Art Of The Deal: Luxury's New Lotus

Sheetal Mafatlal is India's fashion-retail pioneer. But can she persuade the subcontinent's emerging consumer class to invest $1,200 in a handbag?

WHEN A MYSTERIOUS and beautiful newcomer took her seat at the Valentino show in Paris in March sporting a 20-carat diamond ring on one hand and a 200-carat emerald on the other, her appearance sent a frisson of intrigue through the front-row crowd. Was she a couture client slumming it at the ready-to-wear shows?

It never occurred to anybody in the basement of the Louvre that morning that Sheetal Mafatlal, 33, was one of India's biggest luxury dealmakers. Although Mafatlal could easily afford to scoop up gowns by the gross, she wasn't shopping for herself. She was on a fact-finding mission...

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