The sunburst necklace with strands of Keshi pearls is set with rose-cut diamonds and a Colombian emerald weighing over 300 carats. The Serpentine bracelet is set with 36 carats of diamonds, and the earrings set with rose-cut diamonds and Colombian emeralds weighing 150 carats, all from the Indo-Russian collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
A riveting journey of royal opulence and power, India’s love affair with gems and jewelry is unparalleled. Once upon a time, the Indian landscape had it all — the rarest of sapphires from Kashmir; the highest grade diamonds from the mines of Golconda; and flawless emeralds from Columbia brought by the Portuguese who controlled the ports of Goa. It is said that the story of Indian jewels runs across 500 years of turbulent Indian history — replete with operatic tales of power, fortune, mystery, and murder; and of course, the rise and fall of great empires.
For the royal Mughals and Maharajas of the time — bedecked in an extraordinary display of gold and precious stones — jewelry was not simply a signifier of kingship, but had talismanic properties implying cosmic connectivity. These ensured health, fortune, military prowess, and longlasting imperial power. During the British Raj, Europe was besotted by the gems and metals from India — the finest in the world — brought to Paris by Indian royalty to reset gems from their illustrious treasure chests. In his book The Master Jewelers, Alain Boucheron recounts the fascinating tale of a maharaja who “arrived at Boucheron in 1927 accompanied by a retinue of 40 servants all wearing pink turbans, his 20 favorite dancing women, and, most importantly, six caskets filled with 7,571 diamonds, 1,432 emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and pearls of incomparable beauty.” Jacques Cartier built an extraordinary relationship with the Maharaja of Patiala, one of the maison’s greatest clients, who commissioned the jeweler to reset his crown jewels — one of the largest single commissions in Cartier’s history. The piece de resistance was the Patiala ruby choker, created by Cartier for the Maharaja, which married 292 ruby beads with panels comprising 132 threaded pearls, and clasps featuring 120 diamonds and rubies set in platinum.
From left: Sarthak Kasliwal, Sudhir Kasliwal, Samarth Kasliwal, Samir Kasliwal, and Amod Kasliwal are the new generations presiding over the legacy and future of the celebrated jewelry house. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Amid all these stellar European jewelers, the Kasliwals of India had a more profound relationship with their country’s royalty. Their journey as the celebrious jewelers for the Mughals, the harbinger of the Golden Age of Indian jewelry, began long before the British Raj. Over 300 years, the Kasliwals became renowned for their impeccable designs and innovation, and made-byhand craftsmanship valued for the time and intricacy of workmanship by the royal patrons. In 1725, when Jaipur was being built as the epicenter of art and culture, the exemplary founder Maharaja Jai Singh II invited the Kasliwals to work from within the hallowed walls of the City Palace as the crown jewelers. With this appointment, the fate of the Kasliwals and the city of Jaipur were forever entwined.
In 1852, the bustling thoroughfare of Mirza Ismail Road in Jaipur became the home of Gem Palace, one of the most iconic Indian jewelry ateliers in the world. To date, for the Kasliwals, the Pink City remains their eternal muse. To paint a picture of the fabled Gem Palace is to first cast an eye over the beguiling extravaganza of Jaipur, brimming with gems and spectacular palaces; a jeweled portal that, through history, enticed many to travel to India from faraway lands. For the Kasliwals, jewelry craftsmanship was and is poetically influenced by Jaipur. They perfected the technique of Meenakari enameling inspired by the Shekhawati frescoes of traditional buildings, gently mimicking the lucidity of the jali trellis windows of the Hawa Mahal, the matrix upon which natural diamonds adorn the legendary turban ornament known as the Sarpech. The craft of Kundan can be seen in the elaborate cuffs from the atelier. In one exquisite design, 138 carats of precious stones cover the cuff’s exterior, which features a design of lotus flowers with diamond petals and emerald sepals. The interior of the bangle is enameled — traditional Indian floral motif indented onto the 23-carat gold body of the cuff. Then there is the Gupti, a concealed dagger with a diamond tipped scepter embedded with gems, and a pill box with rosecut diamonds on its head. It took seven years to craft this objet d’art. Karigars or artisans use exacting traditional techniques passed down by their forefathers, many of whom worked at the Gem Palace.
This statement necklace (worn as a headpiece) with its fabric-like fluidity is set with 285 carats of rose-cut diamonds with intricate linking at the rear, painstakingly created over three years. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
With this level of technical finesse and extravagant designs, Gem Palace earned the stamp of authority as one of the finest ateliers in the world, and was embraced with much aplomb by maharajas and maharanis, viceroys, first ladies of governments, and Hollywood celebrities. The Vicereine of India, the Marchioness of Linlithgow famously appointed Gem Palace as her official supplier of fine jewelry; and her successor, the last British Vicereine Lady Mountbatten, a staunch patron of the Kasliwals, was present alongside Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and future Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to celebrate 100 years of the Gem Palace in 1952.
A letter from John Kenneth Galbraith, US ambassador to India (1961 — 1963) thanking Gem Palace for gifting a bracelet to First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Today, Gem Palace has a legacy of nine generations of Kasliwals who have held the jeweled scepter of creative excellence one generation at a time with unwavering pride and honor. The two formidable scions of the family, brothers Munnu and Sanjay, played a pivotal role in the saga of modern-day Gem Palace. With disarming charm, incandescent passion, and impeccable hospitality, they endeared themselves to anyone who entered their Jaipur atelier, from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Oprah Winfrey, Lady Diana, and Prince Charles, to Elton John, and Angelina Jolie. The brothers, now deceased, left behind a labyrinth of loyal customers of the finest families in the world, including lessons to their successors — sons, daughters, and nephews — in the values of familial responsibility and passionate engagement, the hallmarks of true success. The present-day principals of Gem Palace are a crew of young bon savants, globe-trotting jewelry aficionados, as comfortable on their Rajasthani home turf as they are in the razzmatazz metropolises of the world. Siddharth and Samarth (Munnu Kasliwal’s sons), Samir (Sanjay Kasliwal’s son), and Sarthak (son of Amod Kasliwal) — are equally energized for a future as bright as the diamonds in their atelier. Each is effusive about their family legacy and the storied provenance of the jewels. Their sentiment for their profession is personal and emotional. “Jewelry and stones should bring you happiness. We believe in the magical bond between creator and wearer,” says Siddharth, the eldest of all. “In today’s world of fast fashion and hyper commercialization, our business will continue to honor the true legacy of Gem Palace: authentic craftsmanship, steeped in the ethics of slow, mindful production of exquisite works of art.” Adds Samarth, “Compromising on generations-old, made-by-hand skills is just not an option. Our passion for our business is to amplify these values, not as a marketing tool, but as our family’s true collective passion.”
This necklace set with rubies, emeralds, and rose-cut diamonds is paired with Karna Phool earrings from the traditional Mughal collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Sixth generation Samir Kasliwal grew up with Indian and Italian grandfathers, both prolific jewelers. When he was 22 years of age, he spotted Gem Palace jewelry on Marella Agnelli, wife of the Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli. Made by his Indian ancestors, the necklace featured a staggering array of gems: 16 carats of diamonds, 1,826 carats of natural rubies, 626 carats of emeralds, and 160 carats of pearls. “Perfection and elegance in simplicity,” says Samir of the piece. “We never forget the work of our extended family — the artisans who commit themselves to our success. Just as we have inherited our skills and dreams of our fathers, similarly the artisans have inherited the same from their own. Many family-run businesses turn into corporations, but we have chosen to stay true to our roots, and it works very well for us.” It is amply evident that making jewelry is a part of their family tradition and each member is ready to state that it’s not a job, but a lifestyle. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we have been able to grow globally generation-after-generation, with enough operational structure that gives us scale that we are content with,” says Siddarth. “What truly matters is that we continue to maintain a strong family bond and company culture. Adds Samir, “Each member in Gem Palace, from partner to artisan, brings a unique perspective to the table, as well as their own personal network into the business.”
Bangle and rings set with rose-cut diamonds from the Indo-Russian collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Sarthak Kasliwal is the youngest in this family partnership. For him the bespoke experience Gem Palace brings to their clients is of utmost importance. “Enter our atelier in Jaipur, and at least one of our family members will be there to greet and engage with you, like a family member. The loyalty of our repeat clients is based on friendship and trust,” says Sarthak. He savors the moments when the clients unfold the wrapping and experience the visceral joys — the touch and feel of the diamond, what he calls “a true pleasure for the wearer. It is in this continuous metamorphosis of thoughts and ideas that we see inspirational adaptation and change. The story of Gem Palace, therefore, is simultaneously revival and renewal.” Adds Siddarth, “We understand the depth of passion and intimacy that beautifully designed jewelry can evoke.” Walking past the extraordinary collections deeply inspired by Indian art, Mughal architecture, Byzantine and Greco-Roman ornamentation, and some pieces that took close to four years to complete, Gem Palace is indeed a gateway to an enchanting world of beauty, offering jeweled wings to the imagination.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Vijayeeta ShahMakeup: Shraddha AnandHair: Dilip SisodiyaModel: Vijayshree ShaktawatStyle assistant: Vaishali Sharma
Read Next: How India and the Middle East Have Influenced Each Other’s Fashion Industries Over the Years
The sunburst necklace with strands of Keshi pearls is set with rose-cut diamonds and a Colombian emerald weighing over 300 carats. The Serpentine bracelet is set with 36 carats of diamonds, and the earrings set with rose-cut diamonds and Colombian emeralds weighing 150 carats, all from the Indo-Russian collection. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma and Gorkey Patwal
Deepika Padukone in Saudi’s Ashi Studio. Photo: Courtesy of Ashi Studio
When one considers everyday dress in India, the salwar — a pair of loose-fitting, drawstring trousers, and the kameez — a tunic worn with a dupatta — a scarf also used as a head covering — probably come to mind. The roots of this dress style can be attributed to Persia, home of the Mughals, the Muslim dynasty that ruled India from the early 16th to the mid-18th century. The Arabian Gulf played an important role, too. The two regions not only have a geographic proximity to each other, but have been trading partners for centuries. The fact that the word kameez comes from Arabic is one such proof. India has always been known for its textile traditions, and its goods would reach central Europe via the ports of the Gulf. Scientists from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, while examining remnants from UNESCO world heritage site Mleiha, found that the earliest cotton in the Arab world came from Northwestern India, and the oldest surviving pieces of chintz, a calico cloth decorated with woodblock prints that became popular in Europe in the 1600s, was found in Egypt. Textiles, crafts, and silhouettes from India became a source of inspiration, with many of the mirror and metal embroidery forms in Arab dressing traditions influenced by savior fair coming from its South Asian trading partner. In turn, the motifs and decorative forms of this region began to influence embroidery patterns in India. The cultural exchange between the two is ancient and can still be seen today.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wears a dress by Lebanon’s Elie Saab. Photo: Getty
Contemporary Indian designers have been borrowing and showing their appreciation of the Middle East for years. Rohit Bal, known as the enfant terrible of Indian fashion, made the jalabiya part of his design repertoire since his early days in the 1990s. Manish Malhotra, Bollywood’s go-to costumer, designed his 2018 couture collection ‘Zween’ in celebration of Middle Eastern culture. Meanwhile, Indian Gen Z’s favored silhouette is the kaftan. In return, the Middle Eastern region has welcomed Indian designers with open arms; fashion shows and pop-up events are regularly hosted in the region.
Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in Indian couturier Manish Malhotra’s 2018 ‘Zween’ couture collection
When Indian celebrities are looking to make a statement on the red carpet at international events, time and again they turn to designers based in the Middle East. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is known for her love of Michael Cinco and Elie Saab, and Priyanka Chopra has been photographed in Zuhair Murad on multiple occasions. Deepika Padukone, who wore a custom-made Zuhair Murad gown to her wedding reception in 2018, stepped out onto this year’s Cannes Film Festival red carpet wearing an orange, one-shoulder gown by Ashi Studio. It was her most well-received look of the festival. The Paris-based Saudi label has been worn by many well-known Indians including Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and heiress Isha Ambani. “There is a similar aesthetic in terms of taste and culture, and both regions love their glamor,” comments the couturier. Celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani who styles Padukone, adds, “The region has a strong love of Bollywood, so they have a good understanding of our celebrities and occasions, and this does help. As a stylist, the reason I turn to Middle Eastern designers is because of their cut, it flatters an Indian body.” She chose the Ashi dress as it had drama, something she considers essential when walking the red carpet, and was both sensual and modest. This is a balance Middle Eastern designers have always understood.
Priyanka Chopra wears Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. Photo: Getty
One such designer is Reema Ameer, who is of Sri Lankan and Lebanese descent. She moved to Dubai 16 years ago, working from her studio at home in Dubai. Nathani notes that both regions have a heritage of craftsmanship and bespoke detailing, an important binding factor between the dressing styles. Nathani recently received much attention in India as actress Neetu Kapoor, the mother of actor Ranbir Kapoor, has been wearing her designs on repeat. “If European clients are more understated and individual in their approach to style, the Middle Eastern and Indian markets prefer a more groomed image. In that vein, there is a shared appreciation for hand-crafted textiles from beadwork to embroidery, which automatically ups the luxe factor, too. My Arab and Indian clients share a love for color and sparkle. I would say that they are both daring in their sense of style, and always open to trying new things.”
On the other side of the Arabian Sea are the Indian designers for whom the Gulf is almost an extension of their own market, with many Indian designers looking to open stores in Dubai, and seeking to make in-roads into Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi. Designers Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, and Suneet Varma all come to the region to host pop-ups, with Mukherjee’s jewelry instore at Dubai-based concept, Bayt Damas. Mumbai-based Anita Dongre, one of India’s most successful designers, who retails on the Ounass platform and has participated in pop-ups in the Gulf, comments, “This is a region where old-world traditions and charms meet cutting-age technology and lived experiences. Like India, there is a value for culture and tradition, but people are also happy to celebrate 21st-century progress and modernity. There is an overlap in both regions’ dressing styles.” Delhi-based Rajdeep Ranawat, who retails in a multi-brand boutique in Dubai’s Jumeriah and who is also part of the Ounass edit, adds, “There is a vast South Asian community living here today, they are bound to visit boutiques and exhibitions for their social wardrobe essentials.” This explains why pop-ups in cities like Dubai, Doha, and Riyadh are now a part of an Indian fashion designer’s calendar. Ranawat says the UAE alone accounts for 15% of his turnover, and that today, many of his clients are Arab. Since Indian designers are open to making customized changes and have a tendency to be more modest in their approach to designs, their fashion is appreciated. “The Middle East is an important fashion hub for Indian designers,” he asserts. Given the historical relationship between the two regions and similarities in approach to dressing, it is a very natural relationship. As both India and the Middle East continue to affirm themselves as leaders in the fashion space, their long-term affection for each other will only help them thrive.
Originally published in the July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Read Next: An Ode to Pink and India-Middle East Ties: Inside Vogue Arabia’s July/August 2022 Issue
Nour Rizk and Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Nishanth Radhakrishnan
The July/August 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia is an ode to pink, and the centuries-old relationship between India and the Middle East, featuring on the cover Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur.
The cover story takes a deep dive into the fascinating life of 24-year-old Sawai Padmanabh Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur and a recent graduate of art history and Italian at the Università e Nobil Collegio Sant’Eligio in Rome. His accolades are many, from leading public celebrations such as Holi and Diwali in official duties, to representing India in 2017 at the Polo World Cup zonal playoffs in Iran, the youngest player to do so. We journey through a day with the royal at his ancestral abode, the nearly-300-year-old City Palace, following in the footsteps of aristocrats and warriors to learn of its storied history, unique provenance, and enduring royal heritage. “I consider myself very lucky and fortunate that I was born into this family, but that doesn’t mean I am entitled or that I can get away with things others can’t,” the Maharaja shares. “My parents, and especially my grandmother, have always made sure that we know we still have to live our own lives and find our place in this world, work hard, and not take things for granted.”
Gem Palace jewelry. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Prachi Sharma
This issue also goes on a sensory excursion through the vibrant streets of Jaipur with 30 pages of fashion shot against the backdrop of the most iconic landmarks in the ‘Pink City’ – as Diana Vreeland so astutely stated, “pink is the navy blue of India”. From the historical red sandstone walls of Jaigarh Fort to the 11th-century stepwell Panna Meena Ka Kund, a modern storytelling of fashion collides with the legend-saturated fables of history in this celebration of rich Rajputana culture. We also visit the magnificent world of Gem Palace, renowned jewelers to the Jaipur royal family who, over the decades, have endeared themselves to everyone from Lady Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Elton John, and Angelina Jolie.
Nour Rizk in Jaipur, India. Vogue Arabia, July/August 2022. Photo: Nishanth Radhakrishnan
“Pink is literally everywhere in the fashion season, and I could not think of a better arena than the Pink City itself to stage this blooming extravaganza,” says Manuel Arnaut, Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief. “But more than a chromatic exercise, this issue also serves to highlight the strong link between the Gulf countries and India. Over centuries, the two regions have been influencing each other in a creative tango that touches the fields of economy, food, art, architecture, entertainment, and fashion.”
Vandana Sudhir. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Ankita Chandra
The issue also meets Vandana Sudhir, wife of the Indian Ambassador to the UAE. She reflects on a life well-lived in the Arab world: “Moving to the UAE has been so exciting. My husband has previously worked in the oil sector, and the two countries have a very strong historical connect — we were on the same trade route and have been trading partners for centuries. There are so many commonalities in our way of life, history, and culture.”
Rami Kadi. Vogue Arabia July/August 2022. Photo: Nicholas Mastoras
Emphasizing the art of traveling, the latest issue of Vogue Arabia also documents an escape to Athens with Rami Kadi, where he spends the day at the Zappeion Megaron. As the guest of honor, the designer closed the 30th Athens Xclusive Designers Week with a couture show featuring 43 dresses from the Spring/Summer 2022 Couture Collection, ‘Lucid Algorithms’.
Biarritz is our next stop, with its surfer shores and picturesque fisherman villages beckoning to hordes of French and European travelers. It is also home to The Hôtel du Palais, which was once the childhood playground of Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Emperor Napoleon III of France. In the same vein of celebrating royalty, we fly to the sandy landscapes of Oman to discover the unique relationship between the Sultan of Oman and haute perfume maison Henry Jacques. Inspired by the desert and Oman’s history, its new flagship boutique in Paris features eight one-of-a-kind fragrances in flacons covered in 18-carat gold, solid silver, jeweler’s enamel, and encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones.
Read Next: How the Luxury Design House of Sabyasachi is Bringing India’s Rich Heritage to the World
Tata Motors wants to take its EVs global, and the marque is rolling out an all-electric van to make it happen.
The Indian automaker, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, unveiled the ultra-sleek Avinya battery-powered concept on Friday in Mumbai. It’s not just noteworthy because of its looks, though. It will also built on a brand-new electric platform that can be charged faster than anything currently on the market.
The Avinya, like the VW ID.Buzz, has the potential to make vans cool again. Tata’s EV prototype has a minimalist design with crisp lines traveling from front to back. It looks similar to Canoo’s modular “lifestyle vehicle” concept, only sharper and more sophisticated. This is due in no small part to a striking lighting package, that includes razor-thin head lamps and an illuminated faux grille. Despite its streamlined design, the van does feature unnecessary feature that we love—suicide doors.
Inside the Tata Motors Avinya
Those doors open to reveal a simple and elegant cabin. Up front is a dash that’s completely bare except for a steering wheel and an end-to-end soundbar. Unlike most EVs we’ve seen over the last few years, there’s no giant infotainment touchscreen or even a smaller control panel, though the steering wheel houses a small digital display. Aside from the cockpit area, there are two rotating pilot seats up front and a bench with room for three in the back. But that’s it.
The EV’s technology is just as intriguing. The Avinya is designed to showcase the Tata’s new Pure EV Architecture. All of the brand’s EVs going forward will be built on the platform. We don’t know how powerful or how big its battery will be, but we do know that you’ll be able to add up to 310 miles of range with a quick 30-minute charge. There isn’t an EV currently available that can compete with that.
It should be noted that, as promising as the Avinya, looks and sounds, it hasn’t been confirmed for production. But at the van concept’s unveiling, Tata executives made clear they want to use their next generation of EVs to expand their reach past India, according to Reuters. This model could offer the marque a path to do just that.
Check out more photos fo the Avinya below:
Walmart continues to make gains in a turbulent retail environment thanks to its growing e-commerce, grocery and domestic businesses.
“We had another strong quarter in every part of our business,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Inc., said in a statement. “Our global e-commerce sales are on track to reach $75 billion by the end of the year, further strengthening our position as a leader in omnichannel. We grew market share in U.S. grocery, added thousands of new sellers to our marketplace, rapidly grew advertising businesses around the world and we’re finding innovative new ways to commercialize our data and build technology. We have a unique ecosystem of products and services designed to serve customers in broader, deeper ways and we’re grateful to our associates for making it all happen.”
Tuesday morning’s earnings results revealed total company revenues for the three-month period ending July 31 were up 3.3 percent to $141 billion, compared with nearly $138 billion a year earlier. Sales in the U.S. division increased 5.3 percent to $98.2 billion, up from $93.3 billion a year earlier. Revenues at Sam’s Club rose nearly 14 percent during the quarter, year-over-year, to $18.6 billion, up from $16.4 billion a year earlier. E-commerce sales in the U.S. rose 6 percent during the quarter, year-over-year, or 103 percent compared with 2019’s second quarter. Comparable grocery sales in Walmart U.S. were up 6 percent, year-over-year, driven by growth in stores.
Across categories, things like grocery, health and wellness, apparel, automotive, travel, party supplies and back-to-school essentials, such as lunch boxes, backpacks and stationery, were in demand during the last three months, as consumers increasingly flocked to physical locations.
“Customer behaviors changed during the quarter as people were shopping with us more in stores than online,” McMillon told analysts on Tuesday morning’s conference call. “I think some people view stores these days as boring; we don’t. The good news for us is that we can serve them either way. And of course, they get to choose.
“We’re focused on, how do we do a better job with all the inputs related to omni?” the CEO continued. “And that’s hard work. And building digital products that marry e-commerce with stores takes more work than just building an e-commerce solution; [it] takes more time, takes more complexity, but that’s where the secret sauce is. And if we can continue to blur the lines so that customers and members can shop however they want to shop, whenever they want to shop, the output metrics that we sometimes measure of e-comm versus store growth, for example, they’ll be what they are. But this quarter is kind of a good example of the fact that we can be somewhat indifferent. We’re trying to build a model where we’re completely indifferent to top-and-bottom line [growth] as it relates to how people shop.”
Meanwhile, while in-store traffic continues to pick up steam, the e-commerce business holds its own with a sizable portion of overall sales.
“In some periods, in-store shopping will lead the way, and in some, e-commerce will lead the way, while we’re always striving for more in each part of the flywheel,” Brett Briggs, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said on the call. He added that online shopping revenues are not only on track to reach $75 billion this year, but also $100 billion in the near term.
To help the business grow even further, Walmart will continue to make investments “all the time,” said McMillon.
“We manage the short term and the long term,” he said. “As everybody knows, we’re a company that’s particularly focused on the long term, particularly focused on the top line, [in order to] manage the bottom line.
“The business is changing shape,” McMillon said. “And I think that’s the key. We’re not just buying and selling merchandise in Supercenters at this point. We’re changing how the company is comprised. If you look at — just imagine a bar charter revenue or a bar charter profitability — the mix is shifting. And that unlock, as we stick with it, creates a different financial equation than what we would have had years ago.”
Company headwinds included cost pressures in the supply chain, inflation and Walmart International, where revenues fell more than 15 percent to $23 billion, compared with $27.2 billion the same time last year.
While markets such as India, China and Mexico are rapidly expanding, Briggs pointed out on the call that “international divestitures significantly affect year-over-year comparisons.
“In addition, the pandemic continues to create both tailwinds and headwinds for the business. U.S. government stimulus benefited sales this year and last year, but many international markets continue to be negatively affected by COVID-19 and related government operating restrictions. COVID-19 costs remained elevated, but significantly lower than last year.”
The company logged $4.2 billion in consolidated net income as a result, down from nearly $6.5 billion a year earlier. Shares of Walmart were up just 0.4 percent at the start of Tuesday’s session as a result.
“Walmart’s same-store sales growth was the weakest in six quarters,” Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, wrote in a note. “We also think current quarter [earnings-per-share] guidance of $1.30-$1.40 may be considered a modest disappointment in light of bullish back-to-school spending expectations. We maintain a ‘hold’ [on Walmart stock] on concerns related to margin contraction from slowing same-store sales growth and rising cost pressures.”
Still, Walmart raised its full-year outlook. The company is expecting net sales to increase 6 to 7 percent for the year, or by more than $30 billion, with earnings per share to be in the range of $6.20 to $6.35 apiece. The retailer is also anticipating sales in its international division will decline by about 21.5 percent and 22.5 percent in constant currency.
“Stores continued to validate Walmart’s ongoing investments as they were the key driver of the $1 billion increase in U.S. operating income on $5 billion in increased revenue, which is particularly impressive given the strength in its lower margin grocery-equivalent business that continues to grow share despite its massive scale,” said Charlie O’Shea, Moody’s vice president. “The meaningful upping of guidance for Q3 confirms our view that Walmart will continue to run on all cylinders, leaning heavily on its stores as it remains one of the premier global retailers by any yardstick.”
The retailer ended the quarter with $39.5 billion in long-term debt and $22.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents.
Shares of Walmart, which closed up 0.82 percent to $150.75 a piece, are up more than 11 percent, year-over-year.
Walmart is also requiring all U.S. teams above store and club level to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 4.
NEW DELHI — It’s time to hear the Bengal tiger roar: Indian designer Sabyasachi is collaborating with Swedish retailer H&M on the global launch of a collection that will be released Thursday.
“Both sides knew how momentous this project would be. We had a great sense of chemistry. When a designer and production house understand each other, magic can happen. I am at least happy that I have been able to bridge the gap between aspiration and fulfillment,” said the designer of the collection, which also marks his first move from couture to ready-to-wear.
Wearing the Bengal tiger T-shirt that he hopes will become both emblematic of India and a youth icon, the Bengal-based designer (he lives in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal in Eastern India) spoke about the collection, which has been delayed for more than a year due to COVID-19. Originally scheduled for release in April 2020, the 70-piece collection includes women’s and men’s wear and accessories.
Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
The collection is gender fluid, it is resort meets streetwear, it is travel chic, with a key highlight being the Indian textile and print traditions brought to life by the Sabyasachi Art Foundation.
H&M designer collaborations have become legendary since the first one with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, and have also included Roberto Cavalli, Balmain, Comme des Garçons, Versace, Moschino, Giambattista Valli and more. Maria Gemzell, head of new development at H&M, said shoppers now value the use of homegrown crafts and textiles more than ever.
“Karl Lagerfeld said he hated the word chic, but he loved the word affordable,” she said. “This is what it’s all about. H&M is about democratizing fashion and our collaborations are about taking dreams from talented people to our customers. That is really the key when we go into the world of this talent. It is not just about making another dress for less.”
The tie-up between Sabyasachi and H&M is likely to generate strong sales in India, but the challenges are significant: how does his signature embroidery translate? Can Indian textiles easily go global, given that many of his pieces are made of cotton? Can handmade prints fit global street silhouettes?
The answer from Sabyasachi to all of those is an easy “yes.”
“We took the couture elements of Sabyasachi, like handmade prints and embroidery, and replicated them, etc.,” he said during a press event Monday. “A very big part of my design sensibility is Indian textiles and handicrafts. I incorporated all of this into contemporary, ready-to-wear silhouettes that would essentially have a global appeal but at the same time possess a regional and an Indian soul.”
A look from the new Sabyasachi collection for H&M, which goes on sale worldwide on Thursday.
Ironically, in a time where travel has become restricted by the pandemic, the collection is called Wanderlust.
Sabyasachi explained that the urge to travel has not been stymied — even though young people may earn well, their priorities are not so much to buy homes, or make big investments, but to travel, eat out and feel a sense of community. “Because that’s what human beings are supposed to do and I think this collection celebrates love, easiness, comfort and a great sense of outdoors and travel,” he said.
To that end, he said his collection was about the “basics punctuated with a few luxury essentials so that whichever part of the world you are in, you’ll always look well dressed and you’ll always fit in.”
Then there is the signature Sabya sari.
“When H&M asked me if there is anything more I would like to put in the collection, I said, ‘Yes, I want to put a sari in the collection.’ When they asked why a sari, I said this is an Indian collaboration, there is nothing more globally accepted and revered and known as the Indian sari, and for many Indian consumers they want to have a Sabyasachi. I thought they would say no — but they said we don’t know how to do a blouse and petticoat.
“I said don’t need to do that, it can be draped over a pant and with a Sabyasachi T-shirt, put some retro sunglasses, some jewelry, a fanny pack or even a tote bag, and there you have a very cool, modern sari,” he said.
The collection, which ranges from 799 rupees, or $10.73, to 9,999 rupees, or $134.29, will be available at select H&M flagship stores worldwide and on the retailer’s global website. The sari will retail only in India.
As the process of international growth begins, Sabyasachi has a slew of plans for his brand. The strategic partnership in which Indian retailer Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail acquired a 51 percent stake in Sabyasachi for 3.98 billion rupees, or $53.45 million, in January and the launch of his handbags with Bergdorf Goodman in New York in February appear to be the beginnings of a new and increasingly global path for the designer.
AMPM. Photo: Instagram/@ampmfashions
The year 2020 has proved that in times of crisis, fashion brands and creatives often find themselves at the forefront of fundraising for relief movements. Not much has changed for India in 2021, as it battles a second wave of Covid-19, both big and small brands are responding to the catastrophe.
According to India’s healthy ministry data, the country recorded its highest death toll in a single day with 4,329 fatalities in the last 24 hours on May 18, bringing the total to a grim 278,719. The number of total cases also passed the 25 million mark on Tuesday out of which 3,353,765 are active.
Initiatives taken by India’s fashion industry range from safeguarding workers in their ateliers to raising millions by donating fractions or 100% of sales to organizations working on the ground. “Our response to the pandemic and the assistance required, was a natural reaction,” shared Haresh Mirpuri, founder of conscious luxury brand Aranyani with Vogue India. His accessory brand is one of the many emerging ones to donate a percentage of profits, as well as provide its workers with medical insurance and food.
Mirpur added that they kept “efforts focused on who we could assist in a timely fashion. That was our craftsmen and the community immediately in the vicinity of our atelier. In doing so, the only aim has been to help fellow-countrymen in need.”
Below, a list of brands that you can shop from to help Covid-19 relief efforts in India.
Until June 15, Ankur and Priyanka Modi are donating 30% of their label’s sales to the Give India initiative which is raising funds for access to vaccination.
Throughout the month of May, Arpita Mehta is offering various pieces at a 20% percent discount and donating 100% of its proceeds to different Covid-19 relief charities and organizations.
The handcrafted brand is donating 100% of profits from its specially curated collection to Hemkunt Foundation’s Oxygen Relief Program. All pieces are available at a flat 15% discount.
The luxury clothing label has created a dedicated Covid-19 relief section on their website and will be 100% of its sales to four foundations.
The modern, handcrafted jewelry label is donating 100% of the proceeds from its Mina Snug cuffs to various relief charities throughout May.
Read Next: 5 Ways to Help India Amid its Ongoing Covid-19 Crisis
NEW DELHI — The joint fashion week held by Lakme Fashion Week and the Fashion Design Council of India was an ode to women designers in the new decade: an opening show by Kolkata-based designer Anamika Khanna, and the grand finale by New Delhi-based Ruchika Sachdeva.
With the easier access to the styles, and orders online, the focus was primarily on India’s huge domestic market. Although retail is still recovering — COVID-19 set off a severe lockdown in India and apparel retail was hard hit, with close to a 60 percent decline in sales last year — in general the country’s almost trillion-dollar retail market returned to pre-pandemic levels in February, and the higher-end designer market is now beginning to open up.
The FDCI x Lakme Fashion Week held March 16 to 21 was mostly virtual with six physical shows and provided further stimulus to the sector, with designers emphasizing color and comfort.
While many in the industry had puzzled over the logistics and potential for the first event in 15 years to combine India’s two major fashion weeks, in the end it went off smoothly. Industry analysts believe it helped strengthen the sector, giving buyers easier access and a better foundation to place orders, while taking stock of the uncertain retail climate as the pandemic fluctuates unpredictably around the world. Only on Wednesday there were reports of a new “double mutant” variant of the virus discovered in India.
Here, WWD looks at the opening and closing shows and the women behind them.
Anamika Khanna exuded optimism with her opening show of the five-day event. “Honored to do the opening show,” she said, making note of the fact that she comes from a geographically neutral zone — neither Delhi nor Mumbai, but from Kolkata, as the organizers had to agree on so many different points.
Her collection honored art, traditional textiles and was bound together — as she told WWD — with sheer emotion. “It has been that kind of year for everyone,” she said.
Her use of silks with detailed embroidery, cutwork and a lavish use of tassels gave it femininity, with a play of whites adding elegance. Long jackets, thrown over pants or skirts, provided an option to dress up any outfit. “It was a play for freedom,” she said, “season-less, and border-less.” “Fashion has changed to be about what you want it to be, it is very personal now, and I believe that is very much where it is headed in the future.”
In a year shadowed by illness and death the world over, Khanna’s collection endorsed life.
“I came to it with a positive mood. That feeling of despair is changing. I am observing a more opulent mood in my clients, too, who want to celebrate again.”
Speaking about the individuality imbued in each piece, she said: “I just decided to do pieces that would stay forever. Like the jacket, which was a patchwork of different textiles and threads, which could be used in summer, winter, and you won’t throw it away. It is about resilience.”
Khanna’s sense of hope is reflected in her retail journey — she opened her third stand-alone store of 6,000 square feet in Mumbai’s arty Kala Ghoda area. “While people have been closing stores, I opened a huge store, and I believe it will work,” she said confidently.
Ruchika Sachdeva, founder and creative director of her label Bodice, is making 10 years since she first showed with Lakme Fashion Week as an emerging designer in its NexGen event. It is also two years since Bodice won global attention, winning the women’s wear award of the Woolmark Prize in 2018.
Following Lakme’s policy of featuring a designer who has not done a finale event before, Sachdeva fit the bill. The finale featured Bollywood actress, and face of Lakme, Ananya Panday as the showstopper, in a high-waisted, pleated skirt with geometric prints and a full sleeved crop top.
Bodice was one of the six physical shows held during the combined fashion week.
A model poses during Lakme Absolute Grand Finale by Bodice by Ruchika Sachdeva.
Vaqaas Mansuri / FS Images / Lakme Fashion Week
About her collection, Sachdeva said that “it continues with the focus on conscious consumption and sustainability, but with more confidence and amassed knowledge.”
“Bodice was a lot about the more neutral colors — blacks and whites, with simplicity and minimalism — trying to get rid of the chaos in my head. During these last 10 years I find there has been an aesthetic revolution, and over the last year I found myself reaching for colored pieces. I decided this collection would be about color and take some risks,” she said.
Another change: “As I get older, I get more comfortable about my own sexuality, I feel sexier as a woman and that reflects in my collection,” Sachdeva observed. Her styles for the finale were less androgynous, yet keeping the pleats and linear pattern sleeves she favors.
Although Bodice is known for its fine details, she said it has become sharper.
“I have become better at my craft,” Sachdeva said. “It is a very high-skilled process if you want to make a design properly — it has to be biodegradable, environmentally friendly, sustainable. To do all this properly takes time. Over these 10 years, I have begun to understand what people want.
“Now, finally, I know I am a better fashion designer and have the clarity that I am creating something that is worthwhile,” she said.
NEW DELHI — India’s two biggest biannual fashion weeks divided by geography — in Mumbai and Delhi — are coming together for the first time in 15 years, full circle from where they started as one entity.
The five-day phy-gital fashion event is scheduled to take place from March 16 to 21, with the opening show by Kolkata-based designer Anamika Khanna.
“It is a tripartite agreement,” Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India, which organizes India Fashion Week, told WWD. “With Rise Worldwide and Lakmé Lever and us making the best call for the time.”
This will be the first fashion week in a decade without the involvement of New York-based IMG, which was joint organizer with the IMG Reliance alliance, who worked in partnership with beauty brand Lakmé, a subsidiary of Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
In December, Indian conglomerate Reliance Ltd. bought out IMG to take over its India Lifestyle and Sports segment, strengthening its position in fashion as it aims to become the industry’s biggest player in the country, with more than 12,000 stores owned by Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd., as well as the fast growing e-commerce arm ajio.com.
“Nothing much changes for us in terms of actual working, the team is the same, I remain the same. Our agreement with Lakme continues,” said Jaspreet Chandok, head of Lifestyle Businesses at RISE Worldwide, who has been leading Lakme Fashion Week for the last five years.
Designers have hailed the collaboration as a visionary steps that shows flexibility on both sides.
The Rainbow Show at FDCI for spring 2019.
With Lakme Fashion Week following the see-now-buy-now model, and FDCI on the season-ahead international schedule, which one is it going to be?
“FDCI has always worked on the international buying season schedule, and we have stuck to it for 21 years. But while organizing the digital fashion week last season, we broke that sacrosanct rule since the buyers were not coming here, and it gave designers the option to showcase for the domestic market,” Sethi observed.
“We have put the power in the hands of the designers,” Chandok explained. “We don’t want to define what works for the designers, or what they should do. As long as they are designers, the platform is open for you to communicate directly to the consumer or directly to the buyer. We are leaving it to designers to do what they feel is best for their business.”
In separate conversations with WWD, both organizers spoke about the new spirit of camaraderie, overcoming the years of festering rivalry. Unspoken, though, was the clash of egos, and growing calls by designers for a single, united fashion week that creates more strength for buyers.
“I learnt a catchy phrase from America, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it.’ But I felt that the time for fixing is when the market is still struggling rather than when everything gets broken. I am a bit old school and I don’t like so many changes, but it is better to embrace change, to join hands and fight the present situation,” Sethi commented. Markets have been down, with sales at less than 60 percent versus last year.
He added that in the first few days of the partnership the benefits were already becoming clear. “Shoots are happening in cooperation, we are learning from each other as well,” he said.
The costs to designers remain the same, at close to half of the physical stores. “The only added charge may be to encourage designers to go into an e-commerce base, at a little more than $100 to be part of the stock room where unsold inventory is offered on the last day of the event to which designers from both fashion weeks are invited to participate,” Sethi said.
Chandok is upbeat about the prospects, too.
“I would say there was a significant amount of competition in the decade before, but in the last five years that I have been here, I wouldn’t look at it is a clash of egos. We’ve had a cordial relationship, we have grown our fashion weeks, and taken them to new heights, independent of what was being done on the other side,” Chandok said.
“I think one plus one will be equal to three. I can’t think of anything that seems like a compromise, at least from our end. All the partners including beauty brand Lakme have come forward with the intent of making it work, so that is half the battle won.”
Shows that promote new talent will continue, as will the sustainability focus day, and individual buyer programs will continue. The finale will continue as Lakme has been driving it, with an up-and-coming designer who has not yet done a finale, to best showcase the new Lakme beauty launch, typically with brand ambassador Kareena Kapoor.
As to whether this will become a permanent arrangement, Chandok said, “Whether it is one event or two events come September/October, the fact of the matter is that the collaborative spirit will only grow stronger. And that in itself will help the industry.”
NEW DELHI — In a major investment by one of the foremost retail chains in India, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited has acquired a majority stake in Sabyasachi, one of the country’s leading designer labels.
ABFRL, which has more than 3,025 stores in India, has purchased 51 percent of the Sabyasachi brand for 3.98 billion rupees, or $54.62 million, boosting Sabyasachi’s dream of creating a global luxury brand out of India.
Sabyasachi Mukherjee — popularly known just as Sabyasachi, or Sabya to those who know him — has been growing his brand steadily, with his sarees being a bridal dream as well as strong fashion statements. His accessories and jewelry have added to the brand’s strength.
With five stand-alone stores in the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata, his company had revenues of 2.74 billion rupees, or $37.6 million, in the year ending March 31, 2020.
He is also known for his slew of collaborations, most famously with shoe designer Christian Louboutin, and in 2020 a travel line in collaboration with H&M India, the fast fashion retailer’s first with an Indian designer. In 2020, he also had a special jewelry pop-up at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
An astute businessman as well as designer, Sabyasachi — who is followed closely by the Indian diaspora across the world, with franchises across India, the U.S.,
A look from Sabyasachi.
U.K and the Middle East — has been clear about his path ahead.
“Over the course of the last couple of years, as my brand evolved and matured, I began searching for the right partner in order to ensure continuity and long-term sustainable growth,” he said.
The collaboration strengthens the ethnic wear portfolio of ABFRL, which already operates a slew of Western brands in India. The country’s first $1 billion pure-play fashion retailer with revenues of 87.88 billion rupees, or $1.2 billion, in the year ending March 31, 2020, the retailer has brands like American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, Hackett London, Ted Baker and Fred Perry. Strengthening its portfolio in fashion with acquisitions, the ABFRL purchased the well-known Pantaloons stores from the Future Group in 2012, giving it strength in the value segment, and adding to an earlier acquisition of brands from the Bengaluru-based Madura Garments Lifestyle Retail, which included brands Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England.
With an eye on the strong ethnic wear market in India, the investment brings in an additional strong base of consumers.
“We see a ‘Made in India’ global brand like Sabyasachi occupying the pinnacle of our ethnic wear portfolio,” Ashish Dikshit, managing director of ABFRL, said in a statement, underlining the ambitions of the group to craft a portfolio that addresses the entire gamut of ethnic wear segments: value, premium and luxury. “The Sabyasachi brand, through its emphasis on excellence in design and craftsmanship has set new benchmarks and captivated the imagination of the sophisticated global Indian consumer.”