Gucci and Jimmy Choo might have stores in New Delhi and Mumbai, but Hermès is making the boldest statement in its entry into the country’s luxury market. The venerable, family-owned French label launched a line of saris on Friday. Though its style is in keeping with traditional Indian womenswear, its price point is typical of current global luxury pricing. The saris cost between $6100 and $8200.
Though a French luxury brand marketing very pricy Indian garb to Indian women may seem ridiculous or, well, unmarketable, the saris’ prints all come from Hermès scarves, thereby offering a potentially appealing — and unique — Western heritage accent to the clothes. And, notably, high-end menswear brands have already made analogous design adjustments for the Indian luxury market. Italian labels like Ermenegildo Zegna and Etro both offer Nehru-style collars for their male Indian customers (the Nehru collar was popularized by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and consists of a closed, rounded neck).
The sunny outlook for Hermès’ new saris also comes from an initial positive industry reaction to the brand’s initiative. Several consultants for the Indian luxury market noted that, basically, it was about time a Western brand trying to get a foothold there offered a sari. Caroline Young, the CEO of Creative Link India, a fashion consulting firm, told the Financial Times that the move was “really smart,” and noted that all in all, she was “astonished this hasn’t been done before.”
Now, will the Hermès saris make it to the West? The market for upscale Indian womenswear exists outside India. Just look at Luxemi, an online retailer and Rent the Runway-style service that offers traditional and black-tie saris and salwars. The Hermès sari seems like a perfect fit (hah!) for the site’s audience.