Brief history of branding
Deepika Gurdev

The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia’s Love Affair with Luxury
by Radha Chadha and Paul
Husband. Nicholas Brealey. Pages 341. $35.

The Cult of the Luxury Brand: Inside Asia’s Love Affair with LuxuryThis book could have been anything—a serious academic treatise on branding in Asia that could have rested well on the dust-covered shelves of a library of a management school perhaps, and a statistical discourse, crunching some numbers that would have been beyond you and I. However, The Cult of the Luxury Brand is nothing like that at all.

The first book to explore the ‘luxeplosion’ in Asia, it has some numbers to quote. Like 94 per cent of women in Tokyo own a Louis Vuitton bag, that Japanese tourists are the largest LV buyers in Paris or that India has a three-month waiting list for the choicest brands. Beyond that, there is a whole lot more.

If you think all of this has happened overnight, think again. Authors Radha Chadha and Paul Husband argue that the "forces that created Asia’s cult of the luxury brand were in set in motion around 100 years ago." Really? Get ready for a quick history lesson in branding starting with a century of world fashion unfolding through the Chinese cheongsam.

India in the early 1900s saw royalty on the move in Europe. Shopping trips took them to London to Paris to specially commissioned pieces from the likes of Vuitton to Cartier. "The famed Patiala necklace was made by Jacques Cartier for the Maharaja of Patiala in 1928—it’s a show-stopper with 2,930 diamonds totalling 1,000 carats, including the 234-carat De Beers diamond, the seventh largest in the world."

You are only on Page 11 of this hedonistic ride and you are hooked. So, when did all of this change? When did the wave actually start? What explains the Herme-tic explosion in Asia. The authors get to that. From the study of the rise and rise of the Japanese markets to the Chinese, to the South Koreans to the emergence of India. It’s one spectacular story after the other. As the markets keep growing, the Asian luxury goods market takes 37 per cent of the global pie which is worth US $80 billion.

With several interviews and quotes thrown in for good measure, it’s interesting to go through the emergence of the various luxury types. I enjoyed the Popcorn and Caviar section in particular. This shows the ultra-luxe brands are being mixed and matched with street wear or sometimes even the impossibly hard to detect fakes. Speaking of fakes, there’s a whole chapter on the ‘Advent of the Genuine Fakes,’ where it all begins with catalogue browsing. Who would have thought of the new levels of sophistication? And just who is faking it? Just about everyone from the super to noveau, to the wannabe rich. As the authors point out, "everywhere in Asia, people are faking it with few pangs of conscience."

Though that isn’t going to slow things down for the real luxury market. In Japan, luxury has become a way of life. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and China are rapidly getting there. And not too far behind is India, with its emerging brand consciousness. The future of Luxe, it may safely be said, rests in Asia.