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Indian Designer Manish Malhotra Plans Global Expansion After Ambani Investment

Manish Malhotra is planning to more than double his chain of stores as well as open his first overseas shop.
Manish Malhotra is planning to more than double his chain of stores as well as open his first overseas shop. (Getty Images)

Manish Malhotra, stylist to some of Bollywood’s biggest stars in the last three decades, is planning to more than double his chain of stores as well as open his first overseas shop, months after Asia’s richest man bought into his eponymous fashion house.

The first international brick-and-mortar outlet is likely to come up by early 2023 in the US, UK or the Middle East where the luxury brand has a “huge following,” Malhotra said in an interview in Mumbai. At least six new stores in India and abroad are in the pipeline, he said. It currently has four retail sites across India.

His global ambitions have been fuelled by the investment from Reliance Brands Ltd., part of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s conglomerate, which bought 40 percent in the designer’s MM Styles Ltd. in October for an undisclosed sum.

Ambani wants to take his flagship Reliance Industries Ltd.’s operations global as well as expand his burgeoning retail empire while paring dependence on its traditional fossil fuel-related businesses. The conglomerate also bought a 52 percent stake in fellow Indian designer Ritu Kumar’s label days after investing in MM Styles.

Reliance will seek to create a “strong technology backbone” for Malhotra’s brand and build it into a “global couture powerhouse,” it said in October after announcing the stake purchase.

As Malhotra stitches his overseas expansion plans, he’s looking to create new product ranges, including jackets, shirts, shoes and bags, that can appeal to Western consumers beyond the Indian diaspora.

Malhotra, 55, who became a household name in India after styling actors for a string of successful Bollywood films and continues to do so, launched his closely-held fashion house in 2005. He also designed the outfits and decor for the extravagant 2018 wedding of Ambani’s only daughter, Isha — an association that likely sowed the seeds for future business collaboration.

Reliance Brands has become a gateway to India for international luxury firms seeking access to one of the world’s largest retail markets and has brought at least 35 international brands, including Burberry Group Plc, Hugo Boss AG and Jimmy Choo.

Luxury Rebound

Global demand for luxury goods is rebounding as vaccination rates increase across the world and people socialise and travel more. In India, the fashion luxury industry is also recovering after multiple lockdowns and is set to grow from an estimated $1 billion last year to $1.5 billion in 2025, according to researcher GlobalData.

This is luring corporate funding into India’s fashion which carries the risk of diluting a brand’s exclusivity.

Malhotra insists that the label won’t sell out despite its new heavyweight shareholder.

“We’re not going into mass production, we are going to carry the luxuriousness of the brand,” he said. “The idea is to take our Indian craft and make it global, so it’s globally understood and globally accessible and wanted.”

By Chris Kay

Learn more:

Reliance Brands Acquires 40% Stake in Indian Luxury Label Manish Malhotra

The retail giant has set an ambition to grow the one-time Bollywood stylist’s designer label into India’s first global luxury brand.

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