement, Exclusivity, and Authenticity. Brands and companies that understand these concepts, deeply and truly, will be the ones that delight discerning customers and succeed in the decade ahead.

As one gets older, the clock ticks louder and seemingly faster. In this accelerated, Blackberry-fuelled world with over-scheduled lives, it is clear that our most precious commodity is time. The luxury traveller does not have time to waste on bad experiences, and every minute counts.

Brands that understand the currency of time will provide real value. Anticipate exponential growth in private aviation, helicopter shuttles, iris scanners at immigration, in-room check-ins, 24-hour concierges and personal shoppers.

Wellness experiences that deliver ‘feel younger’ as well as ‘feel better’ results will be particularly successful. Also, expect to see a rise in anti-Jet Lag services and products. Who has time to feel anything other than great?

Swimming naked in a pool in Rajasthan for the second time in as many days, it dawned on me: Being nude in India is the ultimate in luxury. Complete, 100 per cent privacy in a country of over a billion people is true luxury. Each hotel room at the new Aman in Delhi has a pool, each offering complete privacy and bare bliss.

Brad and Angelina could have gone anywhere and everywhere in India; all Presidential and Royal suites opened their doors to the Brangelina brood. Nevertheless, in lieu of everywhere, they chose to spend their personal time elsewhere. Elsewhere, in Goa, a low key, simple cluster of bungalows, guarantees total privacy. A peak luxury experience with not a gold tap, 1,000-thread count sheet, or Husein painting in sight.

Monacle magazine awarded the Peninsula Hotel the best room innovation for the delivery hatch: a true enabler of guest privacy that secured a spot in the Travel Top Ten. India’s “high touch” mantra in many luxury hotels appears to me, to be a touch too much.

Many believe that luxury is defined by things, owning more and more of the so-called right things. Wrong! This is so last decade (or was it even the decade before?). Future Luxury will shun hyper-consumption and instead embrace unique and involving experiences. Philanthropic Travel will become a cornerstone of luxury travel.

Owning the latest monogrammed handbag is so Posh! We wouldn’t want to be seen with one. We would, however, want to build a clinic in the Karakorams, research marine life in the Seychelles, learn Flamenco in Argentina, or master Ashtanga in Mysore. In India, one may hang out with head-hunters in Nagaland, track Bengal Tigers with the head of the World Wild Life Fund and tour the New Delhi Railway Station with a street kid, which raises awareness and money for the Salaam Baalak Trust.

The Gem Palace in Jaipur, where you can design your own jewellery

At the pointy end of life, the true way to impress is not simply to do, but to do things few others do: like shuttling into space or climbing K2. Sailing around the world is no big deal, unless you are with Craig Venter on his boat Sorcerer, tracing Darwin’s original voyages and discovering new life species.

Exclusivity and bespoke customisation are now the green fees for luxury travel. A round with Tiger and a set with Venus would be ideal. Greaves and Cazenove Loyd are two outstanding UK travel consultants that consistently over deliver on accessing exclusive Indian experiences for their clientele.

In India, design your own jewellery with Munnu Kasliwal, owner of the Gem Palace, who does this for only two visitors annually. Else, play elephant polo with India’s best team, or dine with a Maharajah.

New luxury recognises the lust for the authentic; it is not about creating a homogenised and pasteurised bubble of 7-star sameness; we luxuriate in what makes our destination unique, the essence of the place.

Chai at Triveni in Delhi, a Paratha at Samovar in Bombay and a breakfast of Idli Vada at Brahmins in Bangalore, all make the luxury travellers life richer, for only a few rupees.

Luxury vagabonds want authenticity, albeit in style, safety and comfort. They effortlessly mix the high and the low, the 7-star and the no star. They search for the hyper-local and when shopping, the provenance of the object will matter as much, if not more, than the object itself. In Mumbai, they shop at Bombay Electric, Shrujan and Dhoop. In Delhi, at Intach and Kamala, and in Bangalore at Cinnamon and The Ants.

Fiona Caulfield is the author of India’s first luxury travel guides. The series comprises Love Delhi, Love Mumbai and Love Bangalore. Love Chennai, Love Kolkata and Love Rajasthan are her upcoming titles. For details, log on to

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