Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Poverty + Fashion = ?

A man modeled a Burberry umbrella in Vogue that costs about $200. Some 456 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Nearly half of India’s population — about 456 million people — live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week. But as any well-briefed luxury goods executive or private banker knows, India also has a fast-growing wealthy class and emerging middle class that make it one of the world’s most attractive new places to sell high-end products.

The juxtaposition between poverty and growing wealth presents an unsavory dilemma for luxury goods makers jumping into India: How does one sell something like a $1,000 handbag in a country where most people will never amass that sum of money in their lives, and many are starving? The answer is not clear cut, though Vogue’s approach may not be the way to go.

Marketers need to “create brand awareness” in India, said Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner with the consulting firm Bain & Company, who is based in Milan. She recommended the approach that some consumer brand companies took in China, opening big flagship stores and trying new forms of advertising like television.

No comments: