Personal choices

Those who grew up in the 1980s would remember wearing tailor-made clothes as there was a lack of decent ready-to-wear options. Now, for the last couple of years, made to order, or bespoke, has been back in fashion with an exclusivity twist. Ermenegildo Zegna, Brioni, Canali and Kiton have long occupied the top space in this segment. Luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton (LV) have joined the made-to-order club and introduced their made-to-order service in India, which extends beyond apparel, to shoes too. “The fact that brands are offering this service in India signals the evolution of the market for personalisation and customisation,” says long time Gucci fan, Chetan Jaikishan, MD, Express Foods.

Globally, bespoke was not always prevalent and consumers were, and still are, accustomed to easy ready-to-wear shopping. However, this preference has changed over time where consumers favour good quality and fit as per their specifications, over convenience. All brands want to give the best quality and use the best raw materials, and as they don’t own any of the farms from where their raw material is sourced, and there are only a handful of places where the raw material comes from, everyone goes to the same source. Hence, now as there is no exclusivity in sourcing the raw material, the exclusivity lies in tailoring to the customer’s choice.

Today, the luxury customer is not only an European, as used to be the case some years ago, but different people – Chinese, Indian, etc. So to cater to their tastes, it is easy to customise. This customisation has led to a surge in the bespoke and made-to-order segment over the last few years, primarily across luxury offerings due to the high-value of investment. This trend has extended to the Indian luxury retail market as well. According to Sheetal Jain, founder & CEO, Luxe Analytics, a New Delhi-based luxury consulting firm, made-to-order is the need of the hour for luxury brands. “It is important for them to go that way or else they’ll lag behind.”

In the luxury market, India is still a nascent story. While it is a good market with the great Indian middle class, most buyers are still aspirational, keeping sales numbers low. So when the market starts growing, then people usually buy accessories or apparel. Pricing is very important.

Armani MTM1

Amrani MTM service allows the customer to create the suit as per their style.

Made-to-order, or personalisation, as it is also called, is when a brand can play around with the material, motifs, etc. and the price changes according to what the buyer chooses. For a fashion house, it is not a difficult proposition to offer. A standardised shape of garment or shoe is offered. The talking point is to explore how to make it more premium. Brands are always trying to be premium in their offerings – that’s a brand’s definition of luxury. Exclusivity adds on a lot of premium to the product. For the brand, besides being a way to grow, customisation and personalisation are also the differentiating factors.

The earlier brands to introduce made-to-order in India were Giorgio Armani (2014) and Louis Vuitton (2016).  Priced at Rs1,75,000 onwards, the Giorgio Armani made-to-measure service allows the customer to create the suit as per their style and comfort with the signature Giorgio Armani look. The service is available at the brand’s boutique in DLF, Emporio, New Delhi. It can also be availed via the brand’s home shopping service.

When in 2006, fashion designer Giorgio Armani decided that there was a need for something different; it was a bold decision for an established ready-to-wear designer to take. Armani believed that the time was right to return to the heart of the creative process, and produce a collection using the finest materials. “I realized that I have clients who really do want a unique product, made specifically for them. Hence, I decided to create a made to measure service, where a customer gets all the benefits of a tailor made garment – unique fit, fabric, lining, buttons, details – as well as the signature Giorgio Armani look. This collection really does bring the traditional and the modern together, combining the origins of the tailor’s craft with the innovations of a contemporary design studio,” explains the designer.

LV made to order2

LV’s Monte Carlo moccasin is available in an array of rainbow colours.

Louis Vuitton launched its made to order shoe service in mid-2016. The hand stitched Monte Carlo moccasin, priced at close to Rs2 lakh, is available in rainbow colours (literally). Customers can choose to have their moccasins made in either calf leather or suede. Though it is available at the brand’s New Delhi store, clients in Mumbai and Bengaluru can also place an order for these shoes from the brand’s website.

Speaking of shoes, Jimmy Choo’s made-to-order service includes a variety of classic shoes and bags which a customer can personalise by selecting the colour and fabric. It has gone a step further and lets you monogram your shoes, or put a plaque with a special date on your bag. The service is available at the DLF, Emporio boutique in New Delhi and at the Palladium boutique in Mumbai.

Last year Gucci launched its DIY (do it yourself) initiative based on the House’s Dionysus bag. Here customers could personalise their Dionysus handbags with embroidered patches, trims, hardware and monogrammed initials. The focus has now shifted to an extensive programme of customisable menswear that was launched last December.

At the Gucci DIY men’s tailoring service, customers can choose from a wide range of fabrics and buttons, as well as from a host of monogram lettering options. According to Jaikishan, their recently launched DIY service is a fun way of expressing one’s personality through customisation of selected products. “I don’t think any other brand offers the kind of customisation options that Gucci DIY does,” he says. “Although the aim of the DIY service is to encourage customers to interpret the Gucci aesthetic in a highly idiosyncratic way, the combination of materials, detailing and decoration on offer ensures that the end result will always evoke the spirit of the brand.”

So how is the Indian market placed to receive this bespoke trend? Well, according to Luxe Analytic’s Jain, may be in the coming years India will be better placed for this trend.

Showcasing luxury

Exhibitions. Exhibitions. Exhibitions. There are so many of them supporting various initiatives – be it upcoming artists, upcoming designers, home grown talents, and so on and so forth. So the recently concluded Luxury Lifestyle Weekend in Mumbai was a pleasant surprise. It was void the shove and push that accompanies such events. There was enough space for the 100 odd brands to enable their visitors to experience the bespoke services that they offered.

LLW1

“As much as luxury is about products, it is also about intangible nuances that inspire, delight and amaze you,” says Sheth.

For Akash Sheth, it was the culmination of hard work put in over the last couple of years. “I understood that everyone is interested in this space, but it becomes a non-exclusive space. So how can one make it exclusive to certain categories,” says Sheth, MD, Luxury Lifestyle Weekend. Having put his thoughts on paper, and checking the boxes, Sheth took the plunge to host the first luxury lifestyle weekend in the country. “LLW has surpassed everyone’s expectations from a brand satisfaction and consumer experience perspective,” says Sheth.

From the consumer perspective, globally luxury is moving towards the experiential age. People want to understand what is going on behind the brand, what does it stand for, what’s the brand story, the legacy, why should he / she go for a bespoke or tailor made product, etc. The idea was to create a platform where the brands get an opportunity to showcase all that, as well as be an opportunity for the consumer to engage and interact with the brand and understand it. According to Dr. Sheetal Jain, founder & CEO, Luxe Analytics, a New Delhi based luxury analytic company, “Exhibitions such as LLW, is a way that connect the consumers and the brands,” she says. “Today, luxury consumers are looking for an experiential value and this event was a step forward to curate such bespoke experience.  The luxury sector in India is still at a nascent stage; therefore such events are need of the hour. They would increase the brands’ visibility and may help to capture the hearts of relevant audience,” says Jain.

LLW2

 

The fact that, unlike the US and European countries, India had no platform to showcase luxury goods in the country, was motive enough for Sheth to think on lines of putting one together. Sheth put in close to $2 million in the event to give India its first Luxury Lifestyle Weekend. It was an interesting mix of 100 brands across nine categories that participated.

The way the venue was designed, there was enough space for customers to interact without being pushed and shoved. “As much as luxury is about products, it is also about intangible nuances that inspire, delight and amaze you. We have curated experientials that will help existing and aspiring consumers of luxury to engage and connect with the brands more deeply than ever before. Every brand presented an engagement that will encourage all guests to go beyond browsing and deep-dive into the story and philosophy behind a product,” says Sheth.

What Sheth looked for in identifying the participating brands was that a) they be leaders in their space, b) the brand is looking forward to creating an experience and tell their brand story correctly, and c) from his perspective, the brand should have an interest in the consumer, be able to draw in the right consumer and footfalls. What was also important was whether the brand wanted to talk to the current and potential consumers, as well as the new age millennials, who are going to become the next set of consumers.

While many brands already have a presence in India, a handful took this opportunity to get a feel of and introduce themselves to the Indian market. Just to mention a few brands: the Silver Room from USA, and Swiss chocolatier Du Rhone Chocolatier, both used the event to introduce themselves to the Indian market. The Silver Room, an art, culture and jewellery boutique brought to India by Dileep Doshi’s Ambiar Group, showcased their collection here for the first time. According to Vishakha Doshi, marketing, communication & PR director, Ambiar Group, the response was better than they had expected. The store will officially open on April 6 at south Mumbai’s Trident Hotel.

Du Rhone Chocolatier, a luxury chocolate brand based out of Geneva, presented its array of chocolates. According to Fatima Sham Mahimwala, business head, Liberty Luxuries Pvt. Ltd., company that is launching Du Rhone, the event was mutually beneficial to both, the company and the consumers. “It was more awareness building and a soft launch,” she says.

Atout France, the France Tourism & Development Agency, brought down La Vallée Village, a designer shopping space near Paris. “We wanted to meet the consumers directly, and this matched perfectly,” says Patrick Allais, business development manager, VR Services Snc.

On the experiential side, some of the watch brands flew down their watch makers. Luxury shoes and boots manufacturer, John Lobb, flew in their bootmaker from Paris to conduct a made-to-measure experience. Other brands, be it fashion, interiors or automobile, took the opportunity to present their new collections – Adil.I.Ahmad with Aditi Parashar, Gavin Miguel, Isaia, Kiton, Payal Khandwala, Payal Singhal, SVA Couture and The Palace Karkhana by Royal Fables.

According to a 2016 Assocham study, the Indian luxury market has been growing at 25 per cent per annum, and is pegged at $18 billion – a sign that the luxury space in India is moving forward aggressively. Given the population, and digital-friendly millennial generation, India is a market that everyone is interested in. Having surpassed all expectations with the launch event, Sheth says he will be back next year.

 

Diesel is looking for a CEO

 

Diesel CEO1Diesel, the Italian premium casual wear company famously known for its jeans, is looking to hire a new CEO. Well, Alessandro Bogliolo, the previous CEO, left the company to become the CEO at Tiffany & Co., the luxury jewellery and accessories retailer. So DIESEL is wasting no time. It is looking for a new CEO, and has come up with a playful advertisement through social media.

Yes, choosing a CEO is serious stuff. Instead of confining the search to the known sites, Renzo Rosso, president, OTB Group, has chosen to search through social media as well. “Our CEO has left, leaving an empty space in our hearts, but most importantly an empty chair,” he says.

Starting from October 5th, applicants will only have 4 days to showcase their Diesel CEO3indisputable ability to sit in a way that is absolutely different from others through a picture or a video to be uploaded on Diesel’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Diesel/videos/10159350871715484/

Diesel enjoys challenging the ordinary and the conformity that is flooding social networks, because again this time it’s not the usual job application that you find on LinkedIn. The position is actually of a Chair Executive Officer (that’s what the position is called at Diesel). This time neither an MBA degree nor financial skills will serve the purpose, “first of all, you have to be good at sitting,” says Rosso, DIESEL’s founder.

The selected candidate will spend a week as the Chair Executive Officer at the DIESEL Headquarters, Italy. Occupying the most important chair in the company!

So go on, and apply.

 

Tribe goes retail

Tarang Arora 1

Tarang Arora is placing Tribe at super premium malls.

While most brands go from an off-line presence to the on-line platform, Tribe, the silver jewellery brand from the Jaipur based fine jewellery house, Amrapali, has decided to go the other way. After having an online presence for three years, Tarang Arora, CEO & creative director, Amrapali Jewels, is taking the Tribe brand off-line. The brand recently opened its first two retail outlets in Mumbai and New Delhi at the Palladium Mall and Select City Walk respectively. “It’s a brand which can be in a lot more places than Amrapali; it’s a brand which can be in malls, it can be at a small kiosk at the domestic airport, it can be at various places and at each city there could be multiple of these,” says Arora.

Arora is placing Tribe at super premium malls, because “there isn’t anyone who thinks that silver needs to be placed that high,” he says.  Priced in the range of Rs500 to Rs1,50,000, it is a perfect place for both, the aspirational shopper and a regular shopper to shop at.

Amrapali was started by Rajesh Ajmera and Rajiv Arora, Tarang’s father, in 1978. They started by making traditional silver jewelry which was being worn by various tribes in India. Over the past decade or so, though Amrapali has moved on to work with gold, the silver jewelry is still there. So the idea with Tribe was to start a silver based brand within the Amrapali brand, which is what Amrapali is known for.

Tribe1By refocusing on silver, the idea was to create two different brands. Both Amrapali and Tribe are different businesses, with different ideologies and catering to different markets. “We are trying to create an identity for two brands, instead of one. Both brands have the same DNA, but are different styles, looks and feels. They both have the same mother, but are siblings with their own identity,” explains Arora.

Though there is a big fuss about being online, a brand needs to be both, offline and online.  “There is a big fuss about being online, which I don’t agree to, and I think offline is a very important space as well,” he says. In fact, when Amrapali started Tribe, the online venture in 2014, Arora had reservations about its success. “We are selling jewelry, not clothes. It’s a personalised item and will we be able to succeed selling such a product online?” he says. However, the online push was more successful than the company had thought. Tribe is more of a growable business than the fine jewelry Amrapali; and in terms of creativity, it’s a lot more fun for the design team.

Arora thinks that offline is going to be more consistent than online, because, “online has its days of being extremely successful, and then again it goes slow sometimes, then it has different reasons why it works. However, offline stores have a lot more character. It definitely gives an identity to the brand,” he says. Besides, it’s very difficult to change an online client to an offline one, if the client and the shop are not in the same city. Definitely an offline client can become an online client. “I think it is eventually going to give more business to online,” he says. For online sales, India is a major market. Internationally, the USA is an important market. Countries like Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong are doing well.

While it would be ideal to open many more stores of Tribe and be in the Palladiums of every city, Arora would first like to expand within these two metro cities first. “If you think about it, Mumbai and Delhi are not one city, these are multiple cities. If you go to Andheri, Santa Cruz, or Inorbit Mall, there is so much going on. In Delhi, there is the Great Mall, then you have the Ambience Mall which is in three different locations, and they are much bigger than tier 2 cities. There is a lot more scope to expand within these cities,” he says.

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilt for choice

If you walk into a Nature’s Basket outlet in Mumbai, or even the Food Hall at Palladium, you will most likely find little tubs of Epigamia Greek yoghurt lining up the dairy section. It catches the eye. In trying to catch more eyes, Drums Food, the makers of Epigamia Greek yoghurt and Hokey Pokey ice cream, are increasing their reach and tweaking their flavours to suit Indian palettes. With people moving towards a healthier lifestyle, “The Snack Pack was conceptualized keeping in mind a legacy of oily and fried snacks in the face of shifting consumer patterns towards seeking healthier lifestyles,” says Rohan Mirchandani, CEO.

Drum Foods, was started by two childhood friends, Rohan Mirchandani and Milap Shah. Other friends were asked to join – Chef Ganesh K who was working in India and Uday Thakker from Los Angeles. The duo’s initial exposure to the food industry was Hokey Pokey ice cream, which was launched in 2008.

rohan_1 copy

“We are not in the dairy business. We are in consumer and branding,” says Mirchandani.

Later, in 2015 the company entered the retail market with its ice cream tubs available in nine flavours. With business growing, it was important for Mirchandani to be more hands on. Hence, he moved to India from New York, USA.

Ice cream has a seasonal market in India. Yet, if one goes by industry figures, the per capita consumption of ice cream in India is amongst the lowest compared to developed countries. Ice-cream, which was considered an indulgent category in the past, has now evolved to being perceived as a snacking option by consumers. This change in perception has come about due to increasing disposable incomes and greater discretionary spending. The change in the perception of consumers has allowed the category to grow in volume. Also, with investments made, cold chains are getting better and hence contributing to the category’s growth. In fact, ice-cream, as a category, has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 10-15 per cent. “If small players come with flavours appealing to the Indian taste buds, they will find a space of their own,” says Randhir Kumar, DGM marketing (dairy products), Mother Dairy.

A shift in consumer patterns towards healthier eating has now started taking place. Already having their dairy sources in place, as well as the infrastructure to support a cold chain supply product, Drums launched the Greek yoghurt in 2013, in four flavours.

Greek yogurt is strained more excessively than regular yogurt in order to create a thick and creamy texture that has high protein and low fat content. This process of straining the yogurt to create a thick consistency comes from Greece, hence the title Greek yogurt. In India, Greek yogurt is a very nascent market. Nestle is the big competitor for Greek yogurt in India. “Greek Yogurt was a totally alien concept to the Indian market, and educating them about the product itself was a great challenge. So far we’ve had an incredible response from the Indian market,” says Mirchandani.

Epigamia1Keeping in mind a legacy of oily and fried snacks in the face of shifting consumer patterns towards seeking healthier lifestyles, a Snack Pack, priced at Rs 50-60, was launched recently. The Snack Packs, which consist of 100g of yogurt, along with a mix-in pack of chunky granola is an ideal on-the-go snack. It’s available in three flavours, including jalapeño. The Indian palette is an interesting one. For years we have been having dahi. As a consumer palette, Indians are comfortable with savory. According to Mirchandani, the jalapeño is their version of the raita. A move that industry watchers feel the company is using to differentiate itself from other players.

Since the last four years, Hokey Pokey ice cream and Epigamia Yoghurt are available nationwide. Epigamia is available at about 4,000 distribution points across India, with the widest distribution in Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. The recently launched Epigamia Snack Pack should eventually be available in most of the retail outlets. And Hokey Pokey ice cream is available in 250-300 retail outlets across the same metros mentioned above.

Production of both, the ice cream and the Greek yoghurt is out-sourced from third party manufacturers in Maharashtra and in Karnataka. Soon a third facility in Jaipur will be added to cater to the northern regions. The way Mirchandani looks at the business is “We are not in the dairy business. We are in consumer and branding,” he says.

Dairy products are extremely temperature sensitive, especially ones that do not contain any preservatives. As a result, the focus is on optimizing its in-house cold chain supply, and ensuring retailers understand the importance of keeping its products at the optimum temperature.

For now the company is tight-lipped about their revenue numbers, but are happy to share that in six months, Epigamia sales are up 140 per cent. Funds are coming in. The company raised Rs44.5 crore in its Series-A funding round in July 2016 from Verlinvest, the Belgian marquee consumer investor, and DSG Consumer Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund. Drums is also backed by angel investors such as Shripad Nadkarni (founder, Fingerlix and ex-CMO, Coca Cola India), Fireside Ventures (led by former Helion Ventures co-founder, Kanwaljit Singh), Vish Narain (Partner, TPG Growth), Kunal Kapoor (Bollywood actor) among others. To date, the company has raised Rs65 crore. “The raised funds are being utilized for talent acquisition, enhancing our supply chain and increasing production capacity,” says Mirchandani.

There is a lot of buzz in the category for sure. Young boutique players such as The Butternut Co., White Cub, Bono, The Parfait Co., to name a few, are also taking up shelf space. In the face of the big players, it’s the value proposition of the new players which which help them stand out.

 

The return of Bally

bally-ginza

After a lull of two years, the iconic Italian luxury brand Bally, is making its way back to India. Teaming up with Reliance Brands Ltd., Bally will open its first store at DLF Emporio in New Delhi in March 2017. Under the terms of the agreement, the joint venture will have exclusive distribution and marketing rights for Bally in the country.

Bally had previously entered the Indian market with the New Delhi based Bird Group. However, the partnership was terminated in 2014.

The new store is part of the brand’s global expansión, which has seen the opening of two new concept flagship stores in Tokyo’s Ginza and Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive earlier this year. In India, Bally and Reliance are looking at further expansion in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in the future.  Frederic de Narp, CEO of Bally is excited about this joint venture. “Joining forces with a partner of this calibre makes us very confident that we can be relevant and successful in the market. Indian consumers are very discerning and have an appreciation for quality and craftsmanship, the demands for which Bally is perfectly suited to meet,” he says.

Reliance Brands has a mandate to launch and build international and domestic brand equity in the premium to luxury segment across apparel, footwear and lifestyle business. Its current portfolio of brand partnerships comprises of, to mention a few, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Brooks Brothers, Diesel, Dune, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gas, Kenneth Cole, Muji, Paul & Shark, Reiss, Steve Madden.

Steeped in rich heritage, Bally is one of the first luxury shoemakers, internationally. From the onset, it brought together, form and function in shoe design, produced with excellence, boldness and creativity. 165 years later, the name Bally stands for authentic Swiss design and quality. The brand offers elegant and timeless designs across various categories including accessories, ready-to-wear and eyewear.

As with many other luxury brands, Bally too faced a slow-down in the early 2000s. In 2013, Frederic de Nap was brought in to turn around the iconic brand. De Nap has to his credit the successful turnaround of Harry Winston Inc., the famed American jeweller and watchmaker. In 2014, Pablo Coppola was appointed design director for all Bally collections – ready to wear, shoes, handbags and accessories, as well as overall brand image and communications. Since his arrival at Bally, Coppola has led the new design direction for the brand, in a period that heralds a new chapter for Bally.

 

 

 

Looking new, stores and all!

Converse, the iconic American sneaker which has been in the Indian market since 2009, is getting its act together. It is now on par with the global brand, launching collections alongside the global timeline, stores are spruced up and the brand is finally getting the attention it deserves. According to Rachna Aggarwal, Converse is now fully on par with the global entity. She expects the brand to cross Rs100 crore this year.

The customer today is far more demanding than he was five years ago. He / she wants a product that is available everywhere. For instance, last year, Converse had launched its Chuck Taylor All Star II Reflective Print Collection. Unfortunately, FLF was late to bring the collection to India, and instead launched it this year. “The number of consumers who know internationally that Converse has launched Chuck II, and that there is a camouflage range out is amazing. I’ve got people texting me asking if the camouflage Chuck II range has reached. So consumers who know it, know it,” says Aggarwal.

Converse4

Converse is now on par with the global entity: Rachna Aggarwal

India has become an important market for Converse. It has understood that India, as a market, can’t be behind the rest of the world. With China slowing down, the growth is here. “Last year they felt we could do it (launch a collection) a year later. This time we said it’s not going to happen. India gets it at the same time, or skips it. Because when you follow social media, I know what’s happening everywhere,” says Aggarwal.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based Converse Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of NIKE, Inc. The 108 year old brand has built a reputation as ‘America’s Original Sports Company,™ and has been associated with shoes such as the Chuck Taylor® All Star® shoe, the Jack Purcell® shoe and the One Star® shoe. Today, Converse offers a diverse portfolio including lifestyle men’s, women’s and children’s footwear, apparel and accessories and is sold globally by retailers in over 160 countries.

In India, Future Lifestyle Fashions Ltd (FLF), is the brand licensee and has been managing the brand since 2009. The company has been solely responsible for marketing the brand in India, and for ensuring a top of mind recall in a competitive market. Converse is available in the key metros including Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Mohali.

So who is buying Converse shoes? According to Aggarwal, CEO, Indus League, division of Future Lifestyle Fashion, Converse is not a male brand any more. The consumer has changed.  Many women and tweens are buying the shoes. So, sizes are getting smaller. There has been a huge change in the consumer’s lifestyle over the last couple of years. The whole world of formal and casual is breaking up. The youth segment is finding its own genres and dress codes. Atheleisure is taking over as a dress code. Even hairstyles are radically different from five years back. Youngsters sport tattoos and piercings. It might look rebellious, but it has all moved beyond the rebellious.

Noticing the huge growth in the atheleisure / lifestyle business, the Future group took a call to gro

Converse8

The new-look Converse store.

w the sports business, and brought in brands like Converse, Champion and Umbro. In 2013, the Future group undertook a group wide internal restructuring, consolidating the group’s small businesses into three main legal entities – Future Lifestyle Fashion, Future Retail and Future Consumer. Future Consumer is the food space which comprises all the work the group does in food parks and all the brands in the food space. Future Retail comprises primarily Big Bazaar and other formats within the group such as e–Zone and Home Town. Future Lifestyle Fashion became a consolidation of the group’s retail businesses such as Central, Planet Sports, Brand Factory and all the brand businesses. By this consolidation, all the brands were moved out of retail to be managed as brands, and retail was left to be run as pure retail as an arm’s length transaction.

What used to happen previously is that Converse was sold as part of Planet Sports in all the Centrals. So Planet Sports used to be in Central and there would be Converse inside it. This has changed. Instead, now, each brand has its own dedicated section. So there will be a Converse section, a Champion section and a Umbro section. “A person is coming to buy each brand,” says Aggarwal. “So in the process of the next six months in every Central across the country, you can actually go and buy Converse and not a `shoe’,” she says.

The brand’s first global identity store was launched November 2015 at Ambience Mall in Gurgaon (NCR). Its second exclusive store was launched recently at Chennai’s Express Mall. Plans are to redo the Infinity Mall, Malad, store in Mumbai to the new global identity. Plans are to open a store in Dehradun, West Bengal. Besides being a young market, Aggarwal feels North East India is more fashion conscious than the rest of the country. “The fashion sensibility is different in the hilly regions,” she says. And of course, there is online sales.

Future Lifestyle Fashion’s turnover is expected to be around Rs3,500 crore this year. For Converse, the company is looking at almost 40 per cent growth in the coming year. “The last year has been about consolidation, setting things right, moving to global line. We have stopped doing a lot of India sourcing. We have become global, because that is what we think the Converse consumer is looking for,” she says.Converse7

In April this year, the new global line was launched the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II Reflective Print Collection. “I think there is a deterring customer who is willing to pay for the right product. I’m not saying people are willing to buy expensive things. People are willing to pay for what they believe is the right value, whether the value is in the brand name, or whether the value is in the design, is up to each person’s perception and what they are willing to pay,” she adds.

Being a youth centric brand, Converse gets interwoven into the lifestyle of the customer. Converse Inc.’s property, Converse Rubber Tracks, is one way that the brand connects with its customers. “This is a great property to allow us to become a part of their lifestyle,” says Aggarwal.

Converse Rubber Tracks is a global family of community-based professional recording studios. Emerging musicians of all genres can apply for free studio time. If selected, artists record at no cost while maintaining the rights to their own music.

In India, Converse has developed the platform as The Road to Converse Rubber Tracks. Since its first edition in 2014, it has become a hugely successful platform that gives independent bands / artistes in India an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and cut a record of their own. Being a property that was developed around the brand thought, the brand’s creativity and the brand’s connection with the youth, Aggarwal thought all of that was valid when one is trying to build a brand. “This is not a brand that you can build by just advertising. You have to get into the lives of the consumer,” she says.

Converse5

Dosser’s Urge – the winners of the second edition of The Road to Rubber Tracks

The first edition of The Road to Rubber Tracks in 2014 exceeded everyone’s expectations of what was possible to do in India. It gave a platform to The F-16s, an electro-indie band from Chennai. The winner of the second edition earlier in April this year, was Guwahati-based rock band Dosser’s Urge.