The world is changing and it is not changing to the benefit of the manufacturers and retailers of so-called “luxury”. In the past, prestige was due to quantified distance between classes and masses. But today, it is a time in history where luxury is going through a communist phase and the masses are no longer at a financial distance from it. Prestige and exclusivity have to be driven by distance and this distance cannot be quantified financially any longer. It is a distance that has become cultural and intellectual. It is at this juncture that India will emerge and play a vital role in the luxury market. It will cut both ways. Firstly, by becoming a formidable space for luxury consumption, secondly by producing creators/patrons of luxury communities that set their own definitive standards and parameters. People have curiously debated over the last decade as to why India has not yet been able to become a global player in the luxury space. The answer is simple. In India, we have for the longest time stopped believing in ourselves, our ability, our vision and faith in our tradition and culture, not knowing that the seeds of luxury are planted in those very things.
Luxury is a very relative concept. What is commonplace for one person could be another’s luxury. But the lowest common denominator is that luxury has to create an experience that elevates you from everyday existence. It could be bottled in 100 millilitres or packaged in a finely crafted trunk or felt in a fine cashmere coat and for many of us, it could just be great food, time spent with loved ones, an afternoon siesta or just a simple barefoot walk in the park.But anything that falls in the luxury space has to be in the purest form and cannot follow global standards – then it is just branded luxury. Pure luxury has to create its own benchmark and set its own standard.
India needs to realise that luxury cannot be created from a point of subjugation. You need to be a leader in thought and principle; the world has to look up to you for a solution, not look down upon you for service. We have enough within ourselves and our history, to show the world a thing or two about what pure luxury stands for.
During the meltdown, our friends abroad had fancy cars and dresses but often mortgaged houses. In India, we might have had a backward, humble existence but a home to call our own and money secured for our children’s education. The West saluted us and looked at us with new-found respect.And the game changed.
Respect is the key ingredient of luxury; respect of dignity, respect of high standards, respect of craftsmanship or just respect of an ideology that we don’t possess and hence aspire for. Death of aspiration is the death of luxury. The biggest consumers in the world today are people with new money. Luxury shares a rather hypocritical relationship with new money. You may loathe it, but you cannot do without it. New money drives away old money. But old money, “our really valued patron” brings new money in. It is a classic catch 22 situation. One needs to realise that culture, intellect and wisdom come slow and are not germinating areas in sectors where financial growth is rapid and unstable. So while old money looks at culture and intellect as old acquaintances, new money wants to cling to them to stabilise itself. New luxury, ladies and gentlemen, is not going to be about what’s new. It’s going to be about what’s been there and neglected, what needs to be revived, cultured and cultivated.
There is a spiritual awakening happening in every part of the world. It comes from being unhappy for way too long, broken relationships, dysfunctional families, socio–economic crises and terrorist threats that question the human propensity to save. It does make you introspect about your existence. This awakening empowers you to not use materialism as a crutch. It might be a whisper today but this awakening will soon be a revolution – not a great thing for manufacturers of so-called luxury.
India is going through a revolution even as we speak. We have at last realised our strength comes from history, our age-old culture and our emotional connect. A lot of us don’t need a fancy car or a branded handbag to feel good anymore.
So, step in India because it is truly your time. The world needs you differently, not to manufacture or serve but to show them the way. And, for an Indian to create a global brand, there is only one way forward and that is to think Indian. Dip into your past and lead the world to a better place. Align it back to culture and education, art and craft and you will be in a happy place with a stable business, producing and selling experience and products that you are genuinely proud of, to people who truly appreciate it for what it is. What you thought was your greatest liability will turn into your biggest asset. You will not produce branded luxury, just true and pure luxury.