Virat, Anushka married in Italy! How star brands light up the catwalk

Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma. Photo: Anushka's Twitter handle
Business Standard is republishing this 11/12/2017 article in light of  Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and Bollywood star Anushka Sharma tying the knot on Monday in a private ceremony, reportedly at a countryside resort named Borgo Finocchieto in Italy.

They used to be the names big fashion brands turned to when it was time to launch a new style or jazz up an old line. Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor and such others are the faces that have launched a plethora of local and international labels. But now these stars are helming their independent fashion lines and hoping to leverage their mass appeal to build their own businesses. Will this trend pick up steam through 2018, or will it be just another marketing gimmick that soon loses its fizz? 

The trick lies in ensuring that the brands that the stars build reflect their persona. Indranil das Blah, COO and partner at CAA KWAN says, “The clothing/fashion brand and celebrity need to be in sync.” The involvement is more, way more than that between an endorser and brand, he points out. “The very premise of taking ownership is to make it an extension of the celebrity's own brand. If that does not happen, it could backfire on both, the celebrity and the business venture,” says Das Blah. 

Are stars likely to play by these rules when it comes to the brands they own? Not everyone believes that they will be as closely aligned to their labels.  The stars are riding their fame, hoping that some of the stardust will rub off on their labels many believe. “It is all about marketing and PR, especially during launch. In this case, the celebrity works as a brand endorser (in addition to being the owner or promoter),” says Amrish Kumar, CEO, the Ritu Kumar company which houses fashion brands created by designer Ritu Kumar. He does not see them involved in the creation process or the business. 

Among the first to jump on to the wagon were Hrithik Roshan (sports and athleisure brand HRX) and Salman Khan (Being Human). Soon Virat Kohli (Wrogn), MS Dhoni (Seven), Sonam Kapoor (Rheson alongwith sister Rhea Kapoor) and most recently Anushka Sharma (Nush) followed. And there is cricketer K L Rahul who recently announced his label.  

Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma. Photo: PTI
What is drawing so many into the business? One reason is the booming fashion market in the country. Online marketplaces have made fashion more accessible and over the past couple of years, many brands have successfully used celebrities to create profitable labels. Encouraged by this, industry experts say, many stars have jumped into the fray. 

The other reason is the rising influence of digital over fashion purchases. A report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Facebook titled ‘Fashion Forward 2020’ said that out of the $70 billion Indian fashion market today, about $7-9 billion is already digitally influenced. This influence is expected to multiply nearly four times to reach $30 billion by 2020, a number that will constitute 60-70 per cent of the total branded apparel market. Digital influence refers to buyers who use the Internet in their purchase process, irrespective of whether they buy online or not. This gives stars an opportunity to leverage their huge digital presence (on social media and through blogs and news websites) to reach out to their fan base. 

Also online marketplaces have democratised the fashion buying process. According to Facebook, 56 per cent of its users in India highlight fashion as an interest category, and the 18-34-year-olds are driving this category. The new star business men and women want to tap into this opportunity. They believe that their social media influence can give their brands visibility and help mark them out in a crowd. Most of the stars in fashion have a big online following, be it on Instagram or Twitter. 

“The identity of the apparel brand and the celebrity are intertwined,” says an expert. Consequently, stars must be extremely careful about their public lives as one misstep could end up ruining their business. And this is why many say stars would be better off doing what they do best, lend their face and expertise to promote a brand rather than run it. 

There are other models of star involvement at work, too. Label Life, a lifestyle brand that exists only online has Bipasha Basu, Suzzanne Khan and Malaika Arora Khan as style editors. So while there is a celebrity involvement, the brand is not a reflection of the star’s persona. Also such sites reach a larger audience, they target customers beyond the star’s fan base. But that is not the case with star-owned brands.

A celebrity owned brand can rise above his or her fan base, it can adopt multiple styles and grow into a larger business but the key is that the celebrity must be directly involved says Das Blah. “Whether it is styling or the marketing, the label should reflect the celebrity's sensibilities. Otherwise, they may as well remain endorsers,” he adds.