Flashy fashion grows as India’s rich flaunt wealth

NEW DELHI, May 17, 2011 (AFP) – In booming India, being rich is not enough. For the moneyed classes, it’s increasingly about flaunting their wealth in ways typical of the nouveaux riches in Russia, China or the Middle East. India’s well-heeled used to be more shy about displaying their wealth in the decades after independence from Britain when a tightly-controlled economy and dominant socialist thinking limited the opportunities for showing off.

But many prosperous Indians are embracing conspicuous consumption, turning their backs on the mantra of frugality espoused by independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation who eschewed possessions.

“They have thrown off the parsimonious Gandhian phase when it was considered poor taste to flash wealth,” says Radha Chadha, co-author of “The Cult of the Luxury Brand” who has studied the affluent in Asian countries.

The biggest sign of changing attitudes to wealth and shopping can be seen in the stampede to India of flashy Western designer brands from Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel and Bulgari as well as sports car makers Ferrari and Maserati.

Attend any society event in Mumbai or the capital New Delhi and “it’s a brave woman who arrives without a des