To uncover the underlying motivations of luxury consumption, The Peak meets with Ashvin Valiram, the Executive Director of Valiram.

Could you share with us your insights on the market sentiment for luxury fashion?

The current market sentiment is clearly challenging. There are many curveballs, be it currency fluctuations, e-commerce competition and the generally gloomy economic backdrop. However, these are obstacles that we’ve been coping with since we started because businesses inherently have challenges. A business like ours grows at 30 per cent a year on average and we have different depths of challenges every day; from growing our people, infrastructure, organisation and portfolio of brands, to managing the external environment. From day one, we’ve pretty much been all-hands-on-deck, actively involved in the operation of our business and diligent about optimising our limited resources. We’ve been able to thrive despite all the setbacks and curveballs that get hurled at us. In fact, we’ve come out stronger.

Current trends indicate that spending is shifting from traditional goods to experiences. Can fashion brands get into the action?

I think it’s just an evolution. Customers’ expectations expand every year and, today, they simply want more value for their money. This means they desire enriching experiences with each purchase instead of just products. Brands have risen to the challenge and are able to offer customisation services and glocalisation – different products for different markets.

The world is globalised and instant access of information has made the job of a retailer a lot more complicated, but we are powering through it. Valiram is a competitively spirited company with a formidable team of professionals from more than 15 countries. That collective strength is what makes us extremely desirable as a partner of choice to our brand principals, landlords and partners.

The physical store must connect with customers on an emotional level and become a space for them to enjoy spending time.

How do you think luxury fashion can remain a formidable presence with the current dominance of fast fashion?

From the early days of Benetton and Giordano, fast fashion has been steadily gathering speed, but it’s the luxury fashion brands that are raising the bar. Now, this clearly poses a fair bit of logistical challenges because it’s already tough enough to create a runway show, but to be able to then manufacture a quality product and make it available as soon as possible just kicks things up a notch. Clearly, the supply chains have gotten stronger and the design process and forecasting have evolved to better determine consumer needs. This entire concept means customer is king.

In the last 10 years, some brands have gotten a lot stronger, while others have either disappeared or are in the process of closing or shrinking. The brands we carry at Valiram are going strong despite the challenges we face because we’ve been investing. We’ve been a step ahead of the threats and focused. So, really, it’s about survival of the most adaptable and those who have been prepared to invest forward.

As we’re witnessing the advent of online and experiential shopping experiences, what do you think the store of the future looks like?

The store of the future is not one but several pieces in both the physical and digital realms. You’ve got to have a great online store, travel retail presence, perhaps an outlet store and a physical store in all the key malls in the city centre. The physical store must connect with customers on an emotional level and become a space for them to enjoy spending time. Service needs to be excellent and the experience has to be engaging and seamless, enabling options of buying online or trying and returning in store.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4

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