Be be­spoke

Lux­ury brands, strug­gling in the re­ces­sion, woo cus­tomers with the prom­ise of unique prod­ucts and tai­lor-made ex­pe­ri­ences

India Today - - WHAT’S HOT - By Prachi Bhuchar

There is a col­lec­tive gasp as the pale, flaxen, seem­ingly in­nocu­ous stick yields un­der heat and arches its back to form the base of Gucci’s iconic Bam­boo bag. At this workshop in Florence, Italy, with­out the tags run­ning into thou­sands of Eu­ros, the pieces be­ing crafted by hand for cus­tomers the world over are lov­ingly be­ing given an iden­tity that de­fines much of the fash­ion world to­day: They go by the term be­spoke or cus­tom made. A sim­i­lar story is un­fold­ing in sleepy small towns across Europe as big lux­ury brands are in­spired to cre­ate the finest prod­ucts for whim­si­cal cus­tomers, many of whom are not even sure what they want. At As­nieres, on the out­skirts of Paris, en­ergy crack­les in sun­lit rooms stacked with bales of ex­quis­ite leather wait­ing to be carved up by Louis Vuit­ton crafts­men. A spe­cial travel case for a chess board, another for knives; clearly no de­mand is too ou­tra­geous, no price too high to pay in this world of lim­ited edi­tion. Here, the cus­tomer is king and ul­ti­mate crafts­man, cre­at­ing his or her own piece out of spools of imag­i­na­tion that are then given shape at th­ese lux­ury work­shops.

Lux­ury is no longer what it once was. The high that came from pick­ing ex­pen­sive bags off shelves at Saks Fifth Av­enue or a store in Champs El­y­sees has waned and the nou­veau cus­tomer is hun­gry for more. Gone are the days when it was okay for two women in Hol­ly­wood to sport the same shoe or wear the same per­fume. Ev­ery­thing has to have the stamp of in­di­vid­u­al­ity that money to­day can so read­ily buy. The dig­i­tal tsunami has also meant that most con­sumers in the de­vel­oped world have ac­cess to a mind-numb­ing range of cus­tomi­sa­tions, most of them avail­able at the click of a but­ton—from cars and pens to table­ware, linen, clothes and bags.

Ev­ery­one now wants to be able to boast of a cus­tom-made pair of Tod’s loafers, that im­mac­u­late (read al­most too ex­pen­sive to wear) Sav­ile Row shirt or a wow Her­mes bag that’s tai­lored to their de­mands. Top brands recog­nise that in or­der to keep cus­tomers in­ter­ested in their prod­ucts, they have to make them feel unique. While Burberry has re­cently launched a spe­cial com­mis­sioned ser­vice, Gucci’s made-tomea­sure cam­paign is a global hit as is Zegna’s cus­tomised suits ser­vice.

Al­though made-to-or­der is a trend that has been around for years, top lux­ury brands have taken own­er­ship of the term and turned it on its head for cus­tomer con­ve­nience. As a de­signer with a top lux­ury brand re­veals, some of the re­quests are down­right quirky, like the one time a cus­tomer in UAE re­quested es­pe­cially made loafers in ev­ery imag­in­able colour and leather. The re­sult was over 40 pairs of shoes that had to be shipped to him, never mind the cost.

In In­dia, cus­tom-made items have never been viewed as lux­ury be­cause we have grown up get­ting things made as per our fancy; from a pair of com­fort­able jut­tis that fit just right to mat­tresses that al­low us to sleep well to clothes that are made by the lo­cal darzi, even sweaters and clothes for new­born ba­bies. Does this feel like lux­ury? Most of the peo­ple of­fer­ing th­ese ser­vices have been home-grown creators who have typ­i­cally charged a min­i­mal amount for their ser­vices. Be­spoke in that sense has never felt like a lux­ury; more a way of life, but In­dian bou­tiques and de­sign­ers are now wis­ing up to its power.

The ex­pe­ri­ence is tai­lored dif­fer­ently for dif­fer­ent prod­ucts. In Cham­pagne, France, for in­stance, a well-known liquor brand took a high-net cus­tomer to its vine­yards, where he got an op­por­tu­nity to mix his own fer­mented pro­duce to cre­ate that truly spe­cial glass of bub­bly. A lot of it is gim­micky, but no one is com­plain­ing.

With an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als be­com­ing cu­ra­tors of lux­ury, we pick some brands that con­note cus­tom-made chic, be­cause of the time taken, crafts­man­ship in­volved, and the in­di­vid­u­al­ity they bring with them. Some are ob­scure, not ter­ri­bly ex­pen­sive, and pro­vide highly spe­cialised ser­vices, but isn’t that what the new lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence is all about?

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