The Good Life

Toting along

Furla, the premium Italian brand is no stranger to Indian shoppers

In the time it takes you to read this, someone, somewhere would have walked out of a store with a Furla — there’s one sold every 36 seconds!  And if it’s a candy-coloured, transparent, plastic-looking tote, I suppose I will have to eat my hypothetical hat, having insisted to my daughter that no sensible person would want to be seen with one. That she proved easy to dissuade when we had this discussion might be on account of her having set her heart on a Longchamps at the time, but at the rate at which Furla bags continue flying off the shelf, it’s easy to see that those buying fashion accessories are getting younger — and trendier. 

Furla, unusually for an Italian design company — it’s been owned by the Furlanetto family of Bologna for eight decades — has set its sight on growing vigorously outside Italy since the 1980s. But in Mumbai where it launched its first store in October 2012, it localised design inputs to take into consideration “special ranges to go with sarees”.  According to CEO Eraldo Poletto, it’s this catering for “the specific needs of local markets”, that accounts for Furla’s rapid growth in 63 countries and a turnover in 2014, of €262 million.

Bags get bolder

Furla’s abiding signature is colour, almost more than its design. It does seem ironical that in the West, where people tend to dress in regulation greys, whites and blacks, that Furla bags should be such a huge hit, while in India women tend to play it safer with bags (opting for blacks, creams and burgundies) to coordinate with their usually more colourful apparel. It is this prejudice that Furla will have to take into consideration as it rolls out more stores across India. I have seen Indian women exclaim often over its ice-candy coloured bags in stores, but rarely display the courage to actually add these to their shopping baskets.

Furla is no stranger among Indians as far as brand awareness goes, but are its bags — 65% of all Furla sales are bags, followed by leather goods like shoes and belts, and accessories such as shades, scarves and jewellery — on the Indian woman’s shopping list yet? From my somewhat limited experience, I can certainly say I’ve never yet heard anyone specifically ask for a Furla product, making it probably an impulse buy when travelling, and yet it gets a thumbs up for its incandescence and insouciant, in-your-face appeal. 

Some of that comes from its choice of materials that includes sheepskin fur, Nappa leather, deer grain and ‘glitter’ cow hide — precious leathers that the brand’s designers have combined successfully with other natural but also ‘technical’ or synthetic materials to create designs using acid-bright neon colour blocks and prints in a range that, Eraldo is at pains to point out, is in the premium end rather than in the luxury category — or, as he prefers to term it, ‘affordable luxury’. Furla bags in India range from Rs.11,000 to Rs.45,000, with the average selling price as Rs.25,000. Already, for some in India, that can hardly be considered expensive, which means that its ‘luxury experience and value for money’ could turn out to be its unique selling proposition in the country. Get ready to be blind-sided.