NEW DELHI — Increasing numbers of buyers made their way to the most recent Indian runway shows, generating plenty of buzz about this country’s homegrown design talent.
Last month’s Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai and this month’s Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week in New Delhi both saw about 40 percent more buyers than the last season. Organizers of the New Delhi event estimated that the business generated at the five-day event totaled about $16 million. The New Delhi event had an approximate 180 buyers, more than 80 of these international. The Mumbai event racked up 185 buyer registrations, of which 143 were domestic and 42 international.
“The buyers are showing their interest in India this year,” said Sunil Sethi, president, Fashion Design Council of India, which organizes the event in New Delhi and is the apex body for fashion in India. “There are more buyers this year than ever before.”
Sujal Shah, former vice president and head of fashion, IMG India, also noted the increasing international interest. “International buyers are definitely making a move to come to India, he added, with a bulk of buyers from the Middle East and Europe but a growing interest from the US.” LFW is organized by IMG India and Lakme.
But Delhi-based designer Anupamaa Dayal warned that Indian labels need to bolster the manufacturing side of their businesses to meet that rising demand. “We have plenty of orders coming in, but we have to work on increasing the numbers, the logistics, the infrastructure. The sky is the limit for Indian designed products at this time,” she said.
Designer Gaurav Gupta said the fashion weeks helped his business grow its domestic sales 30 to 40 percent this season.
“The media blitz and exposure from the events lead to growing sales at the existing retail outlets. In domestic terms there are a lot more stores coming up that stock our wear and the existing stores are also growing,” he said.
Pallavi Jaipur, who was showing at the event for the first time said buyer interest is growing, especially from the Middle East, Europe and other countries. “The buyers were much more than I expected and the sales and discussions continue after the event,” she said.
The seasonal focus of the two fashion weeks is different. The Mumbai fashion week focuses on resort wear and has strong connections to the Bollywood world, while the New Delhi event presents fall-winter collections and tends to be more business-minded. The two fashion weeks have often divided the fashion community.
“If we look at it from a macro level, 70 percent of the buyers at both events are the same,” said Shah, formerly of IMG India. “We're also seeing a lot of designers showing at both events.”
Christian Leone, vice president, brand relations for online luxury website Gilt Groupe, New York said he was taking a careful look at the design and the business possibilities in India. “I think there is an unbelievable amount of talent here,” he said, referring to the designers at Lakme Fashion Week. “Retail is a bit of a challenge here which makes digital solutions all the more relevant.”
Yenlee Wong, a buyer from Vogue Opus Sdn. Bhd. in Malayasia observed: “Indian designs have made their way to the forefront of the modernity, yet have an ethnic touch. The designer creativity has caused an amazing surge in the amount of buyers to this city from around the world.”
Local buyers are also expressing interest. “There is an incredible market for designer wear in India. It is a market we believe in,” said Pradeep Hirani, founder and chairman of Kimaya, a well-known chain of luxury retail stores who attended both events.
Overall, designers seemed to back away from over-the-top theatrics of past seasons in favor of more wearable looks.
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