All Things Luxe: An Interview With Luxury Consultant Veronique Poles
Consultant to the Federation of French Custom Couture Creations in Paris, luxury consultant Veronique Poles shares her story, giving us a glimpse into Indian luxury from a trés French lens.
Tell us about your journey…
The first ever garment that I stitched for a college assignment was a salwar kameez. I didn’t know it was a salwar kameez when I made it, but that was my first association with Indian fashion. I’ve always dreamt of India since I was a little girl in Toulouse. I started my career working with Louis Vuitton in the training department. While I was in Paris, I got the chance to work very closely with Michael Burke (now the CEO of Louis Vuitton) and Patrick Vuitton, the great great-grandson of Louis Vuitton. I was asked to work on a project, to create a document that traced all the discontinued products of the brand for better aftersales services. Through the research, I learned so much about luxury and the brand. I went to work for Louis Vuitton in the US for a year. While I was there, I didn’t know a word of English and was terrified. I was able to hail cabs and managed to get to and from the store, but I couldn’t communicate at all. I thought about how I would sell to clients and created a catalogue with prices for each product, that helped me make sales quickly, leading to the best turnover on the East coast that year. I also worked at Hermès for a few months as well.
What brought you to India?
After Hermès, India was still on my mind, but I got an offer to work in Paris as a fashion agent. It involved hosting designers’ collections in an independent showroom so that the store buyers could make appointments to view it and place an order. This included researching financial information of buyers to determine reliability, liaising with the designer to find out how the new collection is taking shape, how manufacturing is going, chasing payments from stores and calling buyers in to peruse a new collection. All the while, India was still on my mind as a major IT destination. This was in 2000, and I wanted to see what was happening in India. I had these visions that India was the next destination for luxury. At the time, people only associated India with NGOs and it was hard to convince people to see the future of retail and luxury. I decided to take a leap of faith and come to India anyway.
I spent a few years travelling around the country and familiarising myself. I went back to Paris and tried to establish a connection with an Indian designer to showcase back in France. Back then, there was only Manish Arora and a few others. I proposed this collaboration to IMG and in those days it wasn’t easy. Finally, it led to an exchange of sorts between France and India, where two designers from France were accepted to exhibit at Lakmé Fashion Week, and two from India in Paris. I collaborated with Narendra Kumar for a few months and then decided to become a consultant in India. That was the year of the terrorist attacks, and getting business from French clients only became harder. Later, I began consulting for an export house that exported embroidery to Italy and the US. That is when I began to understand materials, fabrics, weaves, embroideries and techniques.
Tell us about your role at the Federation of French Custom Couture Creations…
I’m a consultant at the Federation – I coordinate on various steps of the process such as selecting and proposing different fabrics and coordination. The contract of collaboration is signed and finalised between the supplier and the federation because the collection is made by the designers of the federation.
How do French and Indian luxury vary? What are your thoughts on luxury in India?
Many luxury brands go to India for inspiration, particularly, for embroidery. India has as much potential as the French do, if not more. India needs more support and needs to provide greater value to their own brands instead of looking towards the West. Indian brands such as Nappa Dori are beautiful. Up until 2007, the mentality of the French was such that they were not open to considering India as a destination. My role then was to convince French designers and buyers to turn their attention to India, telling them about the Indian luxury market. I was among the first to start this conversation back then. I spent three years as a speaker at conferences trying to ready them for India.
Your idea of luxury in one word…
Being unique. Once I went to a sari shop and I picked fabrics and I was contemplating between two and by the time I decided to buy one, it was sold. The salesperson told me there was only one piece. To me, having only one piece is such a luxury because no one else can own the same thing. A lady in the village too, wearing a sari that possibly no one else owns is a luxury on its own. She may not know it, but it is a luxury.
The most interesting people you’ve met through work and interesting places your job has taken you?
Each person is unique and every place has something special. But I have to say I was privileged and honoured to have met Patrick Louis Vuitton, and travelled to Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Ujjain, the Kumbh Mela… I also love Manhattan just like I love Mumbai because of the excitement and energy.
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