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12 de outubro de 2011

Hermès Goes Local With India Sari Launch

Just a few months after launching a Mumbai store, Hermès is now trying to woo its potential Indian customers with a brand new line of India-only saris.

Hermès India
Pictured, a Hermès “Patch” Sari.
Hermès India
Pictured, a Hermès “Coupons Indiens” Sari.

The French fashion house has made four sari designs, of which there are a total of 28 pieces, loosely inspired by Indian hues and themes. Hermès has two other stores in India – in Delhi and Pune – but the saris are only available at its Mumbai outlet.

The launch of the sari line makes Hermès the latest luxury brand to release “Indianized” products to appeal to the local market – raising questions on whether global companies should go local in order to sell luxury in India.

Hermès is best-known for its silk scarves, which often have Oriental motifs – so foraying into saris wasn’t too big a leap for the brand. Speaking to India Real Time, Bertrand Michaud, who heads the Indian unit of Hermès, described the sari launch as a “tribute to Indian elegance and traditional craftsmanship.”

Of the models in the range “Coupons Indiens,” which comes in a cashmere and silk blend, strikes the most distinctly Indian chord, standing out for its brightly-colored geometric design. On the other hand, the silk twill “Patch,” with its mosaic pattern, is the most similar to Hermès’s trademark scarves. The other two models in the line are “New Springs,” in silk mousseline and “Fleurs d’Indiennes,” in double mousseline – but there is little, at first glance, that says “Hermès” about them. The collection, designed under the guidance of Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the company’s artistic director, is the second line of saris launched by Hermès.

Although Mr. Michaud said the company wants “to be part of Indian life,” the saris are out of reach for most: they are priced between 300,000 rupees ($6,145) and 400,000 rupees ($8,193). Nevertheless, the response so far has been positive, with many orders already coming in since last Friday’s launch, Mr. Michaud said.

Varun Rana, features editor of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar India, said that products like luxury saris have “scope for tremendous growth” across the country. Fashion designer Farah Sanjana similarly noted that the sari collection is sure to “sell like hot cakes.” Experts say that to tap into India’s growing customer base for high-end goods, a strong international label and an Indian twist is a winning combination.

Hermès is not the only company to have launched Indian collections. Italian luxury company Tod’s recently released limited edition silk satin clutches, which came in four different colors and were studded with rhinestones – the Indian touch. Last year, Prada launched a “Made in India” line that included woven sandals and embroidered cotton dresses, a collection that was widely available.

Some say that to appeal to local consumers, “Indianizing” luxury products is not just welcome but necessary. A new report on India’s luxury market, jointly released by the Confederation of Indian Industry and consultancy firm A.T. Kearney, complained that “too little” has been done on this front so far.

Flashier products and more flattering cuts, the report suggests, are important ingredients. “Whether it is a preference for two-tone metal watch belts in India against the rubber belt revolution that is sweeping the rest of the world or the need for garments that will flatter the figure of the Indian middle-aged woman, the need has never been more obvious,” said the study, which was released Tuesday.

But the relatively small size of India’s luxury market means that, for now, international luxury companies “would need a lot of convincing before we see substantial Indianization,” it added.

Big labels are also a strong selling point, said the report, which described Indians as being “highly badge conscious.” This means that “selling ‘famous brands’ and products with prominent logos has always been easier than introducing new brands,” it added.

The challenge for big global brands will be to translate marketing strategies like the launch of India-only collections into commercial success. India, for a start, has its own, traditional kind of luxury – a strong alternative to the Western kind. Trade barriers also mean many global brands struggle to break even in the country, though this may change if India follows up on its promise to liberalize the sector further. Should this happen, we may see a lot more global brands rolling out “Indianized” products.


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