Essence of the cream

Written by Kiran Yadav | Updated: Mar 31 2008, 05:10am hrs
* The worlds most expensive champagne was launched this month. The limited edition 12-bottle box sets of Perrier-Jouet champagne, priced at 50,000 euros breaks the previous record held by a limited edition of Dom Perignon champagne, which went on sale in 2005 for 12,000 euros per three-litre bottle. Each buyer will get to visit Epernay in eastern France for a one-on-one meeting with the cellar master and will individually add a liqueur to personalise the bottles. A combination of sugar and wines from different years, the liqueur will put the finishing touch to the bottles.

* Trying to find a way to keep the sentiments and creative talents of your children close at hand Just submit the artwork to Leiber and they shall render it in signature Austrian crystals set on a shimmering minaudiere. Each bag is hand-crafted and executed with a full colour reproduction of the artwork, and engraved with the childs name and date.

* Passionate about racing Then youd probably like to be one of the 1000 lucky ones to own Vertus LE handset. The Racetrack Legends collection celebrates the revered racetracks of Monza, Silverstone, Le Mans, Indianapolis, Monaco and Nrburgring. Each one sports an etching of its respective legendary racetrack on the back and strapped on with knurled titanium and petrol-resistant leather.

Jeremy Bentham would have regarded it as a simple act of motivated hedonism. Investments of passion is how Merrill Lynch chooses to define the desire of the worlds 9.5 million odd High Net Worth Individuals for luxury collectibles. No, we arent just talking about the spike in luxury goods. That makes for little news. Pegged at Rs 24 billion, the segment continues to grow at 30-32% every year and, in all probability, will oblige the analysts expectations of crossing the Rs 50 billion mark by the end of the millenniums first decade. Conservatives may scoff at it but, well, what does invite attention is the uber luxe cult of mavericks. Far from the herd of me-toos, they live to admonish the assembly line and take pride in the limited. The princely price tags matter little. The limited status is what makes it worth-the-splurge.

And it is definitely an exercise that the brands love. After all this is one of the easiest ways to create the rarity buzz. There is no other way but to keep reinventing things. That is how you can create the gratification quotient for the collectors. Moreover, Limited Edition (LE) provides a huge PR and photo op, says Tikka Shatrujit Singh of Louis Vuitton.

Agrees Karishma Manga, marketing head of Dior Limited editions manage to create an instant hype. They are unique and extravagant, standing apart from the rest you cant miss them. Strategically speaking, yes, the marketing of these products is a bit different. Tissot, for instance, launches close to four LEs every year and many collectors retain an early deposit at the retailer for them. For Bernie Schreiber, head of sponsorship, Tissot SA, It is an attempt to create something more than just a watch. It should have an emotional value with something very exclusive. It can be through an association with a particular sport, person, design or to commemorate a special event like our 150th anniversary in 2003. Most of the Cartier designs too, created for royalty, socialites, and celebrities, are special orders.

However, a brand like Leiber often makes just 15 or 20 of an item. Rarely does it make more than a few hundred of anything. And marketing is not what essentially drives it. Sometimes the material used is rare or the process itself so intensive that we decide to limit the number we make, says Frank Zambrelli, creative director, Leiber.

Leibers devoted following of collectors buys the bags at the announcement stage itself, well in advance of even seeing it. Sometimes we dont even put it in the showroom because we dont want to disappoint clients by showing them a sold-out item, adds Zambrelli. (For more see story below) Like Leiber, Tibaldi too has a loyal following of collectors who buy each and every pen that is launched. In many cases, they collect specific numbers, adds Aquila.

Such designs are high on concept and far removed from the commercial bracket, says Archana Singh, president, Frazer and Haws. So, is that what explains the price differential Yes, all Frazer and Haws products are priced according to a certain formula, but LEs are exempt from this. LEs are always priced a little higher for the simple reason that not too many people can have access to these designs. And that adds to the value of the piece. They are priced differently since each piece is manufactured only in specific numbers and then discontinued. Hence they easily morph into collectors items, adds Singh.

The philosophy of each brand behind a LE is more or less similar. For Canali, LE means a completely different approach to the world of luxury. The entire research into exclusivity is to satisfy the increasingly discerning clientele, says Elisabetta Canali, the global communication director of Canali. For Tibaldi each LE is targeted at a specific type of consumer a niche within a niche, says Giuseppe Aquila, MD, Tibaldi and Aquila brands.

The discerning customer is what, therefore, the brands are targeting. While old wealth is the more likely customer, the nouveau rich tend to aspire more. Irrational buying is more a characteristic of the latter, as it normally seeks status symbols, explains Tarun Joshi, CEO, Brandhouse Retail. Joshi is credited with bringing to India premium brands like Dunhill and Escada.

Wondering if we are close to spelling luxury as l-i-m-i-t-e-d soon

We probably are.