NEW DELHI — Opening with soft colors and beiges in relaxed silhouettes, the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week eased into the first day of shows on Wednesday.
The five-day event, which runs until Sunday at Pragati Maidan here, is geared to serious business, and designers told WWD they’re ready to up the ante in terms of orders for both global and local markets.
The fashion week, held twice a year and organized by the Fashion Design Council of India, will showcase 124 designers.
“It’s about two things, isn’t it? Fame and money. Both happen here at fashion week, and we’ve all been building up regular buyers over the years, which makes the event one of anticipation for all of us,” said Nandita, of the Hemant and Nandita duo who did a strong show Wednesday using ikat fabrics.
“Our task is changing with [the times], as well,” said Nandita. “Now, we have a mix of domestic and international buyers. Earlier, a lot of the retail was in the metro cities of Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, but now buyers come from many of the smaller cities. We also take our styles to the shows in Paris and New York, so we are catering [to] a very wide mix of buyers.”
She explained that while international markets prefer a lot of neutral shades with a dash of color, the Indian market was the opposite: awash with color with a dash of softer tones.
Manish Gupta, who will show on Thursday, spoke about how his perceptions have changed to fit the market. “I’m doing more gowns now, moving toward more Western silhouettes. People are much more experimental now, and that allows me more freedom, as well, even though the basic look of the brand hasn’t changed. We are known for our contemporary textures and embroidery,” he said.
Although his prices, which range from 20,000 to 60,000 rupees, or $327.92 to $983.76 at current exchange, are still high for the Indian market, he explained, “Indian designers use a lot of embroidery and textured fabrics. It costs more. Unless you change the complete look, the workmanship itself makes it more expensive.”
Designers whose collections are warmly anticipated include Kavita Bhartia, Malini Ramani and Gauri & Nainika on Thursday, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Masaba on Friday and Wendell Rodricks on Saturday.
The exhibition area, which usually generates excitement and business, will include not only the designers who are showing on the runway but also those who are not, such as Abraham & Thakore, Krishna Mehta, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Manav Gangani and Masaba.
The changing mind-set of designers, who are looking at new ways of growing their businesses, is indicative of this season.
Raakesh Agarvwal, a designer who has been experimenting with daring cuts and drapes and who will show on Saturday, said, “We are going very business-centric now. It’s always been a lot about creativity, but now I’m ready to combine all of that with sheer business sense.”
His first flagship is set to open soon in Mumbai, and he is looking to launch a jewelry line, an accessories line and a men’s collection later this year. “All of them are showing a lot of promise, and my associations with e-commerce sites, such as Jabong and Myntra, are also doing very well. It means changing some of the price points I [had] been working at earlier — looking at bringing them down, in many cases — but it is worth it,” he said.
His collection this time will be different creatively, as well — “especially no bling,” he observed.
Bling, disliked by many designers and yet an essential part of the runway for the past few years, may be on a decline this season. Several designers pointed toward this changing trend and talked about digital prints and patterns becoming more important.