MUMBAI — It’s all about nostalgia and gratitude as Lakme Fashion Week opens today for a five-day run of designers’ summer/festive collections.
The reason for this combination of emotions, replacing the usual swagger and bombastic glamour, is tied to a number: 15. LFW is marking its 15th anniversary.
“The evolution of my label 10 years back has been closely tied to Lakme Fashion Week,” said Manish Malhotra, whose show at a new location and off-site from the main event will be tonight. “I have seen the change in me, my work, with each season of the fashion week. It coincides closely with my own journey.”
Malhotra, who has a large following of Bollywood stars, will do other things that are new: his show, sponsored by WEvolve, comes at a time when the subject of gender violence is being hotly debated across India and he will address that. He also previewed his collection of pretty and feminine designs filled with indigos and yellows outside his store in New Delhi earlier this month.
“There are a lot of eyeballs on this event, especially by the youth. So it’s okay to take up an important issue and speak about it here,” he said.
There are lots of other changes at fashion week this season.
The shows will be held at the Palladium Hotel, where they were also held last season. The big names are back: Sabyasachi Mukherjee in a pre-opening show on Tuesday; Malhotra today; Raghavendra Rathore on Thursday, and Wendell Rodricks and Tarun Tahiliani on Sunday. The textile day, which focuses on textiles from different parts of India, will be on Thursday.
“There’s going to be a whole different buzz to it this time, being the 15th year,” said Saket Dhankar, head of fashion at IMG Reliance Pvt. Ltd., which is an equal joint venture between one of India’s largest private sector companies, Reliance, and IMG Worldwide.
“We thought about doing a single show with all the designers working together. But instead, we decided to go with larger, separate shows. Three of these are off-site at new locations,” Dhankar said.
He explained the shows would generally retain their format, but would have a wider sweep, with a larger number of designers who have been in business for a long time. “So in terms of designers and shows, it’s bigger and better this time. We have relationships that we have built over the last 15 years and we will be celebrating these,” Dhankar said.
Dhankar feels the return of so many well-known designers will also give the event more strength. “Both the fashion weeks face a challenge in drawing senior designers,” he said, referring to India Fashion Week, which is held twice a year in New Delhi, as well as LFW. He explained established designers have been trying to move from a pret fashion space to couture.
He said more buyers are expected as well.
Although LFW gets plenty of attention from viewers as Bollywood stars walk the runways and fill the front rows of the event, a common complaint from designers has been about the lack of buyers. Tahiliani, who will show on Sunday, said the fashion community itself needed to focus and work toward growth.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’ve built the business to where it should have been, or the kind of buyers,” he said, raising the need for introspection and a plan forward that can transform the industry.
The lineup at LFW lists 83 designers. Like the previous season, fashion e-tailer Jabong has a separate runway and area simply called Jabong Stage, where emerging designers show parallel to the main event.
Dhankar said the young designers generate a lot of excitement with their shows.
“As the designer lineup stopped becoming the advantage for fashion week, we decided that we are going to focus on our young designers, many of whom we have discovered. So, increasingly, we are focusing on younger talent, this is about 60 percent now,” he said.
There has been an evolution of beauty as well.
“The approach has really evolved. In the last couple of seasons we’re bringing a lot more product focus,” said Purnima Lamba, head of innovation at Lakme, the beauty brand from the consumer goods giant Hindustan Unilever. As Lakme grows its salon business, the brand has recently unveiled the launch of its flagship at the Palladium Mall.