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Luxury furniture

Sofas with a story

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ALL IN THE FAMILY: Leopold (left) and Eleonora Cavalli

IPE Cavalli, which has brought its luxury furniture to India, stresses its Italian connection.

Say the word 'Cavalli' and most people think haute couture, not lacquered sofas and marble-top dining tables. "I can't help it that it is my family's name, " Leopold Cavalli, CEO IPE Cavalli says with a wary shrug of the shoulders. The best known name in the world of luxury interiors, IPE Cavalli is just as much a star as Roberto Cavalli is in the world of high fashion. The Italian furniture brand has been kitting out homes of the rich and famous since 1959. 

Visionnaire - one of the brands under the IPE umbrella - recently made its entry into India with a flagship store in Delhi. There are plans to open one in Mumbai next year and expand to cities like Pune, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Cavalli isn't shy about why they've come to India - it's where the money is, even if it's in a few hands. "We have found Indian customers everywhere in the world whether it's United Kingdom, United States, Dubai or even Milan, " Cavalli says.

"India, as well as other new emergent markets, has a few niche customers. But these customers are demanding. They want unique customised projects and I think Indians are prepared to spend money. They're better than customers in the Middle East where if they see something in a store, they won't buy it because everyone can see it. Indians are a slightly more understanding bunch. "

Visionnaire claims to offer a complete home solution - everything from upholstered high back chairs and lacquered sofas to chandeliers and china - provided you have the money.

"We're talking 2, 000-3, 000 euros per square foot, " Cavalli points out.

"We aren't just another minimalist luxury brand. The main difference between Visionnaire and other brands is they sell products, we sell a story. Our collections are reminiscent of an Italy when it was more powerful. Michelangelo, Da Vinci... We represent Italy for what it stands. Visionnaire is all about Italian style, the past dressed in contemporary fashion, like our store in the church at Bologna. It doesn't look out of place because we strike the perfect balance between traditional and modern, " he adds.

Cavalli says that Visionnaire offers options for every kind of customer, from a rockstar to a conservative businessman. And even the businessman's mistress. "Sometimes conservative businessmen, who want a classic look for their house, ask us to design the apartment for their mistress a little differently. We can do everything, " he says with a naughty smile. The lure of emerging markets like India and China has proven to be too strong for luxury brands and IPE Cavalli is no exception. Their first taste of India was when they were commissioned to design the interiors of a villa for a prominent Mumbai family. Industry estimates peg India's luxury market at around Rs 9, 000 crore and even though home decor is still less than 5 per cent of that figure, for furniture brands that's worth fighting over. International Furniture Brand, which has brought IPE Cavalli to India, has also brought international brands like Fendi Casa, Kenzo Maison and Baker. Consumers who walk into The Gallery, India's first luxury furniture mall, don't think twice before plonking down anywhere from Rs 20 lakh to a crore for a designer home. Spread over 5, 000 sq feet in the basement of The Gallery, Visionnaire has for its Indian customers eight different decor settings, taking into account Indian needs and preferences. Due to the dust and pollution, clear colours or white don't always work too well so the collection features a lot of combinations in cream, beige, brown and black. There are marble table tops, velvet drapes, baroque chandeliers, lacquered wood furniture and beautiful tall mirrors. Cognizant of the need to offer customised design solutions and India's love for shiny baubles, Visionnaire is also willing to incorporate semi-precious stones into their designs.

"Indians have good taste and they also have a very clear idea of what they want, " says Eleonora Cavalli, the other sibling, who handles the business aspect of the brand. The Chinese, says Eleonora, are driven by Western trends. While Indians revel in their history and heritage, Chinese customers often want a completely new lifestyle but look to the designers to make suggestions. "Sometimes we feel like we're psychologists as well and not just architects. "

The Indian plans for Visionnaire also include working on interior designing concepts for builders like BPTP and Wadia Group and plans for the pilot villa are in full swing.

One thing that doesn't cease to amuse the Italians is an Indian's love for a good deal. Even though someone might have just spent lakhs buying a few pieces of furniture, the question of a discount always rises. "Oh you people do a lot of bargaining, " she exclaims, adding, "But it's about building a relationship and we have a lot of clients who have been coming to us for a long time so we don't mind throwing in a discount every now and then. "

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