How Karl Largerfeld found its ideal India partner in Cover Story
Caroline Lebar, Head of Communications at Karl Lagerfeld, traces the journey that led to the collaboration with Future Style Labs' label.
After overcoming initial disbelief at a “heavily-accented Italian voice” calling up to inquire of a possible collaboration with Cover Story, Tiwari trooped all the women employees and sought their opinion over lunch which was unanimous. While she regrets “not having met Karl (the legendary designer passed away in February 2019) ,” Tiwari calls the collaboration a “tribute” to the man.
“We were able to draw up the contract quickly and put things in motion. This collaboration between a young brand like us and this iconic and legendary brand whom we have grown up revering was such an exciting proposition,” the 40-something Tiwari, dressed in a black pantsuit, says.
What followed between December 2017 and March 2018 was a meeting between the two brands, that signalled the start of many firsts. Tiwari discussed the proposition with Avni Biyani, who was closely involved with the launch of the Future Style-backed Cover Story, and things were set in motion for the first Indian fast fashion brand to collaborate with the iconic label.
For brand Lagerfeld, which had already moved in the fast-fashion lane in 2004 with a tie-up with H&M, an India foray meant multiple flights across continents, long calls, meetings, and some customisation and cultural adjustments.
And Maggie Priori, marketing executive at Karl Lagerfeld, who was on vacation in India used the window to huddle with Tiwari and get the India formula right.
“When you work in fashion, you cannot close your eyes even when you are on holiday. And while going around, you're always interested in seeing how the business side of fashion is in different countries,” Priori, dressed in classic Lagerfeld black, says, at the launch of the collaboration in the upscale Cafe Dori at the Capital’s Dhan Mill Compound.
Priori’s chance landing at a Cover Story store - and having found it ‘amazingly interesting’ - led to the creation of cuts, silhouettes and shapes meant specifically for the Indian woman. The detailing was crucial - else it would mean that “another outsider was trying to invade India with shapes meant for the European body.”
“And that would be considered arrogance in the fashion world,” Caroline Lebar, Head of Communications at Karl Lagerfeld, says with a disarming smile.
The 50-something Lebar, who has seen Lagerfeld the designer up, close and personal by virtue of having worked with him for 35 years, is gung-ho about this India gig. And the choice of a partner in Cover Story, which contributed 80% of the almost Rs 100 crore turnover of Future Style Lab in 2018-19, kind of emboldens her faith.
Describing Tiwari as “strong and open-minded”, she is clear about what she wants from her India chapter.
“One word: Success. My expectation from this collaboration is success,” Lebar says, without taking a second, as she recounts the standing ovation that actor Sonam Kapoor received while she walked the ramp in Mumbai during the showcase, the previous day.
“There is a second collection (Spring-Summer 2020) after this,” she tells us, adding that she hopes to leave Indian women ‘impressed’.
And in a country which has a fairly high percentage of under-35, Instagram-ready population waiting to be wooed, grabbing eyeballs is easier said than clicked with a fickle audience being tempted by competitive pricing precipitated by Amazon, Flipkart and other fashion e-tailers.
While Lebar recognises. the rise in online shopping as a global trend, she is quick to point out that the customer is spoilt for attention at any physical store.
“When you walk into a Cover Story store, even if it’s just 90X100 square-meters in size, there are four or five people to help customers make a choice,” Lebar says, with much confidence.
This level of customer service - found normally in luxury stores - is what she hopes will help “act as a differentiator” in the fast fashion segment that is increasingly becoming affordable, and get them to the stores.