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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.

Updated: Nov 08, 2019, 05.58 PM IST
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(l-r)-Caroline-Lebar,-Sonam
Caroline Lebar and Manjula Tiwari (R) with Sonam Kapoor-Ahuja (C) at the Mumbai showcase of Karl Lagerfeld X Cover Story.
Call it serendipity, call it destiny. It was just a regular day for Manjula Tiwari, CEO of Cover Story, who was busy running the-then just over one-year-old company when she got a call from Karl Lagerfeld (the brand). The eponymous label by one of the most iconic names in fashion was toying with the idea of a collaboration in India, and Cover Story ticked all the right boxes for them.

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.

Maggie Priori, Caroline Lebar, and Manjula Tiwari​ at Cafe Dori in New Delhi, where the brands showcased their collection.
Maggie Priori, Caroline Lebar, and Manjula Tiwari at Cafe Dori in New Delhi, where the brands showcased their collection.

“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’.

​The collection features a lot of classic Karl black and white, with his favourite red, and a bit of pink.
The collection features a lot of classic Karl black and white, with his favourite red, and a bit of pink.

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.

A Tribute to Karl Lagerfeld: Designer's Friends Lewis Hamilton, Tommy Hilfiger, Takashi Mur...

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Remembering Karl

1 Oct, 2019
A few months ago, the Karl Lagerfeld house announced the launch of 'A Tribute to Karl: The White Shirt Project' to honour his memory and legacy. From Cara Delevingne, Alessandro Michele, Sébastien Jondeau to Kate Moss, Diane Kruger and Helen Mirren, dozens of celebrities, artists and personalities who were close to the designer came together to create their own interpretations of one of Lagerfeld's most cherished basics – the white shirt.Lagerfeld had once said, “If you ask me what I’d most like to have invented in fashion, I’d say the white shirt. For me, the white shirt is the basis of everything. Everything else comes after.” All of the reimagined white shirts were unveiled at Paris Fashion Week on September 25. Here are some of the designs that caught our eye.
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