Saris and Louis Vuitton: Luxury Brands Eyeing India for Future Growth

India is considered "the next China" for luxury goods growth and the next few years should bring a rush of brands hoping to establish themselves.

NEW DELHI — The woman in the crimson sari is making a beeline for the cherry bags.

Immediately upon stepping into this city’s sole Louis Vuitton store, a quiet boutique in the lobby of the lavish Oberoi hotel, her eyes are on Vuitton’s new monogrammed cherry bag collection. Within minutes, she’s swapped the luxe black leather handbag she carried in for the fruit-emblazoned Speedy model, checking herself out in front of the mirror with a wide smile. The red details on the bag almost exactly match the color of her bright, floaty sari.

Welcome to the world of fashion in modern India, where traditional styles like the sari and brand new luxury must-haves are starting to coexist. It’s an interesting mix not seen in many other places in the world, and retailers couldn’t be happier: After all, India is considered by many to be “the next China” as far as luxury consumption and development, and the next few years are expected to bring in a rush of foreign brands hoping to establish themselves before an expected retail boom.

Expansion into the country is happening already. Louis Vuitton, frequently among the first luxury brands to enter a potential market (they had the foresight to open in China 13 years ago), now has two stores in India: the two-year-old shop at the Oberoi and a boutique that opened in September in the swank Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay. Chanel opened its first India store last month in New Delhi’s Imperial Hotel. And Donatella Versace just made a splash on the front page of the country’s national newspapers when she announced, during a visit to Mumbai in March, that Versace would be opening five boutiques in the country next year.

“As soon as [China’s market] started to grow, everyone began looking at India’s population and demographics and realized that they needed to include us in their global plan as well,” said Superna R. Motwane, editor in chief and publisher of Indian versions of L’Officiel and Seventeen magazines. “A lot of people are banking on India as the new China, and we’re all just keeping our fingers crossed that it actually happens.”
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