One of the designs shown during the Ministry of Textiles' show of five Australian designers.

NEW DELHI — India Fashion Week here for the first time went direct to consumer, indicating the country’s changing fashion market.

The fashion week, the first four days of which were dedicated to retail buyers, also came with a new sponsor and a new name — the Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week, or LMIFW.

“The event kept the tradition of buyer sale for the first four days and added a new dimension for public sale on the penultimate two days at the same venue,” Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India, or FDCI, told WWD. FDCI is the organizer of the event, which closed Oct. 15. “In its 19 years of existence, the FDCI has never thought of doing a B2C show. We have always been about business-to-business, and we are just adding on a new dimension,” he added.

Describing the changing retail market, and a year in which many designers have slowed the opening of their own stores, he said the last two days included past seasons’ designs and old inventory. “Many of the designers have been talking about the pain in retail, about downsizing a bit and reengineering their operations. In the factories, people are reassessing what to do this year because the orders from the international, but mostly the domestic, market have not been that great. We thought that FDCI designers are already taking part all over India at events for sales. So why not have our own sale? There are so many aspirants who want to come to fashion week and want to see the set up. This works for both sides,” Sethi explained.

The event also started out on a new note with Amazon India, the sponsor for the last seven seasons, pulling out and beauty brand Lotus Herbals coming in. It was a first for an herbal beauty brand to sponsor a fashion event of this scale. Previous beauty brands to sponsor fashion weeks have belonged to larger consumer goods companies. “When we started, the first six years were sponsored by [beauty brand] Lakme,” Sethi observed. Lakme Lever is a subsidiary of consumer goods company Hindustan Unilever.
“We had Wills Lifestyle and beauty brand Fiama di Wills [from Kolkata-based consumer goods company ITC Ltd.], which continued for nine years. Along with Amazon India as main sponsor, there was Maybelline for another four seasons. Beauty has always been a big part of it and having Lotus makeup as title sponsor is a perfect fit,” Sethi said.

“It’s a unique space for us as well,” said Nitin Passi, director of Lotus Herbals Pvt. Ltd., which launched a seven-sku skin-care line during fashion week. The collection comes in large sachet pouches and is aimed at the mass market.

Lotus has long had a role in the skin-care segment, but Passi said the makeup, with its unique herbal roots, has been growing fast. “Earlier, we were 80 percent skin care, now it is closer to 75 percent. We have 250 sku’s for makeup, about 200 sku’s for skin care,” he said.

It’s a big change of positioning for the brand, from retail onto the runway.

“We evaluated this for a long time on how to get the makeup brand out, and reach the younger market with a much bigger buzz,” Passi said. “This fashion week gives us that platform — the trends for the next season are determined here and we are working very closely with some of the designers to establish these in terms of both beauty and fashion. We see it as a fabulous opportunity to collaborate and make up the designs for the next season.”

Some unique global collaborations brought in different celebrities to add to the lineup of Indian designers, who included Ashish n Soni, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Wendell Rodricks among others. The Australian government worked with the Indian Ministry of Textiles for a five-designer project.

“We’ve been working on this for some years,” said Harinder Singh Sidhu, high commissioner of Australia. “What we’re trying to show is how fashion and culture can be a joint product. The designs are really a show of Australian aesthetics, with the eveningwear playful and fun, in a hallmark of Australian design. And the texture and colors are uniquely Indian.”

Caroline Poiner, founder of Artisans of Fashion, who has been working with Indian weavers and artisans for almost two decades, curated the event. “We wanted to take note of the fact that fashion can also be about craftsmanship, the quality of the textiles. It’s been a big project,” she said.

The five designers were We Are Kindred, Cassandra Harper, Roopa, Romance Was Born and BBrothers Earth.

Harper, who has lived and worked in Cambodia, said it had been a huge learning process for her brand and the collection would retail in Australia as well as in Denmark and Sweden. “My silhouettes are simple and classic and the ikats had a chance to shine. It’s the first time I’ve worked with Telengana,” she said of the state in southern India.

Japanese designer Atsushi Nakashima brought his collection to fashion week as well, with a collaboration with the Japanese embassy.

Returning immediately after showing at Paris Fashion Week, Rahul Mishra displayed a more pret collection, with a focus on the fine cotton woven in West Bengal.

Maintaining its practice of bringing multiple designers together for the finale, LMIFW made a huge bow to the “Inclusivity” theme. Coming just over a month after the Indian Supreme Court stuck down Section 377, which criminalized homosexuality, the rainbow theme was an ecstatic celebration of the new order. More than 40 designers came together, showing one creation each.

“There was a lot of camaraderie with this event,” said designer Vivek Karunakaran. “Anything that brings together the community makes it more interesting, but with this aspect of it being related to Section 377 made it more intense. It was not just to put a garment out there, but there was love and freedom and a lot more emotion attached.”

As the final shutters came down on the event, including the consumer sales, designers had mixed feelings but on the whole, were pleased with the chance to reach the direct customer. “There has been a lot of footfall,” said designer Debarun Mukherjee. “But perhaps its real success will only be clear after a couple of seasons when it becomes a trend and gives us a definite forum.”

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