As we continue loading up on Hermes in our Global Compounders Portfolio and on Titan in our Indian Consistent Compounders Portfolio, we have developed a newfound appreciation of the skill and persistence required to build lasting lucrative luxury brand. This piece in The Print describes the evolution of a legendary sari brand that would be familiar to many north Indians and to those who have attended Punjabi weddings, Ushnak Mal. Thanks to The Print, we learn that the origins of this brand were in Lahore, Pakistan:
“Around the 1870s, in Lahore, which was the cultural capital of British India, Ushnak Mal would load his horse-pulled cart or tonga with the finest of silk pieces with zari and brocade work, and set out to visit various seths, sahukars, and royal families, selling them these fabrics collected from textile hubs across India.

The women would use these fabrics to style shararas (bell-bottom trousers worn with short tunics), ghararas (loose trousers worn with peplum tops) and lehengas. These women were very particular about matching chunnis and odhnis — the most dressy and colourful part of the ensemble.”

Then comes the multi-generational changing of the baton which we now know from our ownership of Hermes is a must for the creation of an iconic luxury brand: “Soon, Ushnak Mal’s son Mool Chand joined him in the trade, and together, they opened a shop in Lahore’s Anarkali Bazaar. It was called Ushnak Mal Mool Chand….

From Mool Chand’s son Roop Lal to his son Rickey Ram — each generation took Ushnak Mal Mool Chand’s trade forward by enlarging the palette and adopting new fashion trends. By the early 1900s, the shop had become very popular in Lahore. “The shop became a place for festival and trousseau-shopping for all kinds of saris and fabrics. Various prominent personalities of the time, including the Viceroys and their wives, would visit the shop whenever there were high-level ceremonial functions or weddings in the family. My great-grandfather was most impressed with Jawaharlal Nehru, and so, when the Swadeshi Movement started, our family decided to sell only Indian clothes. It was a big thing for a prominent shop to make an announcement like that during British rule,” says Rajeev Tandon, the current owner of Ushnak Mal Mool Chand.”

When India was divided in 1947, the Ushnak Mal family moved to Delhi. In the decades that followed, a new type of royalty – from Bollywood – fell in love with Ushnak Mal’s gorgeous clothing: ““My grandfather Ricky Ram ji was a friend of B.R Chopra, and my father Ravi Tandon was a friend of Yash Chopra. So a lot of our materials and sarees were featured in films such as Kabhi Kabhi (1976) and Chandni (1989), which had a big female cast in a rich setting. Thereafter, a lot of actors, including Waheeda Rehman, Nutan, Sharmila Tagore, Rekha, Deepti Naval, patronised our collections. We worked very closely with director Meera Nair on her film Kama Sutra (1996) and the costume department of Parineeta (2005),” says Rajeev.”

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