By  on August 2, 2012

MUMBAI, India — The five-day Lakmé Fashion Week kicks off here on Friday with 86 designers and several new initiatives.

In its 13th year, the IMG-Reliance venture that co-hosts with beauty firm Lakmé Lever has injected a greater digital element and added more ways to bring attention to the young designers LFW is known to foster.

“Our endeavor has been to demonstrate the intention to take the fashion industry forward on the path of growth,” said Anjana Sharma, director, fashion, of IMG Reliance.

The organizers also have expanded the experiment of a daylong focus on Indian textiles and crafts. Curated again by designer Krishna Mehta, the event will be held this Sunday. There will be an award for the designer who best incorporates Indian weaves and craftsmanship in their collection.

“The Indian textile day will show a huge array of Indian textiles that I have crafted with my own sensibilities in contemporary fashion,” observed Anita Dongre, a Mumbai-based designer who has grown her retail presence across the country in the last few years and who is one of the designers who will do the final show on Sunday.

Of course, fashion week means party time as well and the opening-night party on Thursday started off with a bang. Mumbai Fashion Week parties are famous for appearances by Bollywood stars, as are the runway shows and front-row guests. But the parties are also notorious for the timings kept by Mumbaikars. Although invitations are often listed for 9 p.m., people only start trickling in past midnight.

Despite the party atmosphere at fashion week, which has grown more relaxed in the last few seasons — it is about resort and festivewear after all — the focus is still sharply on business. Buyers are mainly from India and the Middle East, while executives from retailers in the U.S. and Europe attend sporadically.

“Lakmé is geared toward the moment, it’s closer to the season for which we design and is more retail-oriented. My collection at Lakmé shown this week will be in my stores by October,” said Dongre.

Wendell Rodricks, a Goa-based designer, has the same concept. “I think LFW has become a reservoir of new Indian talent and Wills India Fashion Week is about senior, established brand names. There is room for both to exist alongside each other,” he said.

One collection expected to attract attention is Rodricks’ as he presents his first Indianized collection. “Garments are mixed together to look like Indian clothes, but in actual fact they are Western wearable international pieces. For the first time I have played stylist alongside designer,” Rodricks told WWD. “This is all based on the Indian timeless classics like the sari, dhoti, kurta and abstract concepts of zero, infinity and Indian geometry.”

A few regulars are missing from the show schedule this time, including Rohit Bal and Narendra Kumar. Several of those who will not make it observe that it’s about giving other designers a chance, and also about preparing better in the midst of the slew of fashion weeks that have come about in India.

Bangalore Fashion Week, for instance, just concluded last week — July 26 to 29 — and is in its seventh season. Sajad Mahajan, cofounder and director of Dream Merchants, organizers of Bangalore Fashion Week, said, “The concept of fashion is building. People love to spend their money on style.”

Bangalore is in southern India and one of the bigger metro cities that has had fast retail growth and is a prime target for global brands.

At the event last week, customized music was composed for each designer’s show by the organizers, adding a unique slant. Their Web site,, also shows and markets the latest looks from the runway.

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