Interview with Rahul Mishra
Stanislas Dembinski July-August 2016
Indian Designer with a Strong French Connection
Rahul Mishra is a young and evolving Indian fashion designer with a successful collection in the yearly Paris Fashion week. He has a clear vision of the specifics of the booming Indian luxury market and how to develop internationally, in a landscape of big fashion groups such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton) or Kering (Gucci).
What is your connection with Paris?
Being a couturier and a designer, I showcase every season in Paris, in the calendar of the French fashion week. I have been supplying to prestigious shops like Colette. My brand has been retailing there for the last three seasons. I have a strong connection with Paris because what I make and produce in India, I showcase in Paris fashion week where I gain global access, global orders, make public relations and international media coverage. In a way, my office is partly in India and partly in Paris right now.
Is Paris still a world capital of fashion?
I think Paris is by far the most prominent Fashion capital in the world. This season, the French Fashion Federation made a declaration that there were designers from 20 different nationalities showcasing in the French capital. And I think Paris is the only place which is a global fashion destination, where buyers as well as customers, come and shop. So, in that way nobody can deny that it is one of the most important fashion hubs in the world. It has people from everywhere and it requires a lot of talent to be there, be recognised and visible to the rest of the world.
Do you intend to partner one day with French international luxury groups such as LVMH (Louis Vuitton) notably or Kering (Gucci) among others?
Clothes create a brand but sales are created out of accessories, perfume, beauty products, and that is only possible when a brand becomes global. So, for sure, it is going to be a kind of organic practice and strategy for us to go with luxury groups like Louis Vuitton or Kering in the future. To involve them in our decision making in our brand establishment and at the same time involve them into marketing our products is, what I think, one of the strongest potential moves.
We are already getting a lot of interest in our brand, notably from French companies, so I am very hopeful we will see something like that happening very soon. I have been amongst the fastest selling brands on the floors of Colette, where all the top brands of the world are sold. So in that way, what potential my brand offers, I really don’t know right now. I do not think I will go so soon into valuing my company on entirety but probably I would do a valuation based on a five years plan that the company has and give a smaller stake in my company, where the partner company comes and puts together their expertise on marketing, on business development, on PR and everything.
So for us, these coming few years are going to be very crucial: how we want to take this forward, how do we partner with the right kind of people, and how we keep our artistic freedom intact. I know for a fact, at a very early stage of my career, I cannot have an artistic freedom forever intact. There will be a time when my thought process could be obsolete because that is what happens with all the big designers. You have to be somebody like Karl Lagerfeld to be relevant at Chanel, even at the age of 82, but, I am very hopeful that I will be able to retain something like that.
What is the right approach to the Indian luxury market for a foreign investor?
I would always believe that if one foreign company comes to an Indian company, it should look at the scalability of its partner and not be limited to the Indian market. I think the world is becoming smaller day by day.
A global brand means a brand with international reach. A designer who has a strong product and a strong design language, which is universal, can only succeed in the vision that he will have of taking, with those partners, the brand global and scaling it up to a newer level and then get a high valuation for that brand.
In that way, a designer who has a very strong global footprint and whose products fit into a universal kind of language, but at the same time that are rooted in the traditional idea of India, can be the best bet. You then get the best of both worlds and have products that can be marketed across the globe, where all the French luxury companies have already a very strong hold in marketing such giant luxury labels.
What are the specificities of the Indian luxury market?
Obviously, India’s luxury consumption is quite based on the big events in the society and its collective life. A lot of luxury, which is an opulent one, goes with weddings and other functions in India. Also, it is not something that is there for consumption on a day to day basis. In western markets, what is created on European runways goes straight away as in terms of consumption. What’s more, you have to bear in mind that Indians, in terms of luxury consumption, do already buy a lot of western products, for example from France. It might not be at a windfall state like it happened in China, but India also is going to grow faster. At the same time, this foreign consumption is still very limited, as compared to the amount of Indian luxury bought.
What is the potential of this Indian luxury market in terms of growth and creative power?
Potentially, India is one of the strongest countries when it comes to luxury. Not just on the point of view that India has an over 1.2 billion population, or that it has millions of people that can already buy luxury, but actually that India has got a population of millions of people who can create luxury, with craftsmanship and a sense of detail.
This can bring a natural partnership with France, as Paris offers the biggest venue for luxury consumption across the globe. Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Make in India” echoes how the French market has evolved in the last hundreds of years, building on specific craftsmanship such as hand-made beam and very coveted items specifics of the “Made in France”. The question is how we can do the same thing in India. I think these are very tailor made opportunities for both France and India.
How can you create an integrated luxury group in India, with couture, prêt, accessories, perfume, and beauty products, to expand the European way?
If a wholly integrated Indian group comes and hires the right kind of professionals from India and abroad, that might be possible. You might see the biggest luxury group coming out of India because all the companies are driven with human resources, not alone with money. So that might happen, you never know how things change.