There is a crisis looming in the luxury market, what with Italy’s coronavirus lockdown, disruptions in the luxury calendar and travel restrictions. But are the uber-rich affected, just like everyone else? They have their private planes, concierge services and access to the best medical experts, after all. Here’s what luxury connoisseur, Swapan Seth, who runs the design and brand consulting film, THIS CONTENT, has to say:
How do the one-percenters in India deal with the Covid-19 outbreak differently from their counterparts in the West and China?
The frustration is uniform. The Airinum, the five-filtration mask, is out of stock for both Indians and Americans. Of course, those in the West and China have far greater access to things like private jets. I mean, you can now escape to The Hamptons from NYC in a chopper, but you still need to take a flight to Goa or a ferry to Alibaug. How jackie-tacky is that.
With the cancellation (or virtual alternative) of many of the watch, auto, art and other big shows and summits, how must luxury retail reinvent?
Art Basel Hong Kong has got cancelled. Art Dubai has got postponed. The Geneva Auto Show, Milan Furniture Fair and The Singapore Yacht Show have been called off. There are rumours that Cannes, The Euros and The Olympics may also go under. In which case where will ladies flash their Princie diamonds. I mean, what happens to all the money made by ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ? It all seems so futile. And unfair.
Could you draw a parallel to any other emergency like Covid-19?
Let us put it this way. According to The New York Times, Baselworld was founded in 1917 during World War I. And ever since, it has never been closed. So, you go figure. Clearly there has never been such a social drought before. Or a calamity of such social cruelty.
The big fat Indian wedding. What is to become of it?
It gets ‘ketoed’. Seriously, there are rumours of a family having commissioned Dior to create hand sanitisers as a gift with the wedding cards. There is also a big buzz about Sabyasachi being approached to create a designer face mask. One wedding planner is in active conversation with Boeing to lease Dreamliners for mid-air weddings. Given that Antarctica is as warm as London, wedding planners are planning penguin parties. But then cruise ships are hardly encouraging anymore, so getting there will be a bit of a challenge. I suppose weddings will go back to being held at the local park with Chawla Caterers and coffee served from those antique espresso machines which doled out sickly-sweet coffee with chocolate powder sprinkled on it.
What constitutes germ-free hideaways for rich Indians?
Crowds need to be avoided. So London is out. I mean, what is the point in going to London if you can’t bump into your neighbour at Harrods or your lawyer at The Audley. I guess Kasauli will become the new Kensington and Alibaug the new Antibes. And instead of spending money in Milan and their wealth in Waikiki, I suppose the ultra-rich will need to learn how to spend time on other strange things like the family, books, music.
Does it help to have a private pilot license now (several businessmen have been getting them over the last few years)?
Those who can afford yachts and planes already have them. Bollywood stars and politicians will have no issues. They can borrow those yachts and planes free of cost in any case. But really, what is the point of putting down a million on a yacht or plane when the entire world is quarantined. I think they have to wait it out until Elon Musk can get us all to the moon by 2023.
Could you comment on concierge services that will be activated with this outbreak?
According to The New York Times, there is a healthcare brand in the US called Sollis. It has built an isolation room for a client. It comes with ‘‘a ventilation system equipped with a negative pressure system to restrict the circulation of pathogens’’. It is basically an isolated guest wing consisting of a bedroom and kitchen stocked with IV hydration, medicines, lab supplies, gloves, gowns, masks, oxygen, food, and a set of dishes and linen. I have half a mind to ask my concierge service to arrange for a thermal screening at home.
The article has been edited keeping the pandemic and the current uncertainties and sensitivities in mind.