Mumbai: India Fashion Week drops grand finale after Amazon's contract ends
Not quite, argues sponsor, while insiders say De-mon, GST has hit fashion industry hard
A model wears a Suneet Varma design at the grand finalé of Amazon India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2018 in New Delhi last October. Pic/Getty Images
India Fashion Week just lost its ability to climax. The programme of the 31st edition of India Fashion Week sponsored by Amazon India and scheduled to take place from March 14 to March 18 in New Delhi, reveals that the customary sparkling grand finalé will not be held this season. Instead, every 9 pm show of the four-day event will carry a 'finale' tag.
While the sponsor justifies the decision as one that "commemorates as many designers as possible and celebrates inclusivity", insiders lament the climb down of an event that once saw a stellar 25-designer grand finalé as recently as March 2015.
Some say it might have to do with the fact that Amazon India's contract with the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the non-profit apex body behind India Fashion Week, ended seven months ago. Sunil Sethi, president of FDCI, told mid-day, "Amazon India's three-year contract has ended. They are continuing to lend their name to the event, but in a way they deem best. So, if they decide to do away with the grand finalé format, it's their call. We can't be taking it for them." The Amazon India spokesperson declined to comment on the contract.
In 2015, the e-commerce giant replaced previous sponsor, Wills Lifestyle, who had been associated with FDCI for nine years. "We have always believed in introducing newer ideas to break free from monotony. Taking this spirit forward, every evening of Amazon India Fashion Week will have the vibrancy of a grand show, instead of just a last-day grand finale," said the e-commerce brand's spokesperson in an email interaction.
But, veteran designers speak in whispers of why a last-minute change had to be made to the schedule to accommodate four 'finalés'. The schedule issued by Amazon India on Saturday stands different from the one FDCI sent out on March 7.
Anil Chopra, former CEO of Lakmé Lever, title sponsors for Mumbai Fashion Week, said, "As part of a title sponsor contract, the brand has to fund the fashion week as well as the grand finalé. Maybe [in this case] the funds have been negotiated, restricting resources."
Will Amazon India renew its contract? "We are still in talks [with them]. If they decide that finances should be used in bettering technological aspects of the fashion week, such as with live broadcasts and LED screens, instead of focusing on one grand finalé show, I don't want to be the fuddy-duddy guy opposing change," Sethi explained. Amazon India said, "We will continue to work closely with the Indian fashion industry and the FDCI to create engaging and innovative programmes for designers in India."
A veteran designer, and FDCI board member, said, requesting anonymity, "There has been an exodus of known names. Board members like Rohit Bal and Manish Malhotra prefer to showcase at India Couture Week rather than at the main event. India Fashion Week is the official fashion event [of the country], and the world comes to look at the best of Indian fashion here. It's up to the veterans to show up in support of young design talent."
The economic climate of the country isn't helping the cause of designers or sponsors, contend most. "How are we to champion, celebrate, or focus on an endeavour like fashion when we are contending with demonetisation and GST? It has hit business hard, especially for young designers. Store owners take on garments on consignment basis, and if they don't sell, they are returned. GST is applied on a garment the minute it leaves the workshop, but it takes six months for the refund to be deposited into your account by the government, if we aren't able to sell," said a young designer. Whether Amazon India and FDCI's association continues beyond this season, is something that will reveal itself in time.
The business of Grand Finale shows is very peculiar to India (no other international fashion weeks follow the format), and was instituted in 2000. It was a time when India hosted its first, unified fashion week — Lakme India Fashion Week with FDCI. "The idea was to go beyond being just a name in the backdrop. Since Lakmé is a cosmetic brand, we decided to launch a Grand Finale show that would celebrate not just the five-day event but also highlight our cosmetics along with the designer," told Anil Chopra, former CEO Lakmé Lever, and part of the launch team behind the debut fashion week. Though the association between FDCI and Lakmé was short-lived, the former carried forward the format.
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