Asia and the Cult of the Luxury Brand

The Cult of the Luxury Brand by Radha Chadha and Paul Husband.

MUMBAI, July 16, 2009 - If you got it, flaunt it. But in much of Asia, even if you ain't got it, you better get it and then flaunt it. The world's largest market for luxury brands, Asia is responsible for sixty percent of the revenues from world's 80 billion dollar global luxe industry. Why are millions of Asians, not all of them rich, rushing to buy clothing and accessories from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Burberry?

In an evening presentation co-organized by the Asia Society India Centre and Bungalow 8, Radha Chadha, author of The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia's Love Affair with Luxury, discussed Asia's increasingly intimate relationship with luxury brand names from the West. Chadha drew the startling conclusion that, in Asia, you are what you wear. As traditional social categories become increasingly dismantled, modern social categories determined solely by wealth have begun to take their place. Thus, luxury brands have become a unique new opportunity for Asians to signal an immediate rise in social class.

The spread of the cult of the luxury brand has manifested itself in unique ways across Asia. Each Asian country experiences its own unique mix of common drivers and accelerators. Two potentially strong accelerators in India are the spending tradition of Indian marriages, and the enormous influence of Bollywood. What will be interesting to watch is the possibility of a homegrown Indian luxury brand emerging. Does India have the right ingredients to create its own luxury brand? The important ingredients are craftmanship, tradition, and history, and these things exist in India in abundance. What remains to be seen is whether India can translate these ingredients into profitable business ventures.

Chadha concluded, "The book is called The Cult of the Luxury Brand, but it's more about the people than the luxury brands. It's about human behavior. The way I went about [my research] is ethnographic...and luxury brands are a very interesting lens through which to view people."

Reported by Madeline Gressel, Asia Society India Centre