Why local brands are a vital counterbalance to the dominance of international luxury brands
Luxury is well-known for its resilience in the face of economic and societal challenges, and the rebound post-pandemic is quite rightly recognised as clear proof of this.
However, the recovery across different markets has been uneven, and in certain markets such as China, the delay in this rebound, driven by the longer lockdown conditions in that market, is only just starting to unwind. Burberry for example recently announced improved results driven largely by the return of the Chinese consumer.
What is interesting though is that there has been some noticeable growth in the local Chinese Luxury brands, who were of course more accessible during lockdown. They were well ahead in the use of consumer technology, and the space created by the absence of western luxury brands has given them the chance to grow. In a country such as China which is not known for its Luxury heritage or craft, this is quite remarkable. To be absolutely clear, this does not herald an era in which international Luxury brands will experience any reduction in their aspirational value for many consumers, but is in effect a small rebalancing of the opportunities for local luxury brands.
With its far greater heritage of Luxury, India has an even greater opportunity to create, build and celebrate its own local luxury brands, but in many cases, the consumer does not yet value them as being ‘Luxury’. Perhaps that’s because they are too familiar; or perhaps the branding does not provide the luxury ‘cues’; or perhaps the goods themselves are just missing that final element of attention to detail that is demanded by luxury consumers; perhaps the lack of high profile celebrity connection is a factor; or perhaps the experience in store is not good enough.
Whatever the reason, and with the exception of Sabyasachi, these brands are missing out on opportunities right now, precisely when the Indian Luxury market is growing exponentially. Even those brands that are featured on the catwalks at Fashion Shows in London, Paris, New York, or Milan do not exude the Luxury branding and experiential qualities of their international counterparts.
Local Luxury is an important part of the wider luxury market. It often uses local techniques to an incredibly high level that have both cultural and historical relevance. Local communities are involved in their production, keeping volumes relatively low, with an emphasis on hand-crafting, and the sourcing of materials is local and done with care. Without even naming it as such, they are ‘Sustainable Luxury’ simply because that is the way the products have always been made.
In a luxury world where there can be a bland homogeneity of the same international brands, that have little cultural reference to the local market, apart from some well-chosen celebrities, local luxury brands add some vibrancy and colour. That is why I strongly believe that it’s so important for consumers and specialists like ourselves to support them, raising awareness of them both within their home market and overseas.
Regular readers of my posts will have noticed that I often promote local Luxury brands, such as Jaipur Watch Company, Rhizome furniture, Naso Profumi, Ether Chocolate, Indiano Pelletteria, Sawansukha Jewellers (their incredible Avtarni
necklace is shown below) and Confidential Couture (a luxury vintage resale business).
I’d encourage more of you to visit our YouTube channel (Helen Cooper Luxury) and watch the ‘In My Experience’ videos that we’ve recorded with some amazing Indian Luxury entrepreneurs. These are brands that do not just use local crafts and techniques for a season’s collection, but ongoing as part of their DNA.
Whilst China is still a dominant market in the global luxury landscape, India is following in its footsteps, and as we all know, India is a very fast follower!
As more international brands launch in India every month, we need to ensure that the local luxury brands are not left behind. They often don’t have access to the resources and expertise that the bigger brands have, which is how we can help them, but recognition by others of their value in the wider Luxury market is equally important.