MUMBAI — India is seeing a groundswell of new designers.
This story first appeared in the August 24, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As the fashion market in India is estimated to grow from $39 billion in 2010 to $63.26 billion in 2012, more and more designers are launching businesses to tap into the country’s growing disposable incomes as well as opening new malls and stores that can house new brands. The number of Indian designers is growing fast, with more than 90 showing at Lakme Fashion Week here from Aug. 16 to 21.
The country’s fashion weeks have been adding to the hype and awareness of fashion, especially the two major ones — Lakme Fashion Week and the other organized by the Fashion Design Council of India and held in New Delhi. Most designers agree that each has established its niche.
The six-day Lakme Fashion Week, which started with an elaborate set of designs by one of India’s best-known couturiers, Rohit Bal, saw a focus on vivacious oranges, wild greens, and both pure and printed yellows in flowing, full silhouettes. There was less bling than last season, but embroidery hasn’t gone out of style with gold thread as well as cutwork, appliqué work, sequins and beads.
This year, the fashion week was held earlier than usual so that the designer labels will be available in time for the festive season starting in October. “That is part of the strategic planning,” said Anjana Sharma, director of fashion for organizers IMG Reliance, who is looking at growing the event in terms of both collaborations, scope and designers.
Anil Chopra, chief executive officer of sponsor Lakme Lever, unveiled a few additions for this season. The Source exhibition saw an increase in the number of designers showing as well as designer- and buyer-related activities, he said. There was a Webcast of the shows sponsored by Fashion and You, a private sales club with 2.1 million members.
While designers are still unhappy with the number of buyers, the complaints about the designers participating have petered out, with some of the best known taking part including Bal, JJ Vallaya, Wendell Rodricks, Narendra Kumar, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rina Dhaka, Anita Dongre, Neeta Lulla, Pria Kataria Puri and Manish Malhotra.
“We have also introduced Berlin Calling, where a designer will represent India at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2012 in January in Berlin. Lakme Fashion Week will not only support the selected designer in presenting the runway show but will also ensure that the opportunity is leveraged effectively in representing Indian fashion internationally,” said Sharma.
Lakme Fashion Week focuses on resortwear and has a strong glamour component with Bollywood stars attracting a lot of media attention and coverage. It also added new and upcoming designers in the GenNext section, pointed out Kumar, a well known designer who is also a board member of the fashion week.
“The event is known for bringing up new talent who can come up with absolutely wild and unusual ideas, and we have been watching them with a growing interest,” Kumar said.
His own show at the Lakme event was inspired by the Great Gatsby era, presented with Frank Sinatra music sung live by a trio of men and focusing on formal men’s eveningwear with slim leg trousers.
Mukherjee, another established designer, commented, “Its an up-and-coming market — a whole new revolution is coming up.”
His collection was presented with coordinating colors showcasing ethnic fashion. His advice to younger designers at the event was simple: “To succeed globally, you have to succeed at home.”
Falguni Zaveri, owner of the retail store chain Fuel, said the Lakme event is “very good for business” because his team was able to see all the talent under one roof. While Fuel carries designs for both Indian and Western wear, she said Western wear by Indian designers has been hit by the huge influx of Western brands into the country and that Indian wear now does a far higher volume of business. There also are some areas where Indian designers have a niche. “Take Babita M, for instance,” she said, “whose Metal Morphosis collection this week could really compete with international labels. It was high end and beautiful and is in a class of its own.”
Designer duo Anita Walia and Anna-Liza Ganguly, who go under the label of Deux A, flew in from Paris to be a part of the event. Their jersey-based outfits took center stage with the idea of graphics carried through the collection and a little bit of men’s wear. As for showing at Lakme, Walia said, “We want to be on the map. IMG is known for fashion worldwide and we want to be associated with any of their events.”
A fashion duo from Canada, Retarded Velvet, was busy at The Source, with buyers viewing their more Western styles and cuts in wool and jersey, and prints inspired from Africa and other parts of the world. “It’s been a great experience being here,” said one of the designers, Theresa James. “We have made a lot of contacts and plan to move here by next year to change our production base.”
Thamer Al Abduljaleel and Areej Al Kharafi, owners of Kuwait-based Love Fortune Cookie, have been regular buyers at Lakme Fashion Week and said they find Indian designers very talented. Their hope is that there will be “more benchmarks and set prices in what the designers offer at the [exhibition], which sometimes vary from buyer to buyer.”
Aparna Badlani, owner of the retail store Atose in Mumbai, said that “while many of the designers have outdone themselves at the event,” she was pleased to see a greater focus on fabrics rather than embroidery and embellishments.
The use of unusual fabrics and layering were a major part of the shows even as embellishments remained popular, especially in the large number of bridal designs, as the wedding season is just about to begin and is really the big business in India for designer apparel.