Global luxury fashion brand, Ralph Lauren, makes its India debut with a flagship store in New Delhi
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: March 1, 2019
A launch for Ralph Lauren in India? Hasn’t it already been here? Well, it’s complicated. India’s introduction to the fashion house of Ralph Lauren isn’t new. The brand has been present in India through Polo Ralph Lauren for a while. However, for the other sub brands from the Ralph Lauren Corporation – Ralph Lauren Collection, Lauren Ralph Lauren, Double RL, Ralph Lauren Childrenswear, Club Monaco et al - India has been unchartered territory.
Of course, Ralph Lauren has been in the news in India recently – actor Priyanka Chopra wore a custom Ralph Lauren gown for her wedding to actor-singer Nick Jonas in Jodhpur. For those keeping track, Ms. Chopra and Mr. Jonas had watched the Ralph Lauren’s 50th Anniversary Show together in September 2018, then as a newly engaged couple. Just three months later, Ms. Chopra, escorted down the aisle by her mother, Madhu Chopra, both wearing custom Ralph Lauren, walked a similarly lavish path to marry her groom in Jodhpur, with the image transmitted across the globe.
Well, the mother brand is now in India, with a flagship store at Chanakya, an erstwhile landmark cinema theatre now converted to a tony shopping address. The 6,000 square feet store is spread across two floors, and houses collections from Ralph Lauren, Purple Label, Ralph Lauren Collection, besides Polo Ralph Lauren.
The store has a wide range of apparel and accessories - footwear, bags for both men and women, wallets, card holders, belts and scarves.
The interior design of the store follows the international store look – a showcase of American heritage along with Spanish design touches and vintage 1920s styled decor. In contrast to the bright white Polo Ralph Lauren store, this one all about heritage and classic contours, though an occasional dash of orange brightens up the stairwell. The flat hues of the polos hold their own.
Ralph Lauren is in India with the Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, whose The Collective stores have stocked Polo Ralph Lauren for a while among 80 other global brands. “This is the first store for the brand,” says Amit Pande, Brand Head – International Brands.
Explaining the reason for such a late entrance of the brand to India – where rivals such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Canali, Christian Dior, Burberry, Gucci, and more have been in India for a nearly a decade or more, Mr. Pande says, “India is a complex market, and we gave it all the time, especially with the experience of some of our foreign partners.”
Elaborating he says, “In India, it’s not so simple… if we look across the country, the ability to buy is not a problem. There is a propensity to buy. But in which occasions it is going to get fitted in, then people want to go out and be recognised for what they are wearing – it has to be worked in their own context. In India, luxury is consumed as a community.”
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail has had a long-term association with Ralph Lauren Corporation, though this has moved from the usual wholesale relationship that brands usually have under The Collective to a franchisee arrangement. “Over the next five to six years, we are hoping to do 15-16 stores of Ralph Lauren in India. We have two stores at the moment, and have two in the pipeline. It’s a fairly aggressive plan.”
The next city the brand is targeting is Mumbai. “We will always stay selective, from the perspective that we don’t want to overdistribute the brand. The problem happens when you overdistribute it, and the market is not ready for it. Our point of view is very long term, therefore we will be very careful in terms of taking the brand where it is appropriate for the brand to go.”
As for the store location, in Chanakya rather than Emporio, which is larger and houses many more luxury brands (both are owned by real estate giants DLF though), Mr. Pande says, “We quite like this centre. The nature and quality of the brands we are seeing on the ground floor is tremendous.” Hermes is neighbour, and a Chanel store is coming up. “The environment is beautiful, and it is very curated. It’s right for the luxury customer with taste.”
As for communicating the brand, Mr. Pande is confident that “with Ralph Lauren the task is easier. There would be few people who would not know about it – the brand is such an icon.” Word of mouth is very important, as well as relationship with existing customers, says Mr. Pande, also mentioning the role of fashion press and Instagram. “There will be lot of action in digital in the coming months for us. Another important thing for us will be association with the right sort of celebrity. The store by itself is an advertisement.”
Mr. Pande points out that the brand itself is quite affordable. All affluent customers with taste are their customers. Predominantly that tends to be industrialists and businessmen. Off late, service people who are in private jobs are also part of the clientele. “We also get aspirational customers, who are much younger, who may not have the same spending capacity but have a huge interest,” he said. Shoes start from ₹6,800, though it could go up to a lakh and a half rupees at the other end.
Unlike most brands, though in keeping with the RL profile, the women’s section is upstairs. Mr. Pande rationalises the move by saying, “Typically women customers need a cozier environment. The range is exquisite, and requires a very special shopping environment.
Mr. Pande asserts that only the latest collections are going to be in the stores. “It’s usually a matter of a week, sometimes even faster than retailers like Harrod’s and Selfridges.” Indeed, in a celeb-imitating India, given that Ms. Chopra was spotted in a Randall Evening dress from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2019 collection at the launch of the Ralph Lauren store, the brand should have hordes who want to replicate the look!