French luxury goods maker Hermes has launched a limited edition Indian sari range to “connect” with Indian culture as it target buyers in new markets.
Indian women may wear Western dress to the office during the day but for weddings and other formal occasions they often prefer to wear six-yard (five and a half metre) elegantly draped saris, reflecting the strong pull of tradition.
However, there are no plans yet to make the collection a permanent addition to the company’s offerings.
There are a total of 28 saris being sold with one line priced at 300,000 rupees ($6,120) and another priced at 400,000 rupees ($8,158).
The launch of the saris, made of a variety of fabrics, from cashmere to twill silk, comes with the company aiming to win new luxury buyers in different markets.
Hermes last year offered a highly successful luxury Chinese brand — Shang Xia — in a bid to raise its profile in the Chinese market and use China’s craft tradition.
China has proved a strong market for Hermes, which makes the bulk of its sales from leather goods and holds a show for its ready-to-wear collection at Paris Fashion Week twice a year.
Luxury sales have been more sedate in India where the market has been held back by high import tariffs that prompt many rich Indians to splurge abroad.
However, there have been signs the market is picking up as Indians turn their backs on the mantra of frugality espoused by independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, who eschewed possessions.
A recent AT Kearney consultancy report projected the Indian luxury industry would grow by 25 percent a year to $14.7 billion by 2015.
And a new global affluence study by research firm TNS showed India has more wealthy households than many European nations including Germany and France.
This is the second limited edition sari collection for Hermes, which launched its first batch for a Millennium collection, and calls its relationship with India “a love affair”.
Beyond the saris, India’s richly coloured motifs have been reflected in Hermes’ scarf designs. Several years ago, then Hermes star designer Jean Paul Gaultier featured sari dresses in a collection called Indian Fantasies.
The company’s sari launch comes after Hermes recently sought to bolster its presence in India by opening a flagship store, one of its biggest in Asia, in Mumbai. It already has two outlets in New Delhi and the western city of Pune.
Most luxury brands in India are tucked away in five-star hotels or malls but Hermes chose to open its Mumbai store in a renovated colonial era street-level building.