Ar. Alfaz Miller, Principal and Founder of ABM Architects emphasises on the need to cater to the aspirations of price-sensitive Indians through affordable luxury
Having been around a long time in the profession of design, I can state one thing confidently: India is a price-sensitive market for consumer goods and professional services. While brand consciousness is growing, the average age of people – including my clients – who want to consume and experience these brands, is getting lower. The aspiration of the Indian consumer has changed dramatically. Indians are now more exposed to the world. After liberalisation of imports, albeit with high duties, imported designer goods are now accessible in India. But the spending power in dollar terms is still much lower than the West – hence the growth of ‘Made for India’ labels. This is most evident in the car industry, which endeavours to satisfy us with ‘stripped down’ models. Given that India is a developing country, this is obvious.
As our economy is merging with the global economy, how do we ‘Make in India’ and meet the aspirations of the consumer for designer goods? We do it by offering AFFORDABLE LUXURY.
As an architect and interior designer, I have realised the need for doing things Better, Faster, Cheaper – but always crafted appropriately, and correctly detailed and specified, to achieve the desired look and feel, at a reasonable cost. That’s the mantra to stay in demand. This requires experience and an understanding of the construction and manufacturing processes. When I started my career, there were no computers in an architect’s office: my early training was on site and in workshops where I sometimes worked with my hands. This intense, closely-involved, tactile, hands-on approach to design and design processes cannot be discounted in this digital age. When I dropped my daughter for an undergrad design program, I fondly remember the words of Professor John Meada, the President of the Rhode Island School of Design: “Thanks for giving me your kid, I will make her work with her hands.”
Design and the knowledge to adapt alternative materials is key to achieving Affordable Luxury. For me and my firm ABM Architects, the sensitive, contextual and appropriate approach is also bolstered by the availability of good materials (including hardware) and the native skill sets of our workers – the latter especially makes it possible to achieve the seemingly impossible. A silver finish can now be done with paint or very thin silver leaf; white metal substitutes silver too. Faux leather has many options. Made-to-order, locally-woven fabrics are quite amazing. Chandeliers made in Moradabad, both original designs and copies, are good; so are carpets and rugs. We have the advantage of the availability of skilled craftsmen, for wood, metal and inlay works.
To me, adapting Indian forms, crafts and materials to contemporary designs, makes luxury more affordable.