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Top UK brands that are eyeing the lucrative fashion market in India

According to the luxury-lifestyle publication ‘Robb Report’ in 2021, the Indian luxury goods market was valued at over USD 5 billion and is expected to grow by another 10 percent over the next five years.

It is no surprise then, that some of the best brands from around the world want to establish themselves and grow their presence in the Indian market. India has a large youth-dominated population that is today termed as Gen-Z and millennials. Reports and statistics have also observed a rising figure of disposable income that rests within this bracket.

India’s 1.4 billion population count is projected to reach 547 million by 2025. With this, the Indian market represents a high potential for growth for international brands. Moreover, the rise of e-commerce and digital marketing in the country has made it easier for these brands to reach a wider audience.

Because our market is young, fresh, and extremely fast-paced when it comes to keeping up with global trends, brands from abroad want to use these factors as leverage for their success and international expansion.

Furthermore, the Indian Government has also taken several initiatives to attract FDI (foreign direct investment) in the country, including relaxing regulations and reducing barriers to entry. This has created a positive environment for overseas fashion brands to enter the Indian market.

Seven UK-origin brands that have made their way or chosen to expand their brand presence in the Indian market in 2023, speak exclusively at India Fashion Forum 2023.

The delegates and brands include:

  • Anita Baker, Managing Director (Middle East and North Africa region) of Lush Cosmetics
  • Benny Hancock, founder of Benny Hancock for Men
  • Jessie Matharu, Founder & CEO, VENIA Cosmetic
  • Justine Lavergne, Head of new business for MUA Makeup Academy
  • Raishma Islam, Director, of Raishma Ready to Wear
  • Dr Nitasha Buldeo, Founder of Organic Apoteke
  • William Leach, Global Sales Director, John Smedley

Founders of these brands bring a fresh perspective to Indian consumers and business owners alike, while they explain why they chose India as a market to expand their brand in.

  • LUSH Cosmetics

Lush Retail Ltd. is a British cosmetics retailer which is headquartered in Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1995 by trichologist Mark Constantine, his wife Mo Constantine and five other founders. Lush has 951 stores globally.

Since its inception, Lush has been a trailblazer in the cosmetics industry. Its fresh and hand-made bath bombs have gone on to become the brand’s most iconic product that is sought after and considered to be one of a kind in the market.

From inventing those bath bombs and creating new, innovative products to fighting animal testing and ethical campaigning, it’s come a long way since its humble beginnings.

Lush Cosmetics retails in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat, Pune, and Jaipur.

Anita Baker, Managing Director of Lush Cosmetics said, “Our brand aligns with Indian values. India has deep roots and a natural connection to cosmetics. We’re 100% vegetarian – so we are hoping we can find a partner for the region. The most important thing for us when choosing a partner is that they should align with our ethics and values.”

She adds, “We might not be looking for the biggest player in the market, but we are definitely looking for a partner who is passionate, and who wants to live the LUSH life.”

The first Lush store arrived in Bangalore in 2013. The brand is sustainable and caters to customers of all age groups.

  • Benny Hancock for Men

Benny Hancock, the founder of Benny Hancock for Men, is a high-profile make-up artist who has spent over a decade perfecting his craft. After having spent years closely working with men’s skin, he is considered today, to be a leading authority on high-performance make-up for men.

The brand’s philosophy is based on the simple belief that Makeup should enhance naturally good features, not cover them up. They believe that when you look good, you feel good.

Benny Hancock Beard Definer is one of their most popular products. The brand also won the title of the Best Men’s Grooming product, in the UK’s 2022 Global Make-up Awards, and is a go-to among A-list celebrities like Harry Styles, Austin Butler, Virat Kohli, Jamie Dornan, Kit Harrington, Charles Leclerc, Karim Benzema, Nicholas Hoult, Ricky Gervais, Rege Jean Page, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Tommy Hilfigure, Luke Evans, Martin Freeman, Simu Liu along with many more.

At India Fashion Forum, Hancock said that he identifies with the Indian market and looks at it as a place that has a huge potential and a wider male target audience.

Female grooming in India is already a huge market and often an over-saturated one. The brand aims to use its founder’s years of accumulated knowledge in men’s make-up and skin to bring bespoke grooming products for men in India.

  • VENIA Cosmetic

VENIA Cosmetic, owned by, Founder & CEO, Jessie Matharu, is a family-run business that is passionate about making natural skincare products, for both men and women.

Founder’s note – “After working for years in the airline industry and facing dehydration problems during long flights, I was inspired to create and develop a collection of skincare products that would offer long-lasting hydration to the skin. Combining this need with my cultural knowledge about gold, I came up with the idea to use 24K gold flakes and create products bringing results you can see and feel.”

Amongst many other beauty brands, VENIA Cosmetics too has embarked on a trade mission into the Indian retail market to find industry-leading partners along with a strong customer base.

Jessie Matharu, at India Fashion Forum, said, “We are a small family business based in the UK. Our manufacturing plant is just outside Birmingham. We manufacture natural, 24-karat gold skincare products for men and women. Currently, our business is UK based, and we are in popular retail stores like John Lewis. We also have a good online presence at the moment. This is our first venture outside the UK and we are excited to be here in India. We are trying to formulate and make some partnerships here in India for the male grooming industry.”

  • MUA Makeup Academy

MUA is headed by Justine Lavergne and is the go-to brand for trendy, affordable & pro quality, vegan makeup. The brand strives to deliver new and exciting products that are chart-topping at affordable prices.

Guided by innovation and experimentation, the brand’s USP is to create products that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. All their items are responsibly sourced and talc free. Their products are best known for their quality of needing minimum re-touching and are easy for fuss-free long-wearing.

MUA retails in India through a D2C medium through prominent websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Myntra, and Purplle.

Providing insights on why the brand today chooses to expand its presence in India, Justine Lavergne said, “We think our brand is a great fit for India because our customer base is quite young and beauty savvy. We are great for all skin types and genders and have a strong social media presence.”

MUA is a successful brand in the UK and sells about 54,000 units a week. By venturing into the Indian market they aim to reach a new beauty-centric customer base.

  • Raishma Ready to Wear

Raishma Islam, Director, of Raishma Ready to Wear, graduated in 1996 in Fashion Design. She became an assistant designer to Elizabeth Emanuel who made Princess Diana’s wedding dress – this paved the way for her career in couture and bridal wear. After specializing in bespoke wedding and evening gowns for 15 years, designing from scratch, and creating 2000 bespoke wedding gowns, she wanted to change her roots and explore outside the bespoke sector.

She wanted to use the brand reputation and change the business strategy – she created an online ready-to-wear store for affordable fusion evening wear. Reshma Ready to Wear was born in 2013, and the products include pieces that embody feminity and glamour.

The brand now aims to retail in India with a mission of reaching out to customers in every major city. Partaking in the forum to find the right business partner for their trade, the Director of the brand says, “We are looking for a brand partner in India to create a brand presence for Raishma so we can be available in every city.”

  • Organic Apoteke

Dr Nitasha Buldeo, Founder of Organic Apoteke founded the result-oriented brand with an aim to make clients of all skin types feel positive. She created organic skincare and treatment protocols for problem skin, within which, there are different ranges for acne, face lifting, and toning, as well as a bespoke treatment that is a chemical-free alternative to chemical peels.

Organic Apoteke’s USP is healthy and conscious living. Their products are opted for by individuals who believe in green, consciously, and sustainably sourced skin-care products for the best results. Ayurveda and in-house herb-mixing is central to the brand’s uniqueness in the market.

Nitisha Buldeo chooses the Indian market because she believes that Ayurvedic medicine is the way forward. She adds, “I want to partner with companies who share a similar vision to take forward Ayurveda in a technological sense, and to bring to market products that fuse ancient wisdom from India with modern science.”

  • John Smedley

John Smedley is an English luxury clothing brand that is renowned throughout the world as a leader in the production of fine gauge knitwear products. Still family owned, the company is unparalleled because of its reputation of hand-crafting all its products for more than two centuries.

Along with other UK-originated brands, John Smedley wants to tap into the Indian market by bringing its fine knitwear into the country’s retail arena.

William Leach, Global Sales Director, John Smedley talks about his business which is family-run and which spans over 8 generations. He says, “We have been there since 1784. We are now approaching 240 years of working. We specialize in manufacturing very fine gauge knitwear from merino wool to Cashmere which is all made in the UK.”

John Smedley has 3 standalone stores in the UK and 8 in Japan. They are operating in 54 countries around the world on a B2B basis. Besides that, they are also trading in 98 countries in a D2C format.

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