Recently she made a sizzling appearance wearing an Anamika Khanna at Delhi couture week. Making a splash on the red carpet and also in the arena of luxury retail comes naturally to Kalyani Saha Chawla, VP, Marketing Christian Dior Couture. “It is also a daunting task to uphold the responsibility of the image of Dior as all of us working for this brand are ambassadors in some way or the other,” she shares.
“Being part of the most luxurious brand since its initiation in India has been a huge learning experience. Every trip to Paris for the shows comes with experiences that leave me feeling privileged to be at the helm representing a house which stands for quality, elegance and beauty. I have learnt so much during the last seven-and-a-half years, but most importantly, attention to detail. Sometimes the naked eye can’t detect many things we put in place, but it maintains a quality that is true luxury,” she says.
Dior has only grown in terms of business year after year. The Indian client is a very discerning one and today willing to take the risk. “Realisation of quality, and what luxury truly stands for is available today to be experienced and that has helped create awareness.
My biggest challenge was to create that awareness in a market that is still the most nascent in the world. Historically, we may be the purveyors of luxury but that was limited to the royal families and a few great travellers but in a country of over a billion people, even a fraction is a large number, and that is the target audience we are constantly aiming at,” says she.
Need for government help
The only help towards this industry was the 51 per cent FDI in 2006. “It sent a great international message for investors in the luxury market and sent a plethora of brands into India. The government has not done anything since then, as 100 per cent FDI with a 30 per cent clause of local produce definitely does not help the top luxury brands.
The import duties levied makes the MRP higher and it’s the Indian clientèle who suffers. Millions of euros are being invested in India, creating jobs and filling retail spaces but without some help from the govt there can be no real progress. Nobody has addressed this issue properly and it is I suppose not a priority for the govt right now! Though a young MP in Delhi told me I must address this issue seriously as we need the money to buy oil,” she says.
Being the Pap queen
“I have been in the press since I was about 22-years-old. It was about my serial entrepreneurship. There was no page 3 culture then. I was written about for my work in various aspects. I ran a lifestyle boutique in Calcutta which housed interior and fashion collections, wrote for Indian Express and handled their four very diverse magazines.
Later I also ran an export company for 12 years and still have an art gallery called Montage Arts,” says she. “I have worked 18 hours a day to reach where I am today. I am self-made totally which makes me proud indeed. I am glad that I have retained that interest for people to want to read about me!” she adds.
Love for fashion
Among Indian designers apart from Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani, Kalyani has a penchant for Anamika Khanna. “She is a creative genius. I also loved Varun Bahl’s latest collection.
Internationally, I like to blend high street with brands which I pick up mostly in Paris from boutiques in the Marais. I have learnt to shop for pieces which become a staple in my wardrobe. I am conscious about my teenage daughter growing up and am not trying to look like a sister but a mother,” she says.
“I go to people’s homes or soirées who I would like to invite to mine. I have to do a certain amount of socialising for my work, but have reached a stage where I don’t have to be seen everywhere I am invited. Week days are a killer regime for me and the traffic is a nightmare to maneuver.
I need a really good reason to step out and sacrifice an episode of Game of Thrones, which I am addicted to these days. My daughter is away in boarding school now for two years and when she is in town, I barely ever go anywhere if I can’t take her along,” she says.