Category: Lifestyle

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

 

All art and soul

 

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A large canvas painted during the third art camp in 1998, representing the joint efforts of Manjit Bawa, Pritipal Ladi, Ranvinder Reddy, Surendran Nair, Nalini Malini, Dhruva Mistry, Paramjit Singh, Arpita Singh and Jayashree Chakravarty. 

Christie’s fourth consecutive India sale in Mumbai on December 18, promises to be an interesting one. Leading the auction is Bengaluru based Abhishek and Radhika Poddar’s collection of modern Indian art, painstakingly built over the past 30 years.

A total of 41 lots will be offered from this collection, including important works by Tyeb Mehta, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Ganesh Pyne, Meera Mukherjee, Bhupen Khakhar and several other modern Indian artists. According to Sonal Singh, Head of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, head of department, Christie’s, Mumbai, while outside of India there have been lager private collections offered for auction, for India, this is one of the most important collections from a living collector to come to auction.

As each work is either acquired directly from the artist or from leading gallerists, each lot comes with an immaculate provenance. At the heart of the collection are seven works by Manjit Bawa, whom Abhishek met way back in 1987. According to Singh, the auction estimate for any work of art is based on several factors, including recent prices achieved for similar works by the artist, the object’s rarity, and its overall condition. “Since most of these works have been acquired directly from the artists, they have not been exhibited, published or offered for sale before, increasing their rarity,” she says.

Its not easy deciding which works to put up on auction, especially since each work has a personal tale behind it. For Abhishek, it was tough deciding which works to put up for auction. The catalogue essay emphasises on the Poddars building one of India’s most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary art, antiquities, folk and tribal art, and textiles. The collection also reflects their longstanding personal relationships with artists, gallerists and scholars, as well as their knowledge and connoisseurship which developed over the years. Their collecting has always been based on an innate respect for the arts, and a drive to learn about and document the country’s diverse cultural landscape. “When putting up your works in a public domain, the choice of works had to tie in with the essay,” says Abhishek. Now, the collection is growing indifferent directions.

The highest valued work from the collection is Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled Diagonal), 1975wabhishek3hich shows two human figures, from the artist’s diagonal series (Lot 111, estimate: INR10,00,00,000 – 15,00,00,000 / US$1.5 – 2.2 million). This was an important acquisition for the Poddars from the late Kekoo Gandhy’s Gallery Chemould in Mumbai. It was also at Chemould that the Poddars also acquired the Gaitonde in the sale, a 1973 abstract work (Lot 129 estimate: INR 9,00,00,000-12,00,00,000 / US$ 1.3-1.6 million).

Born and raised in a business family in Calcutta, Abhishek was familiarised with the basic notion of collecting and living with art at a young age. While studying at The Doon School, the legendary boarding school for boys in the Himalayan foothills of Dehradun, he established the school’s first art magazine. Akshat underlined Poddar’s early grasp of the various genres and geographies of the art world. After the magazine was launched, Abhishek made it a point to meet and thank all of the artists who contributed to the magazine, setting in motion several personal relationships, and further introductions that influenced the course of his collecting. Today, besides running the family business, Abhishek runs Tasveer, a gallery dedicated to photography. Radhika owns and manages the lifestyle store, Cinnamon.

The Poddar collection was formed in the 1980s and 1990s, before the market for modern

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Bhupen Khakhar (1934 – 2003) `Interior of a temple’. Estimate INR 10,000,000 – 15,000,000 ($147,553 – 221,330) Pics source: http://www.christies.com

and contemporary art in India took off. According to Christie’s Singh, it represents the best works of a wide range of Indian artists, showcasing the ways in which their styles and idioms developed over time. Rare early works by Arpita Singh, Bhupen Khakhar, Meera Mukherjee and Ganesh Pyne help understand the evolution of these artist’s bodies of work. The collection is thus important for connoisseurs, collectors and art historians, offering a glimpse into a vital period of modern Indian art that is yet to be completely documented.

So if you can still make it for the Mumbai preview on December 16 – 17 at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, it would be worth it.

A classic auction

 

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Vasudeo S. Gaitonde Untitled. Estimate $1, 800, 000 – $ 2, 200,000. Painted in 1970. Source: http://www.christies.com

Christie’s upcoming South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in New York this week will be part of Asian Art Week in New York. It’s quite a classic sale. The auction presents paintings by leading modern Indian masters, such as Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain and Jehangir Sabavala, alongside significant contemporary works by Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Shilpa Gupta and Sheba Chhachhi. Also included are important works by South Asian modernists George Keyt, Abdur Rahman Chughtai, Rashid Choudhury and Sheikh Mohammed Sultan. The sale offers an overview of the past 100 years of Indian art making.

The catalogue is a nice collection of contemporary works. One of the noteworthy works is a 1970 work by Gaitonde Untitled. Featured on the cover of the catalogue, the work was painted when Gaitonde was recognised as being at the peak of his artistic powers. The painting, which displays a kind of non-objective chiaroscuro, is a meditative masterpiece and represents a cornerstone in Gaitonde’s oeuvre (estimate: $1,800,000-2,200,000). The consignor of the work, Dara Mehta, acquired the work at a public auction of antiques and collectibles from the estate of philanthropist Dr Jamshed Jehangir Bhabha, last April. It would be interesting to see what the Gaitonde goes for considering his 1975 canvas, Untitled  sold for a record $4,384,777, a world auction record not only for the artist, but for any modern Indian work of art at the South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art auction in May this year.

Other interesting works are that of Raza’s L’Orage and Zamine. L’Orage perfectly presents Raza’s longing for the Indian landscape so acutely felt and articulated in the 1970s. It is Raza’s exaltation of and homage to India, a place he revisited through every brushstroke, capturing the essence and colors of the country during his years away.

From the contemporary Indian artists, there are notable works by Shilpa Gupta, Bharti Kher and Hema Upadhyay. Then there is the Pakistani-American artist, Seher Shah’s first work, titled Jihad Pop ($8,000 – 12,000).

The entire proceeds from the sale of Lots 695 – 700D will be going towards The Germination Project. The Germination Project is a non-profit catalytic incubator under the aegis of the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundaton in Philadelphia, USA. One of the initiatives of the Germination Project is IntXchange, a transnational art advocacy network, dedicated to forming a new art and culture exchange between the East and the West.

The revolution continues…

Riyaaz4Riyaaz Amlani is on a roll. Ever since he launched Social, the collaborative workspace concept in 2014, he has had no time for a breather. He has been launching one new Social every few months. Recently, he launched the fifth Social – Capital Social – in Mumbai, at the Bandra Kurla Complex, and the 10th in India. Designed as part bunker – part refuge, this launch speaks of the success of the format and the ideology – the bottomless appetite for the second space that mixes business with pleasure. “It’s an idea that has found resonance with people,” says Riyaaz Amlani, founder & CEO, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.

The next three years will be all about Social. As for the other brands under the Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality umbrella, – Mocha, the coffee house the company started with in 2001 is now in 20 tier 2 cities. Smokehouse Deli, the fine dine restaurant is expanding, but slowly. There should be 15 of them nationwide by 2017. Then there is Saltwater Grill, Salt Water Café, The Tasting Room, and Stone Water Grill and Le Kebabiere in Pune.

With an aim to be in the top three restaurant chains in the country, Amlani has no plans of slowing down.

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What a beautiful Boardwalk!

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There is a little bit of Greece, just off the coast of Mumbai. As you sail into Madwa port, you can see the white sun
Boardwalk8umbrellas swaying in the breeze. Cross the jetty, and Boardwalk by Flamboyante, the new restaurant on the jetty is just what Mumbai needed. A get-away for the day, though close by, it is capable of transporting you miles away.

Boardwalk is the dream of Ashim Mongia, MD of Mumbai based West Coast Marine. A visit to Boardwalk in Dubai years ago, made him determined to build something similar in Mumbai. It’s a 20 year old dream, which came to fruition on his 20th wedding anniversary.

The idea is to make this a place that even people from Mumbai could go to. In 2014, Madwa Port LLp, a consortium of companies comprising West Coast Marine and a couple of others, won the tender put out by the Maharashtra Maritime Board to develop the facilities at Mandwa jetty. As part of this development programme, Kiki’s Cafe

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Partners all three: (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

Partners all three (L to R) Amrish Arora, Devika Sehgal, Ashim Mongia

and the MTDC were given space.

 

 

Teaming up with school friend Amrish Arora, MD of Flamboyante, a Mumbai based restaurant, for Boardwalk was a no-brainer. The Mumbai people in Alibaug know Arora because of his restaurant and cateBoardwalk6ring services he provided for the weekenders.”Besides the Elephanta Caves,Bombay doesn’t have any tourism. We need a showpiece. We are capitalising on the lovely coastline,” says Ashim Mongia.

Boardwalk is a full day restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and sun-downers. The idea is to get the jetty buzzing and it should work, as the rest of the jetty gets developed.

A fantasy fare

Mumbai based debut author, Farah Oomerbhoy, launched her book; The Last of the Firedrakes – The Avalonia Chronicles in India four months after the book’s US launch by Minnesota-based Wise Ink Creative Publishing. The book has done well since then. The Last of the Firedrakes has been honoured as a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards 2015, and placed in the Collector’s Dream category in the Watty Awards as one of the most added stories of 2015 on Wattpad. Seeing the book’s success in the US, Farah felt it was time to launch the book at home. Her book has taken many by surprise. “We didn’t even know you were writing,” friends have said to her.

Farah is from two business families. She is the daughter of Zinia Lawyer, who was director at the erstwhile Associated Breweries & Distilleries,

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Author Farah Oomerbhoy

brewers of the once famous London Pilsner brand of beer which was merged with Vijay Mallya’s United Brewery in the year 2000. She is married to Riyad Oomerbhoy, MD of RR Oomerbhoy (RRO) Pvt. Ltd. (RRO manufactures Primio branded edible oils (ground nut, sesame oil) and markets Barilla branded pastas and pasta sauces, Express Foods range of products and Boursin cheese.) With business in her blood, Farah did think of doing business with her mother. In fact, she went to Babson College, Boston, albeit, for a semester. “I realized that I just couldn’t do it. There was calculus and just stuff that I didn’t want to do. It wasn’t interesting for me,” she says. So she returned to Mumbai and graduated from St. Xavier’s College, and later completed her MA in English Literature from Mumbai University. “I always loved writing. I used to write a little and put it away and I never really finished anything. A little bit of poetry here and there. Then finally I started this book when I had the idea,” she says.

The Last of the Firedrakes is a fantastic adventure story set in Avalonia, a dangerous land ruled by powerful magicians and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms – including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear. With the help of a young fae, a magical Pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora, the protagonist, journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within her. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.

Growing up on a staple of Enid Blyton books which are distinctly set in England, and later Narnia’s adventures, imagining magic and magical worlds was not difficult. Farah has been creating a fantasy world for close to 10 years. Notebooks are filled with kingdoms mapped out, from the trade routes to which shops are in which town and which cities. A tapestry in her grandmother’s house depicting a forest and a castle was the doorway to the fantasy world of Avalonia. “Actually I thought of the world before. I never really thought of the story of how to get to that world or what to do with it. So I used to draw maps and write a little bit about this kingdom and that, then I would keep it away. It was fun for me; a hobby. Then one day I saw this tapestry and it just clicked that what if this tapestry was the way into the world,” says Farah.

Separate chapters were uploaded to Wattpad, a free e-reading site, to get a sense of reader feedback. Almost immediately she had a huge load of followers asking for the next chapter. Farah got 1 million reads on Wattpad. By March 2014, her chapters were on the top of Wattpad’s fantasy list.

Now that the first of the trilogy has been a success, expectations are high for the sequel. Farah’s Facebook page is inundated with queries for book two. So the stress is building up. “As people do like the book, the next book has to be as good or better,” she says.

With not many Indian writers catering to the fantasy adventure category for teens and young adults, Farah has put her foot in through that door with The Last of the Firedrakes – The Avalonia Chronicles.