Sunday, November 21, 2004

Calvin Klein and India

Style guru Calvin Klein has affirmed India's potential to be a global force in the fashion market. “This country has over a billion people and we want to be a global company. We can’t be global until we address this country,” he said. But he did mention that retail marketing of CK products in India was a long way off and that the market here was not yet ready for it. “It will happen. It’s just a question of time,” Klein, however, added.

“We have just begun to get started in Europe and Asia and we are very slow in the US. Retail marketing takes a great deal of money and time to find people you can work with,” Klein said. This visit was a start, he added, in that direction. Impressed by India’s “extraordinary craftsmanship”, Klein regretted that he had not made the trip earlier.

Pressed further about when he could consider India to open a store, Klein replied that “the next five years would see a lot of change in my company in retail development” and that a store here could materialise around that time, possibly earlier.

Klein spent much of his time in Jaipur soaking in the sights, sounds and styles and, as he put it, “getting inspired”. Incidentally, it was his 62nd birthday on Friday that was celebrated at Amrapali, a local boutique store. What caught his attention the most were the colourful fabrics, especially the lehariya, bandhej and banjara ones, which he bought from the store along with gemstone jewellery. “I can see these colours in a combination of all kinds of different fabrics for use in the home, in the bedroom,” he said.

“But it’s not going to be that you see my next collection and say that it’s India. I use the inspiration in another way. It becomes assimilated in my aesthetics, which is very contemporary,” Klein added. A CK India collection, he said, would be “against our working”. “Like India, I have been inspired by African tribes,” said Klein, who in the 1980s ensured that undergarments erupted into the fashion forefront. Calvin Klein, having sold the eponymous mega brand for over $ 400 million to Phillips-Van Heusen in 2002, now spends time enhancing the contemporary nature and appeal of his products worldwide.

He also had a word of advice for Indian fashion designers struggling to find a pedestal in fashion citadels abroad. “If I were them, I would go to Paris, New York and Milan. Don’t wait for them to come here for they do not have the finances to seek out. European companies can’t afford to go to New York,” Klein said. “Fashion designers across the world have the same problems but if the work is good and valid, it would be recognised,” he added.

One of my reports for Hindustan Times


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