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The Luxury Loop

Updated: 21 hours ago


Manasi Deshpande, Project Manager at LOCAL, brings a global lens and cultural fluency to her projects. Shaped by her life across two different worlds and cultures — Satara, Mumbai, and Oklahoma, she contemplates how what we tend to think of as "luxury" is often crafted in the East, yet defined by the West.


Image: Copyright © I was a Sari, 2023, (branded by LOCAL)


After graduating with a Bachelor's in Engineering from an Indian university, I wanted to pursue a research-oriented career path, which led me to the US for a Master's degree in Industrial Engineering. As an International student at the University of Oklahoma, I vividly recall buying a Burberry trench coat after my graduation ceremony at one of the upscale malls in Dallas. It became a wardrobe staple for many of my friends, and I absolutely loved its classic flannel look.


While shopping, I often had conversations with friends about how many luxury brands featured "Made in India" tags which, at times, deterred us from buying them as gifts for family and friends back in India. We worried we might face criticism for bringing back items that were not perceived as foreign, even though they were luxury goods.


"I often had conversations with friends about how many luxury brands featured "Made in India" tags which, at times, deterred us from buying them as gifts for family and friends back in India."


At the time, I didn't fully appreciate the value of craftsmanship. I couldn’t explain to my parents how these luxury brands operated. The "Made in India" tag did not diminish the quality or prestige of these items; instead, it highlighted the global nature of luxury production, where skilled artisans from around the world contribute to the creation of high-end products.


Many renowned luxury brands source their products from countries like India which are known for their exceptional and detail-oriented craftsmanship. In hindsight, understanding this would have allowed me to explain to my parents that the true value of these products lies not just in their place of origin, but in the meticulous care and expertise involved in their creation.

 

I used to romanticize luxury goods, imagining them crafted in small towns by artisans oblivious to their premium value. This disconnect fuelled my curiosity about the whole "luxury hype." Interestingly, the very act of creation, free from the constraints of commercialisation, contributes to an item's luxurious feel.


This idea recently found resonance when I saw a designer from a small town in India make a splash at Cannes, walking the red carpet in a gown she designed and stitched herself. The true beauty, for me, lay in the nonchalance — the dress's value stemming not from a brand name, but from the dedication and artistry poured into its creation.

"Interestingly, the very act of creation, free from the constraints of commercialisation, contributes to an item's luxurious feel."

This realization sparked a new set of questions. Would formal education about luxury goods benefit these artisans or compromise the quality of their work? On one hand, it could refine their skills, introduce them to advanced techniques, and provide a deeper understanding of market expectations, potentially elevating the quality and sophistication of their creations. However, it might also strip away the authenticity and unique charm that stems from their traditional, untrained methods. Finding the balance between maintaining originality and embracing formal luxury standards presents a delicate and thought-provoking challenge.

 

In Vijaya Rathore's 2024 Economic Times thought piece, Mr. Regis Fournier stated that Indian craftsmanship is deeply rooted in the country's historical, spiritual, and rich cultural heritage, resonating with global consumers on a profound level. This unique blend, Fournier argues, resonates deeply with global consumers, elevating India beyond a mere manufacturing hub. Instead, India becomes a cradle for luxury brands, where exceptional artistry imbues these brands with significant intrinsic value. This recognition further strengthens India's global reputation, attracting discerning consumers who seek products that seamlessly blend tradition and innovation.


Mr. Fournier is optimistic that a shift is perspective is on the horizon. India's world-renowned expertise in embroidery, jewellery design, diamonds, leather, silk, and pashmina wool presents a golden opportunity for luxury brands to capitalize. This growing recognition bolsters the belief that India isn't just a manufacturing powerhouse, but a place where brands are elevated to luxury status, celebrated for their craftsmanship and rich cultural essence.


Furthermore, the notion that luxury requires validation from the West is gradually shifting. We are increasingly embracing and redefining luxury in our own unique style, adding nuance and depth to its meaning. We are learning to appreciate and celebrate our craftsmanship, recognising its intrinsic value and significance on the global stage.


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