Luxury is exquisite, unique, coupled with craftsmanship at its best. With a surge of social media and globalisation, brands are often forced to adopt means and measures to cope with the ruthless competition. While carving a niche and staying authentic to their roots becomes difficult, we enlist a few brands that have succeeded in maintaining their ‘Made in India’ status quo
By: Nikita Vivek Pawar
Posted on: February 7, 2020
India is considered to be an emerging global superpower, a growing market, and has been eyed by every retail giant of the world. While the $30 billion worth global luxury market offers a huge giftbox of opportunity, it is also difficult to create and maintain a niche in such a large industry. With rising costs, a dynamic customer base with ever-changing preferences, and the need to remain authentic to one’s origin, surviving might get a little daunting. Even then, these four brands have carved a definitive space in the Indian luxury market for themselves.
In Love with the Abstract
While jewellery is considered to be a mere accessory to be complimented with an attire, Mr. Rahul Jhaveri, founder of Studio Renn and third generation diamantaire, believes it can connect people on a deeper level. In a long ago dead language, Renn translates to rebirth or reincarnation, and the brand’s designs mean to rekindle human emotions and expressions. “We are not looking to make jewelry. The jewelry just gets made. It is a medium we use to express ourselves. We encourage people to slow down – look – listen – feel. Do not buy our work but collect it if it speaks to you,” he expressed.
A certain pair of earrings, which one might find looking like a shell, might look like a dried flower to another. And that’s the beauty of abstract. Creating such designs requires much more emotional and mental involvement than traditional jewellery designing. Every piece has a story, and it speaks differently with everyone. That is precisely the reason the brand opts to not have a store, to not confine itself in a limited space, and exist without any inhibitions.
Designing so innovatively does require a disruption in traditional thought-processes. “The preliminary conceptualization happens not keeping jewelry in mind at all. We work with artists who have no experience with or knowledge of jewelry. We discuss concepts, ideas – make sketches, sculptures, write phrases and poetry – and from this a visual language emerges which is then expressed through the jewelry we design and create," explains the designer.
In this new decade, trends no longer are the only driving factor of the industry. The consumer is aware, independent and no longer under the pretext to fit or in settle in. “Consumers have begun to wear jewelry for themselves and not because it is required of them, or because they ought to. People are breaking out of molds and taking risks. Designers are not limiting themselves by materials or capabilities – they are working with various materials, innovating with technological advancements and collaborating with designers from other fields,” explains Mr Jhaveri.
The Indian consumer has broadened its perspective of art, beauty and creativity. The openness and acceptance of the consumer has helped a brand like Studio Renn create a space for itself. “We pride ourselves in being Made in Bombay (not Mumbai). It is a very important part of our identity. This identity is not static or predefined. No one belongs to the city but everyone does. There is a lot of talent in India which we feel isn’t utilized to its full potential. It is a conscious effort that we make everything – not only the jewelry – but the cases, boxes, props, packaging, etc. – in India. And we try to push the standards of quality and design for all these elements, which also gives the manufacturers a new challenge and renewed pride in their work,” adds Mr Jhaveri.
In Love with the Heritage
One of the oldest techniques of India, Chikankari, originated in the 3rd century, in the Nawab City of Lucknow. Known for its intricacy and complexity, owing to the 32 different types of tankas or stitches, it’s almost impossible to create the same pattern. While most designers use only 3-4 different types, fashion designer Anjul Bhandari uses over 20 stitches in her creations.
A revivalist of the almost forgotten art, Mrs Bhandari says, “We try and use as many [stitches] as the craft originally used, trying to revive a few, as that keeps the authenticity of the craft alive. For the first couple of years, I focused on creating new Chikankari jaals and used my signature Japanese pearls, sequins and baby mirrors as highlights. Once we had the technique figured out, we worked closely with our artisans to establish how to use them to create the most exquisite looks.”
Keeping these traditional arts thriving is as vital for business as it is for the development of India’s grassroot economy. “It's important to keep ancient art forms alive as they provide a livelihood to the craftsmen who also tend to indulge their offspring into the art. Those qualities and skills must be harboured rather than diminished to try to ensure their quality of life. Hand work is exceedingly being replaced by machine work, which is cheaper and quicker. However, the beauty of hand embroidery cannot be replaced, and a true connoisseur of the arts will recognize that and is willing to pay for it as well,” said Ms Bhandari.
The designer’s atelier in Awadh houses over 1400 artisans. Along with Chikankari, the designer also works with Kamdani and Mukaish embroidery. “What makes us proud is that we are not only a 'Made in India' luxury brand but we are also… giving craftsmen, and especially master craftsmen, the free reign to create exquisitely. We are creating an international market by giving a specific treatment to Chikankari which is subtle and elegant. And nothing makes me prouder to be able to do all of the above.”
In Love with the Culture
Flowers are associated with every ritual and ceremony in India. From roses to marigolds, each flower has its own importance and position. Whether joyful or remorseful, every occasion is accompanied by lovely blooms. But to create a business is difficult with natural flowers. Champs Fleur founder, Chitra Das, tried an uncommon channel of business by creating a subscription service that delivers fresh flowers. “We tried to think of the easiest way for our clients to understand the concept. Subscription services are still something new in India so we had to make it easy,” explained Ms. Das.
Making most of the technology at hand, the customised subscription orders are taken on Whatsapp. All the orders are processed by a backend system . This young company is constantly learning and adapting to the dynamic changes in the trends and preferences of the Indian consumers.
Flower décor at home, though extremely beautiful and elegant, is kept at bay for quite a few reasons. Some being reduced availability of quality and varied produce, and lack of knowledge in creating that eye-stopping arrangement. Here comes the USP of the brand. “Our preserved or LonglastingⓇ flowers are sourced from around the world depending on the type. The roses are either Columbian or Kenyan, hydrangeas are usually from Columbia too, but we are seeing more African Hydrangeas. Eucalyptus is from Australian and the Lavender from France. Our fresh flowers come directly from Dutch markets.”
The primary issue with the perishable product sector is the oblivious mindset of customers, demanding affordable rates, and conveniently ignoring how labor-intensive it is. The flowers have a value and so do the handling, their logistics and storage. Creating beautiful arrangements and the right combination of flowers takes immense work. “For fresh flower decor, we are trying to target small scale events such as private dinners and pre-wedding functions - events where there is an emphasis on flowers and they are integral to events. We are also trying to reduce the waste around fresh flowers and recycle almost all of our blooms,” explains the young founder.
With a business that thrives entirely on its workforce and the people associated with it, Champs Fleur is definitely interesting, unique and smells great (quite literally!). ”I really love the people in my team and the team of vendor/suppliers. At the end of the day, this is what makes us "Made in India". I'm incredibly blessed to work with such an amazing team who do great things daily,” says Ms. Das.
In Love with the History
History has been a subject of novelty, intrigue and fascination. And coins are one of the best preserved artefacts of the past. Jaipur Watch Company employs old coins to epitomise the past. “Jaipur Watch Company (JWC) is India’s first and only Coin Watch Manufacturer. JWC also specializes in unique Swarovski Crystal Watches. All our watches are made in a very limited quantity, thus making them extremely unique,” said Mr Gaurav Mehta, founder of Jaipur Watch Company.
Founded in 2013, to amalgamate numismatics and horology in a bespoke manner, every watch by JWC becomes an heirloom piece. The company offers the audience a fresh and unexplored arena of both the coins and their history as well as the bespoke experience. Impeccable craftsmanship and precise attention to details has helped the brand position itself in the Indian luxury market.
Through meetings and sessions with the consumer, the artisan understand their needs, preferences and inspirations, then tries to imbibe the purchaser’s personality and story within the watch. Every design decision is taken solely by the consumer. To add to the intricacy and the exclusivity, the back of every watch can be monogrammed with texts and engravings in gold and silver. A handmade sketch of the monogram is prepared before creating the final product with the help of the state of an art CNC machining. The watches can be handcrafted in gold and silver too. And the clients can choose from a select range of straps in genuine leather or precious metals.
Even though the company is quite young, it has been successful is creating a loyal client base and following. Their watches are a product of innovation, with a subtle hint of tradition. Every watch is a story, a life experience and a memory to cherish. Taking anytime between 2 weeks to 6 months to create a bespoke JWC watch, depending on the complexity and innovation required, the result is an immaculate creation.
The Indian watch market is approximated to be INR 10,000 crore with a contribution of roughly 20% from international brands. The scope of growth and expansion is substantial in this sector. “Our journey is just 6 years old in this market, but from our experience I can comment that the market has matured, there is space for newer brands, and with the matured audience there is certainly a liking and appreciation for Indian fine watches,” says Mr. Mehta.
The company wears its heart on its sleeve, and the city of Jaipur prevails in the DNA of the company. The company has its manufacturing unit in Bangalore as the founder wanted to craft an Indian bespoke watch experience. And indeed, the brand has been successful in making an impeccable Made in India product!