Firms take branding very seriously – but only a minority see themselves as brand wizard. After creating ripples in the ready-to-wear market with brands like Allen Solly, Van Heusen and Louis Philippe, Madura Garments, a subsidiary of AV Birla Nuvo, has embarked on a diverse brand routing by launching sub-brands under its most successful brands. Vishnu Rageev R explores this sub-branding route.
It began with Allen
Madura Garments, in September 2002, made a first-of-its kind foray into the readymade women’s westernwear segment through the hitherto exclusively menswear brand, Allen Solly. Allen Solly womenswear managed to attain retail sales revenue of Rs 11 crore from 30 EBOs and Rs 27 crore from 200 MBOs during the 2005-06 fiscal. Revenues from Allen Solly have grown by 40 per cent since it launched. Similarly, in October 2006, Madura Garments took another brand extension initiative with the launch of V Dot and Van Heusen Woman. Van Heusen along with its sub-brands hopes to achieve a turnover of Rs 500-600 crore in three-four years. Recently, in November 2007, the company pursued the same retail branding strategy with the launch of a sub-brand titled Lp under Louis Philippe brand. Meanwhile, the company plans to have more sub-brands under these brands.
On the recent extensions under Louis Philippe, Anand Iyer, brand manager, Lp, told Indiaretailing: “After creating men’s wardrobe, the next main objective would be to move on to other zones. Today, most of the apparel brands in the country are working towards becoming a lifestyle brand. Louis Philippe is celebrating its eighteenth year in the country. I feel the brand has matured and can withstand any extensions made under its flagship.” For the record, Iyer was earlier the brand manager for Louis Philippe brand.
On with extensions
Madura Garments is planning to launch another sub-brand under Louis Philippe brand by April 2008. Then, in 2009, Louis Philippe will finally shed its menswear tag with the launch of a range for women. Meanwhile, the company is also studying the kidswear market, likely to be its next target. According to sources, Allen Solly will bring into its fold a new kidswear brand, while Louis Philippe will come up with a sub-brand targeted at teens before venturing into womenswear. Already, Allen Solly has recently launched its Solly Youth label and will soon launch another sub-brand christened Allen Solly Outwear.
As justified by Ashish Dikshit, president (Lifestyle & Retail), Madura Garments, “Extension of the erstwhile men’s-only brands – Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Allen Solly – into segments such as womenswear and youth is an attempt by the company to leverage the country’s changing demographics.”
“The success of a sub-brand lies in the success of its parent brand. Madura’s brands like Allen Solly, Van Heusen and Louis Philippe are among the country’s biggest names in the branded garment industry, so the sub-brands that have the backup of these names will always reap success – and there is no doubt about it,” according to a garment industry expert.
Appraising the launch of Allen Solly womenswear in 2002, an industry veteran commented: “Madura’s move attracted attention for two reasons. Firstly, this was the first-ever nationwide exercise by any company to offer readymade westernwear for women in India on a large scale. Secondly, Madura seemed to have taken a risk by trying to extend its hitherto exclusively menswear brand, Allen Solly, to the women’s segment.”
“We witnessed (Allen Solly) womenswear becoming a success and (thereafter) started pushing other brands (into other segments) as well. It is still very small, but the choices are expanding. Apart from this, we also witnessed a new set of shoppers emerging – the youth. So, now we have a fashionable clothing range under all our brands. The extensions have been made in casualwear and leisurewear for youngsters, and we are also working on a new positioning for these brands,” Dikshit added.
Brands and sub-brands
Take out any major brand in the country – Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Van Heusen, Peter England, Byford, Elements, San Frisco – and it would appear that most or all belong to the stable of Madura Garments. The company was first established in 1988 by Madura Coats Ltd, and became a fully owned subsidiary of Aditya Birla Group in January 2000. The company launched Louis Philippe in 1989, Van Heusen a year later, followed by Allen Solly in 1993.
Louis Philippe draws its inspiration from the era of King Louis Philippe of France. As a sub-brand, Lp imbibes a lot of its values from Louis Philippe. “There are certain motivational drivers that we have found in Louis Philippe. One is the winning attitude; most people who are achievers have always recognised this brand as something they wanted to have. Then, there is passion for success, passion for life… all these things are carried into Lp. But if I were to name one value that is most important in Lp, it would be passion; it is all about passion for dressing,” mulled Samrat Som, design head, Louis Philippe and Lp.
Similarly, Van Heusen, which was known as a premium men’s executivewear brand, has come full circle to include women and younger men through its sub-brands. While Van Heusen Woman caters to contemporary Indian women, V Dot’s range of trendy outfits is targeted at a new segment of young male consumers, earlier neglected by the premium menswear brand. The extensions ensured that the businesswear brand has evolved from being just shirtmakers to a lifestyle fashion brand.
“The brand extensions definitely add to the larger Van Heusen image without compromising on their independent identities. In case of V Dot, for instance, what it borrows from Van Heusen is the international pedigree, strong brand equity, sophistication and premiumness; and, in turn, it lends to Van Heusen the new/younger target audience, a new mindset and lifestyle that could not be reached through the earlier Van Heusen image,” said Gaurav Raheja, designer of V Dot.
Launching Allen Solly womenswear in 2002, Vikram Rao, director, Indian Rayon, had commented: “We feel there is a definite potential to expand the market by offering a range of western womenswear, properly styled and cut according to body types, under the Allen Solly brand name. That will complete the whole lifestyle package, and we will have a strong retail line-up to back it up.”
According to reports, Van Heusen Woman and V Dot are big hits in the United States and European markets as well. However, Van Heusen Woman in India was not an instant hit like Allen Solly womenswear was. According to Madura Garments officials, though, Van Heusen Woman has started picking up in the market and is expected to bring in more revenues. Meanwhile, for Lp, the company plans to open 10-15 exclusive stores in this fiscal and targets a big sum in return.
At a time when apparel majors are fighting to ink deals with top-brass international brands for India operations, the young team at Madura Garments works gently on its existing brands and takes it to the next level of branding. Esprit was the last brand that Madura Garments had brought to the Indian market, and that was in 2005.
“It is less risky to create a sub-brand under an already established brand, than signing up with an international brand. Most of the brands that Madura offers are nationally as well as internationally acclaimed. So, instead of signing a couple of risky international deals, it is more sensible for them to launch sub-brands after thorough market research,” a brand consultant in Bengaluru observed.
When quizzed about the likelihood of the brand name getting eroded, he explained: “There are risks involved in everything. If a brand extends itself into various other segments, the name will not get ruined; but if the collections offered under the sub-brand do not match with the offerings of the parent brand, both the endeavours may derail. Meanwhile, if the extensions get successful, the parent brand also will consequently see more revenue coming in.”
Customers obviously have a somewhat different opinion about such extensions. A young shopper at a Louis Philippe shop said: “I prefer buying the Louis Philippe brand, not any of the sub-brands. I feel there is nothing wrong in launching sub-brands under this great brand. However, I do not want to experiment right now.”
“It is nice to see my favourite brand in more vibrancy. My problem is that now I am a bit confused about which brand to buy, Louis Philippe or Lp,” another shopper said, adding that the brand should come out with collections for women as well. He was accompanied by his girlfriend.
Recently, the company has undergone an organisational restructuring to support the expansion of existing brands as also of its yet-to-be-launched retail formats. Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Allen Solly will come under Madura Garments Lifestyle Brands, which is being headed by Ashish Dikshit.
Western countries, of course, are quite used to the sub-branding concept. One classic example is Hugo Boss – the company, after a continual rise to stardom with its merchandise available in over 103 countries and 5,000 stores, has split into three brands named Boss, Hugo, and Baldessarini. Today’s Hugo Boss puts out many sub-brands and has something for anyone, of any stature.
In India, it is not only Madura Garments that has taken the sub-branding strategy. Apparel majors like Raymond, ITC, Arvind, RCG, and Hasbro have already worked on this model. Meanwhile, the team at Madura Garments is trying to give a unique brand identity to each of its sub-brands, while protecting the image of its parent brand.