The Tuffs shoes controversy and the changes in Indian society and consumer mentality

31 May

A python, the well toned bodies of two of India’s most wanted models posing creatively and a pair of shoes – such an advertisement would be considered quite normal in the internet age where lack of privacy is reaching new lows. Yet it created a huge controversy, which still remains fresh in minds of people. The above example is about a shoes advertisement that was not even a video, just a print advert. Carried out in 1995 for Tuffs shoes and featuring the supermodels of that time: Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre, this advertisement campaign generated huge controversy, with lawsuits being filed for preserving modesty and maintaining high morals in the Indian society. Though similar advertisements were quite common in the western world, the Indian society during the early 90s of the last century was still very conservative in viewing the promotional campaign without losing its cool.

Without trying to comment on the morality issues of the advertisement, that fact remains that models would have wished that the advert had been published in the last few years. The Indian society (at least the urban population) seems to have become more tolerant of the promotions, previously labeled as obscene and immoral. Both the supermodels were celebrities on their own rights at that time, but they became infamous for this particular advert and after nearly fourteen years, the obscenity case against the models was dismissed, finally ending their legal problems due to it.

What has changed so much that promotions like these do not create the controversy that the Tuffs advert had generated then?

Winds of change – opening up of the Indian market as well as the Indian minds

There is no single reason or cause that can be said to have created this “tolerance”. Indian society is still quiet conservative, but surely has become more open in many walks of life. One of the most important reasons could be the Liberalization or opening up of the Indian economy. Propagated in 1991 by the then Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, this very (if not the most) significant event in the Indian Economy, contributed to the opening up of the Indian market to the worldwide economies. Similarly the “local” Indian market could view what lay outside the strict confines of the previous protectionist economic regimes.

The Indian market now had competition from external brands that started affecting the views of the common man’s requirements. Things that before opening up of the Indian economy were considered fairy tale and out of reach, soon became objects of desire. Increased trade and business opportunities gave options to the mature Indian intelligentsia to be more brave and take more risks in starting their own ventures. Suddenly the “Indian” had money to afford above and beyond the bare necessities that seemed to be the norm. This brought about the change in the common man’s taste of fashion, eating, leisure activities, etc.

Evolving trends in lingerie choices – signs of the Indian consumer’s increasing maturity

Cable TV and then Internet increased the common Indian’s exposure to western influences. Global labels like Coca Cola, Nike, Levis, Toyota, Samsung, etc. became household brand names. The maturity of the Indian marketing industry powered by the requirements of the global brands and Internet 2.0’s ability in reducing the entire world to a 17 – 20” inch screen made the common man more tolerant to the “western” influences; earlier labeled as morally corrupting. One of the most important trends that reflect this is the fashion consciousness being displayed by Indians. D&G, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and other such international brands are now the fashion choices of the Indian consumer.

One important part of the evolving fashion trends is the change in the innerwear tastes of Indians. Earlier considered as a miscellaneous clothing article, to be bought at the cheapest shops or at specific stores that would cater to generations of that family, the lingerie tastes of Indians are changing as well. Women believe in comfort, style and are confident enough to think beyond conventional lingerie purchase. They are displaying bold taste in their choices and often buy lingerie online or from specialized department stores that provide a wide range of bras, panties, sleepwear, etc. Pegged at a value more than USD 370 million a couple of years back, the lingerie market is booming and the sales reflect this change.

Online brands like Peches provide the modern Indian woman with an insight to what the world is wearing. Styles that match each and every occasion; fabrics that provide extreme comfort; colors that go with the latest international trends and sizes that fit the bustier Indian figure giving it customized feel – Peches is a one-stop lingerie shop where Indian women can easily buy lingerie online that reflects international tastes. The sales trends on Peches show that Indian women are quite in tune with international fashion trends and the new bold and confident approach to their life is reflected in their lingerie choices as well.

So, in November 2009, when the controversial Tuffs advert case was dismissed and the lawsuit from which both the supermodels, Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman were acquitted, most of the current generation, might not even understand the fuss that it had created then. The supermodels themselves must have wondered after their acquittal about how times have changed and if only such tolerance has been shown at that time.


28 Responses to “The Tuffs shoes controversy and the changes in Indian society and consumer mentality”

  1. Jyoti jain June 1, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    Indian People mentality for lingerie is changing, Now people believe in more ex-poser and following Foreign Yes culture.

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  2. Chris Suja June 2, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Influence of Western country is responsible in the change of Indian consumer mentality.

  3. P June 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Although, i do agree with your views, I still feel, Indian society on the whole is quite conservative. There are the Ram Senes and other such moral police who tend to use trivial things to gain popularity..

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  1. Mature indians poser | 557w12th - July 11, 2011

    […] Milind Soman & Madhu Sapre advertisement- Changes in Indian Women …Jun 1, 2011 … Cable TV and then Internet increased the common Indian’s exposure to … gave options to the mature Indian intelligentsia to be more brave and take more … Now people believe in more ex-poser and following Foreign Yes … […]

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