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All that happened in the world of luxury this week

From Reliance's growing interest in homegrown brands to the opening of Michael Kors pop-ups across the country, the Indian market is buzzing with new developments  

From Michael Kors' fall 2021 ad campaign. The brand is running pop-up kiosks in various Indian cities throughout October, personalising its luxury handbags for customers.
From Michael Kors' fall 2021 ad campaign. The brand is running pop-up kiosks in various Indian cities throughout October, personalising its luxury handbags for customers. (Courtesy Michael Kors)

Ritu Kumar is now part of Reliance family

India’s best known fashion designer and industry veteran Ritu Kumar sold a 52% stake in her eponymous haute couture brand to Reliance Retail earlier this week in a deal that’s left the fashion world buzzing about the conglomerate’s deepening reach into the fast-growing luxury market. Just last week, Reliance bought a 40% stake in the eponymous fashion house founded by Manish Malhotra, stylist to many Bollywood stars. Customers for Ritu Kumar’s India-inspired textiles and silhouettes include Bollywood actors Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra, apart from heads of industry, celebrities and socialites. After partnering with international luxury brands, including Burberry, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo and Tiffany & Co., Reliance is now turning its attention to homegrown fashion houses as it looks to reduce its dependence on oil and petrochemicals, and expand into luxury retail. Corporates have been making headway in India’s designer world, which was battered by the pandemic and is making a slow recovery as over-the-top weddings—that contribute a large portion of luxe sales—are still few and far between. In January, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail bought a 51% stake in the Sabyasachi brand, best known for its high-end wedding wear.

Also read: What Manish Malhotra means to Reliance

Raducanu is Dior’s new ambassador

A month after she won the US Open women’s singles title, Emma Raducanu was appointed the new fashion and beauty ambassador for French luxury fashion house Dior earlier this week. Since her stunning win in September, brands and other A-list celebrities have been jostling to share her spotlight—the 18-year-old British tennis star became the face of jewellery brand Tiffany & Co. in September in a deal reportedly worth £2 million, appeared at the Met Gala in a head-to-toe Chanel look, played tennis with Kate Middleton, and more. At last month’s world premiere of the James Bond film, No Time To Die, Radunacu appeared in a sparkling silver dress designed by Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri for the Cruise 2022 collection, hinting at the coming collaboration. As The Tatler put it, “She’s literally leap-frogged from sports kit and sneakers to haute couture in a summer.”

Volvo, Audi’s new launches

Looking to take advantage of the festive season as well as further their move towards manufacturing emission-free vehicles, two luxury carmakers announced new launches this past week. Audi opened up bookings for its new Q5 SUV in India on Tuesday, ahead of its launch next month. It will be powered by a 2-litre petrol engine and have a host of safety features, the company said. Audi had suspended sales of its popular Q3, Q5 and Q7 last year when India moved to BS-VI emission norms, and has stopped selling diesel cars in India. Meanwhile, Volvo launched two hybrid petrol models, the S90 and XC 60, priced at 61.9 lakh as part of its plans to shift to a petrol-only portfolio by the end of the year, and eventually go all electric by 2030. The S90 B5 Inscription sedan and XC60 B5 Inscription SUV come with a 1,969cc petrol engine paired with a 48-volt battery and digital services that access Google apps and services.

White truffle prices soar, pasta becomes expensive

It’s the start of the white truffle season, and plates of pasta and risotto around the world will soon be sprinkled with the sought-after tuber. This year, however, prices of the luxury food have risen, and even restaurants known to play with pricey ingredients are thinking twice before ordering truffles. “Right now, white truffle prices are around $4,500 a pound,” says Vittorio Giordano, vice-president of Urbani Truffles USA, who source white truffles from Italy, told Bloomberg. “In 2019 they were $1,100 to $1,200 a pound.” That’s for restaurants, which means retail prices will be even higher. The problem isn’t—as many would expect—interrupted supply chains due to the pandemic. It’s climate issues, coupled with urbanization. Hot summers with little rain, like the one northern Italy just experienced, can significantly cut yields. Likewise, as the production of local wines such as Barolo has increased, the vineyards have encroached on land that traditionally was truffle habitat. And if you can’t eat truffles this fall, we suggest watching the endearing 2020 film The Truffle Hunters, a documentary about the few and ageing men who scour Piedmont’s forests with their dogs for the rare Alba truffles.

Michael Kors plans pop-ups across India

Michael Kors will be running pop-up kiosks to personalise its luxury handbags for customers all through this month. As part of the MK My Way campaign, buyers can have the MK signature logo print handbag they choose hand-painted on the spot by an artist. They can either have their initials monogrammed in Hindi or English, or pick from one of four motifs designed for Diwali. The American fashion brand has signed Bollywood actor Jahnavi Kapoor as the face of the pop-up store activations that will take place in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru throughout October.

Apple’s $19 screen cleaner

Apple debuted a new MacBook Pro and AirPods and announced a slew of upgrades on Monday but a product that really raised eyebrows was a new polishing cloth with its signature logo in one corner. It’s priced at 1,900 for India on the Apple website (delivery is free, though). The cloth is listed as compatible with Apple products dating back to 2012 and is made of a non-abrasive material. It may seem like a lot to pay for a microfibre cloth that can be got for a tenth of the price on Amazon, but it’s already in short supply, requiring two to three months to ship to India. Which just goes to show that Apple fans will take a shine to anything the company imagines and makes.

Also read: This festive season, give preloved fashion a chance

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