Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Trying to sell luxury goods amid stark poverty (IHT)

NEW DELHI: An old woman missing her top front teeth holds a tot in rumpled clothes - who is sporting a Fendi bib. At retail, the bib sells for about $100.
A family of three squeezes onto a motorbike for their daily commute, the mother riding helmetless and sidesaddle in the traditional Indian way - except that she has a Hermès Birkin bag prominently displayed on her wrist. It costs over $10,000, if you can find one.
Elsewhere, a toothless, barefoot man holds a Burberry umbrella costing about $200.
Welcome to the new India - at least as Vogue sees it.
The August edition of Vogue India presented a 16-page vision of supple handbags, bejeweled clutches and status-symbol umbrellas, modeled not by runway stars or the wealthiest smidgen of Indian society who can actually afford these baubles but by so-called "regular" Indian people. Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone in India was amused.

The editorial spread was "not just tacky but downright distasteful," said Kanika Gahlaut, a columnist for The Mail Today, who dubbed it an "example of vulgarity." There is nothing "fun or funny" about putting a poor person in a mud hut in clothing designed by Alexander McQueen, she said by telephone.
"There are farmer suicides here, for God's sake," she said, referring to thousands of Indian farmers who have killed themselves in the past decade after debts piled up.
Nearly half of India's population - about 455 million people - live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week.

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