Second only to China, India continues its rise as a very desirable emerging market. With the cool-down of Western economies, global brand marketers are aggressively seeking out new opportunities in India. Marketers of luxury goods have had a tough time making their presence known, however. As noted here, outlets for luxury brands are scarce in India, because there are few centers of luxury. Instead, luxury brands are sold primarily in top luxury hotels or in a handful of exclusive malls.
That may be why Saloni Lodha, an up and coming Indian designer based in London, is using a different tactic: She is trying to put a luxury spin on the fact that her clothing line carries the "Made in India" label. Lodha recently told Agence France-Presse, "I have great faith in the made-in-India idea, and wanted to see an Indian, made-in-India brand in the world's best stores."
If anyone can pull it off, it is likely to be this thirty-year old.
She brought 10 designs to market in 2007 under her Saloni label and has made her mark on the fashion world ever since. Now her designs are found in upscale boutiques around the world and prized by celebrities and socialites. The Saloni brand appears in Europe (the U.K. and Germany), the Middle East (Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), Asia (India and South Korea) and the U.S. (Barneys in Atlanta, Beverly Hills, Miami, New York and San Francisco; The Webster in Miami; Satine in Los Angeles). The line was recently expanded to include handbags and jewelry.
Other luxury brands have incorporated Indian styles and fabrics on occasion. Hermes, for example, introduced limited edition saris in late 2011, Armani has used Indian embroideries for gowns, and Chanel featured India's royal heritage in its recent Paris/Bombay collection designed by Karl Lagerfeld. None, however, has touted "Made in India" as a luxury badge.
That's where Lodha differentiates her line. She says one of the things that makes her brand unique is the close connection between the U.K. and India. Lodha is proud of using Indian weavers and knitters all across the country and believes India's textile tradition and craftsmanship are benefits worth promoting. "India has incredible craftsmanship," says Lodha. "There are skills here you just can't replicate. Made-in-India is a luxury on so many levels."
Lodha started out in India as a graphic designer and then opened temporary stores to sell dresses made of Indian materials before she studied fashion design in London. When she launched her own line in 2007, it was well received by London department stores and other retailers. Only a handful of Indian designers have successfully penetrated markets outside of India. But Saloni Lodha is unique. She started her business outside of India and just last summer brought Saloni to Le Mill, a boutique in Mumbai. Sales have been brisk, so expansion within India is likely.
Saloni Lodha has every reason to believe she can make "Made in India" a mark of luxury — both outside and inside India. Below, watch Vogue UK's profile of the Saloni label's London Fashion Week collection last September: