Giorgio Armani, which redefined corporate dressing in the 80s and named after the eponymous Italian designer, is finally making its way to India.
The AV Birla-managed Madura Garments is expected to unveil Armani in the domestic market during the second half of 2005 in what could be a defining moment for India's super-premium branded apparel market.
Mr Hemchandra Javeri, President of Madura Garments, said it was premature to comment on its deal with Giorgio Armani SpA. He, however, confirmed that talks were on with Armani, as the largest Indian company in the branded apparel space is reportedly keen on giving a fillip to the growing interest for celebrity international designer brands in the country.
Arvind Brands, the second largest domestic apparel company, brought Tommy Hilfiger to Indian shores earlier this year and the US-based Philips-Van Heusen has been looking at launching Calvin Klein.
Madura's plans to bring in Armani, mostly through a licensing agreement, is part of the domestic company's push to emerge as a lifestyle brand marketer.
The Indian company, which hopes to close the current financial year with Rs 500-crore sales turnover, is also getting ready to launch the apparel line of Esprit, a fast growing international youth lifestyle brand.
Sources said the Esprit launch was scheduled for the coming April, while Armani's entry is planned for the Autumn-Winter season next year. Esprit is expected to play in the premium casual wear market, with a heavy accent on women's wear where it is traditionally strong.
Madura Garments almost dominates the formal men's wear business in the country with brands such as Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly and Peter England.
Armani, a former window dresser and one-time medical student, started as a designer for Nino Cerruti in the 60s before breaking away to manage his own freelance design business. The Italian designer shot to fame when Hollywood star Richard Gere appeared in Armani clothes in the 1980 hit American Gigolo.
Since then, Armani - noted for its minimalist glamour, relaxed and unstructured yet refined approach to formal wear - built a fashion empire through sleek, easy-fit garments taking advantage of the declining appeal of the shape-shifting suits of the 60s.
The company licences its name for perfume, watches, and accessories, but apparel still accounts for more than half of revenues. Armani is today present in over 35 countries with over 300 stores and reported sales close to £900 million in 2002. Armani's retail network spans more than 35 countries and includes more than 300 stores.