Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Forbes India Luxury Special: Back in the high life

The super-rich are likely to pause but unlikely to batten down the hatches

Brian Carvalho
Published: Oct 10, 2019 10:14:33 AM IST
Updated: Oct 10, 2019 06:03:59 PM IST

Forbes India Luxury Special: Back in the high life

You won’t find it in the good old dictionaries, but the word ‘snobiety’ is a delightful mishmash of two very English dispositions: The snob and (high) society. Snobiety on its own is strictly not a word, but came into prominence in the mid-2000s when the Geneva-born David Fischer founded in Berlin as a streetwear blog. Over the years, Highsnobeity evolved into a platform for curated content on all things luxury, with an outpost in New York. And ‘all things luxury’ is not quite an exaggeration; in 2018, Highsnobeity produced a documentary called High End on—don’t hold your breath—luxury weed in the wake of California legalising cannabis for recreational use in late-2016 (before that, since 1996, cannabis was legal for medical use).

Snobeity in the Indian context is also about almost things luxury—barring a few forbidden horticultural pleasures—for a rapidly burgeoning high society. And the emergence of a rash of new technologies, from augmented and virtual reality to artificial intelligence and machine learning, is enabling the well-heeled to be privy to highly-personalised and enhanced retail experiences. In this fortnight’s cover story of Forbes India’s Luxury Issue, Pankti Mehta Kadakia delves into how luxury carmakers, fashion designers, jewellery brands and property developers are counting on technology to pamper the affluent. The objective of, and opportunity for, luxury retailers is to use connective technologies to offer a seamless and scalable online-offline experience, with the internet becoming the fulcrum of the shopping habit.

How does the spending of the super-rich suffer during an economic slowdown? A commonsense answer would be that (dollar) millionaires are less likely to compromise on their Guccis and Diors than a working class wage earner. When Forbes India’s intrepid writers Naini Thaker and Pranit Sarda stepped out to determine how loose the gold-gilded purse strings were, they did get an ‘all-is-well’ feeling, but that’s not all they came back with. While marketers of high-end cars (think Lamborghini) and high-street fashion insist there’s no let-up in consumer interest, travel & tourism is seeing a trend of high-flying holidaymakers cutting the duration and frills on their vacations (by perhaps skipping the arrival by yacht, which takes away the need for a pier at the villa, too). And, no matter how merrily you may be rolling in it, everybody loves a good discount, be it on a $1 million penthouse or a $10,000 purse. The verdict then? The super-rich are likely to pause but unlikely to batten down the hatches.

Along with a penchant for brick-and-mortar assets, the moneyed seem to be in a mood to acquire a slightly more unlikely resource: A conscience. Evidently, phrases like ‘sustainable sourcing’ and ‘ethically made’ are increasingly being heard among consumers and designers. One isn’t sure about their view on Greta Thunberg but, as Jasodhara Banerjee writes, sustainable clothing is about buying less and buying thoughtfully. The only paradox here is that the less you buy, the more you are likely to pay for it. But, heck, that’s snobeity at its best, right?

If luxury can be sustainable, it can also be inclusive—on the gender front and in terms of plus-size fashion. Kathakali Chanda delves into how a clutch of women has earned their spurs in an arena for long a preserve of the rich and famous male: Horse-riding. And Divya J Shekhar picks up the trend of designers experimenting with plus-size collections. It’s early days yet, and it’ll be some time before the industry can claim to have embraced body diversity in its true spirit.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter id:@Brianc_Ed

(This story appears in the 25 October, 2019 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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