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From Paris to Patna: High-fashion to…

The Internet is playing fairy godmother to small town Cinderellas,fulfilling their designer dreams with websites like 99labels,Desicouture and Brandmile.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
April 12, 2010 11:37:51 am

When Bhavna Murthy of Coimbatore saw the latest ‘it’ bag by Prada in a magazine,she knew she would kill for it. But all she did was log on to the Internet and days later she had it delivered to her door-step.

The Internet is playing fairy godmother to small town Cinderellas,fulfilling their designer dreams with websites like 99labels,Desicouture and Brandmile selling international and Indian brands at knock-down prices.

The sweeping spread of cyberspace has made it an ideal channel for coveted brands like Versace,Gucci and DKNY to reach out to the nooks and crannies of India,the country often touted as the next big retail destination.

“Before Valentine’s day,we received a big order for Victoria’s Secret lingerie from a place outside of Patna. One of our most regular clients is from Bhatinda. In the small towns of India,there are plenty of people who can afford the brands but don’t have access to them and that’s where our website steps in,” Ishita Swarup,CEO and founding partner,99 labels said.

The websites or ‘shopping clubs’ as they like to call themselves,are the new play-grounds for the small town fashionista who has the cash to splurge and wants her dose of designer goodies without having to trudge to the nearest metro.

For naysayers who believe that luxury-brands do not have any takers outside the metropolises,the numbers tell a different story.

According to AT Kearney’s India Luxury Review Report of 2008-09,the market for luxury products in India will be in the USD 25-30 billion range by 2015 and Non-metro India would account for at least USD 10 billion of that.

“Our clientele can basically be divided into three categories. The metros,the tier 2- tier 3 cities and then the clients from abroad. The second category has the highest number of members,” said Nilesh Saxena,the director of the

luxury portal,Brandmile.

And Sunil Sethi,the President of Fashion Design Council of India says that indeed the e-commerce business model is the way to go if the Indian fashion industry wants to make inroads into unexplored territories.

“There was this misconception earlier that selling through websites won’t work because no one would buy a USD 800 dollar jacket without trying it on,but the theory has fallen flat on it’s face. There is a need to move away from the saturated markets of the big cities and what better way to do so than through the Internet,” said Sethi.

The success of the websites lies in the fact that they offer the branded goods at heavy discounts,which in turn is because the over-head costs of maintaining a portal is none compared to a luxury retail outlet.

“Besides the lack of over-head prices,we source our products directly from the brands. Sales are only made to registered members and happen in a private environment and so it does not diminish the exclusiveness of the brand,” said Swarup of 99labels.

Besides commercial viability,online retail comes with it’s own unique perks. How else does one get a custom designed lehenga made by a Pakistani designer.

Fashion designers like Tazeen Hasan and Sahar Atif from our not-so friendly neighbouring country have found clients in India thanks to online retail.

“Fashion is a great way to connect and the fashion sensibilities of Indians and Pakistanis match a lot. Through my website not only do I sell my own designs but also Indian designers and my clientele is global,” said Karachi based Hasan,who has offices in Dubai and New York.

The cyberspace revolution has indeed taken the global fashion industry by storm with traditional retail channels giving way to brightly designed websites where you can buy a Versace or a Manish Malhotra with the click of a mouse.

The sale of Net-a-porter,the high-fashion selling website,set up by entrepreneur Natalie Massenet during her pregnancy,for an eye watering USD 80 million,had grabbed international headlines.

And the sale cannot be dismissed as a flash in the pan with IMRG,the international online retail industry body,predicting that by 2016 online sales will account for 13 per cent of the fashion market and be worth some USD 20 billion.

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