Why Bvlgari recreated the “mangalsutra”
India is in Bvlgari’s mind. “India is a country which represents a potential for growth”, explains Jean-Christophe Babin, general manager of the group of the Italian luxury house, originally from Rome. “India is our great challenge and commitment.”
A few weeks ago, before the wedding season, Bvlgari launched its first exclusive jewelry in India in the form of a mangasutra. The 18k yellow gold coin sparked a social media debate about patriarchal oppression, but it also boosted India’s luster as a luxury market – as Babin puts it, “(India a) the key ingredients of success for the luxury world ”. Livelihoods and businesses may have taken a hard hit as a result of the pandemic, but luxury brands are betting on consumers wanting to indulge themselves after a tough year.
Read also : Bvlgari gives a touch of modernity to “mangalsutra”
What confirms Bvlgari’s interest in India is the announcement made before the jewelry launch: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the Indian actor who has become a household name in Hollywood, is the global ambassador for the Bvlgari brand. . “I think she perfectly embodies this spirit of the brand which is the embodiment of the citizen of the modern world, while being very in touch with its roots and traditions”, explains Babin. “(She is) very attentive to what is happening around her, in the world …”
Since Babin took the reins in 2013, the LVMH-owned brand Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton has experienced steady double-digit revenue growth in all regions, with an increase in the number of stores and logistics operations. The pandemic has hit hard, as have other businesses.
Babin does not share the numbers but maintains that the customer is coming back, especially for the jewelry. He is so confident in jewelry that in June Bvlgari launched Magnifica, a selection of 350 pieces of fine jewelry and watches, all expressing the brand’s Roman DNA through rare and encrusted precious stones.
We told Babin about the timing of the Magnifica collection, the debate around mangasutra, his plans for India and the evolution of the Indian clientele. Edited excerpts from the interview:
The Bvlgari “mangalsutra” caused a sensation. The sleek design was praised, but critics hinted at cultural appropriation and an impetus to the patriarchal mindset. Your thoughts?
For us, it is a symbol of tradition that celebrates the sacred bond of marriage. We reinterpreted it into a contemporary piece of jewelry that modern women can choose to buy for themselves. Wear one mangasutra is a matter of personal choice and every woman deserves the agency to make that choice for herself. Bvlgari design has always drawn its strength from the consistency of the past, reinterpreting iconic signs and respecting the traditions of ancient cultures.
Bvlgari launched its first jewelry exclusive to India in the form of a redesigned ‘mangalsutra’
(Courtesy of Bvlgari)
Do you have other plans for the ??1,000 billion Indian wedding market?
It’s a huge industry run by a few players with whom we are in contact. We are thinking about it.
What are your general plans for India?
We plan to increase our presence in physical commerce and e-commerce over the next two to three years. We are just waiting for the right time and the right space, and work closely with our Indian team and strategic business partners to bring highly organized experiences. The current market situation is very volatile and to comment on what we plan to do would be premature at this point. While a physical event cannot be replaced by other mediums, we are leveraging technology to create safe but memorable experiences for the Indian consumer.
Who is your customer in India?
Since we came back to India (directly as a brand at the end of 2014; previously they had a franchise model) we have noticed a new set of customers every year. Previously we had Indian consumers who bought Bvlgari products when traveling abroad. Today, with the growing number of millennials, the Bvlgari consumer in India has diversified. Consumers today want contemporary designs that are wearable yet distinctive. There is a growing sensitivity towards icons. The consumer is more evolved towards authenticity, craftsmanship, sustainability and conscious consumption.
Our new set of clients are not only present in metropolitan cities, but also in Tier 1 and 2 cities, and are very digital savvy. And when I say the digital sense, it isn’t just limited to millennials, but to a wider audience in their fifties as well.
Bvlgari’s presence in India is not as large as some other luxury brands. Are you going to open more flagship stores in India?
Like I said, India is a country of incredible potential, and it was a wonderful discovery for us. It combines a respect for traditions that strikes us every day and makes us feel very connected. So far, the activity has been limited to a jewelry store (in Delhi) and about fifteen multi-brand stores for watches, which has led to a rather small business compared to some other countries.
With more boutiques, starting with Mumbai next year, the jewelry franchise in second tier cities, specific collections developed for India, and celebrating local traditions as well as strong Indian ambassadors, I think we will build a strong and compelling reputation, leading to high sales.
You mentioned earlier that the current market situation is very volatile, that the pandemic has hit hard. Yet a few months ago you launched the “Magnifica” collection, with each piece priced at crores. Do you believe that offering such an indulgence works at a time when the pandemic has affected almost everyone so much?
When we thought of Magnifica, we wanted a collection that would send a message of joy, healing, creativity and artistic perfection. The pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for the whole world. We knew that beauty is an absolute form of well-being.
Magnifica features rare gemstones from around the world – a 131.24 carat spinel, the world’s fourth in carat weight but the finest in quality, a 93 carat Colombian cabochon emerald. Then you have the five oval cushion-cut Paraiba tourmalines, the rarest gems in the world, weighing around 500 carats, which exude a refreshing sense of purity.
It was nice to see the reaction of the customers and to see first-hand the message of joy that came after such a difficult time, which was such a great learning experience.
From the ‘Magnifica’ collection
(Courtesy of Bvlgari)
What have been your greatest learnings over the past 18 months?
Oh, a lot. To begin with, we absolutely need to care more about humanity and our planet. There is simply no other solution. We had reached a point where we were running for everything and there was never a way to stop and reflect or enjoy things. That said, in business, it has helped us to be even more strategic, to accelerate the growth of the digital world. It has taught us to be closer and closer to our customers.
Personally, it taught me to take better care of myself and others. For better or for worse, it (the pandemic) forced us to do this. Slow down, without stopping.
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