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Are fashion weeks in India taken seriously?

With a plethora of fashion weeks happening across the country in quick succession this year, are designers equipped to do business and handle the pressure? Meher Castelino argues how they need to look beyond their retro inspirations, develop a professional attitude and become skilled communicators if they want to reign supreme

Viewpoint
With fashion weeks taking place in quick succession (two in March 2014) and many more to follow during the year, Indian designers will have enough opportunities to display their creations. But where is all this leading to? How organised are Indian designers as far as business is concerned so that they can carve a niche in the international market? Or are they satisfied catering to the one billion-plus Indian population, which is being wooed by foreign brands too? Either way in the 21st century, fashion in India has moved at jet speed but there are many “hiccups” that are preventing the business from being recognised as a serious industry.


Actor Jacqueline Fernandez in a Tarun Tahiliani outfit. Pic/ AFP

Retro forever
Is there anything dramatically new happening in the Indian fashion scene offlate? Not for some time. It’s retro forever — inspirations are from the various centuries and decades of India and the West. So how will fashion be in 2060? Will designers still be inspired by eras from 1920-1990? Will we still have to see collections that reflect Mughal, Rajput, heritage, traditional sensibilities or see interpretation of French, Egyptian, English, American, Japanese, Chinese or African fashion? 


A model flaunts a Swapnil Shinde outfit, inspired by the Paithani sari, at  LFW 2014

Unskilled communicators
To succeed in the fashion business, Fern Mallis, former head of IMG New York, who has led Fashion Weeks in Miami, Los Angeles, Berlin, Moscow, Mumbai, emphasises on the need for quick and efficient communication between designers, buyers and the media. But many Indian designers lack basic communication skills and prefer to ignore calls and emails. Ask them for a collection note and what you get is a write up that explains everything but their collection. Of course, there are designers such as Tarun Tahiliani, Wendell Rodricks, Nachiket Barve and Rahul Mishra whose press releases are works of art, just like their collections and worth preserving. But they are a rare breed.


Kareena Kapoor Khan was the showstopper in a Rajesh Pratap Singh outfit with metallic embellishments at the Lakme Fashion Week  (LFW) Summer/ Resort 2014. Pic/ Satyajit Desai   

Designer speak

KRISHNA MEHTA
“Fashion is a circle but the core remains the same like the silhouettes. There have been major innovations in the 21st century in the fabrics and their weaves along with the presentation of the garments.”

NIVEDITA SABOO
“Maybe if the buyers are different, then one can show similar collections with a few additions. But Indian fashion weeks are now covered extensively in the press so we would be wasting a valuable platform by repeating the same garments.”

WENDELL RODRICKS
“There will always be classics, which we don’t want to tamper with like the Chanel jacket, but when you reference something then you should add your own individual touch and give it a new look.


(Right) A model in a Payal Khandwala outfit; (Centre) A model in a Papa Don’t Preach outfit; (Extreme right) Neha Dhupia in a Payal Singhal creation, inspired by French  culture

The carpetbaggers
With dozens of fashion weeks dotting the length and breadth of India as well as hundreds all over the world, designing collections isn’t an easy task with seasons being ignored. There are designers who showcase the same collection in a span of two weeks at three different fashion weeks in different cities. So how should the media review them? Many argue that since buyers don’t visit the big fashion weeks designers carry their wares to them.


Alesia Raut in an Archana Kochhar Paris-inspired outfit

Anything but professional  
As fashion weeks are mushrooming all over the country at an amazing pace, keeping up with them can be a problem. There have been cases where designers haven’t figured out what they are showing for seasonal shows, which could be just 10 days away. Or designers are rushing around picking and altering past collections to present them at a current fashion week. There have been extreme cases when shows have been delayed since the clothes haven’t arrived back stage.


Nargis Fakhri in a Shehla Khan outfit

Sold out
Around the world fashion weeks are held six months prior to the season they cater to. In India the Delhi Fashion Week is held according to international standards; while Lakme Fashion Week caters to the summer/resort and winter/festive seasons, which are almost immediate, but for both, buyers place orders. For the former there is a longer lead-time while for the latter it is a few weeks or months. But often designers state they had a sell-out collection, which means the ramp collections were sold to the stores or individuals. So is that a fashion week collection in the true sense or a sale of garments similar to an exhibition? One can’t blame Indian designers for doing this, since they don’t have stocks to back their orders and not many buyers want more than one piece of a garment costing lakhs of rupees. This is the “desi” concept of fashion weeks. 


Sucheta Sharma in an outfit, inspired by the Indian regalia. Pic/ Satyajit Desai    

Saturation point
Has the fashion business in India reached a saturation point where designers are concerned? Are there too many designers and not enough jobs? A ‘guestimate’ reveals there are over 400 fashion institutes in India with roughly 25 graduates entering the business annually from each, which means 10,000 are dreaming of hitting the big time with bridal and festive collections.

From the 118 Gen Next designers introduced during Lakme Fashion Week, since 2006, around 22 have made it big. The Wills India Fashion Week has introduced new talent too, but they haven’t  exactly hit the headlines.

Has the fashion business lost its glitz and glamour or is it still the most coveted career beating such solid ones such as medicine, law and business administration? With competition from all quarters, it’s time designers sharpen their pencils, scissors and creativity to stay ahead.

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