Many a fashion and corporate aficionados would agree that a fashion week is nothing less than a paragon of sorts, a platform where trends and fads are forged. However, as much glamorous as we would think fashion weeks to be, the other facet of the same is not entirely so. There is clearly a bustling, gigantic amount of sweat and entrepreneurial etiquette that goes into putting together a fashion week than just sumptuous décor, fine choreography, exchanging pleasantries, apparels sported with oomph and a sea of cameras trying to capture the ‘right moment’ when the model takes the ramp.
The country today, highly patronises giants like Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW), Amazon Fashion Week, India Couture Week, Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week etc., which have naturally been the most sought after and have been celebrated rather widely. Now over the years, these weeks have notoriously made their way to the very top while the lesser known ones unfortunately, get side-lined in the process. Think India Beach Fashion Week (which had been held in Goa this year), where through several editions, a melange of innovative designers presented their carefully curated resort, swim, cruise and beach wear. The Rajasthan Heritage Week, the second edition of which took place last year, also was an aesthetic affair which happened at the Pink City. With the ideal ‘Made in Rajasthan’ at its heart and a league of superlative designers like Abraham and Thakore, Rimzim Dadu, Raghavendra Rathore showcasing their collections, the week was a part of the textile development programme that illustrated their commitment and honoured the textile weavers of the state, hence also running parallelly with the Gandhian philosophy. Similarly, Madras Couture Week, the fourth edition of which came about this year, is essentially a platform for aspiring, young designers seeking a breakthrough in the industry. Not only this, but the three-day event also placed great focus on responsible fashion and adaptive clothing.
Despite their thriving potential and growing creativity, the focus on these fashion weeks is lost somewhere, not just because more prominent weeks consume the bigger chunk of the pie, but also because not a lot of commentary is being given to them. Vedant Ahluwalia is the Vice President at Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs India, who currently covers lifestyle for the Ivy Plus group and attends fashion weeks as a part of the same. He says,
In terms of media buzz, Bangalore and Madras tend to have limited access to promoters or sponsors, which can divert participants of the industry to other shows. This leads them to not being as successful.
However, he says that LFW itself has not been generating as many sales for its designers. Buyers attending are very limited, and it has been known in the fashion circle as just an event to promote designers who seek attention from the media. Some designers even refrain from showcasing here and only partake in Amazon as they tend to focus on buyers rather than just publicity.
Sonam Modi, co-founder of the tasteful couture label SVA says, LFW is held in Mumbai and Amazon, at Delhi – both these cities remain fashion capitals as it is home to design houses, fashion enthusiasts and Bollywood – all of which are integral in making fashion weeks more accessible and popular compared to places like Bangalore and Madras – cities which are still flourishing.
Hence, the likes of Rajasthan Heritage Week should be increasingly emboldened because an event like a fashion show plays an important role in not just having the place flourish in the fashion fraternity, but also drawing a significant amount of tourist traction.Further, what is interesting to know is how fashion weeks here are faring on the international radar, and whether or not are they keeping up with The Cardinal Four – New York, London, Milan and Paris. Marissa Bronfman on The Huffington Post writes,
Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai has an even longer way to go before it could ever hope to join the stylish ranks of fashion’s most important metropolitan quartet — New York, London, Milan and Paris — but interestingly, it doesn’t quite seem to matter
, commenting on the shape fashion weeks are now taking in the Indian subcontinent. But the truth of the matter is that fashion weeks here, have had their successful moments, too. Take for example, Twitter launching its first ever custom-made fashion emoji for Lakmé Fashion Week 2017 along with another such feature called #FashionFlock, a hashtag which brought together ten fashion insiders to provide live updates from the show. An additional perk to this was the live HD streaming of runway shows on Periscope to provide digital front row access to the community.
Be it having differently-abled models walking the ramp (Shalini Vikasan at Madras Couture Week 2017), cheery models in a vivid burst of colours and quirky silhouettes (The Meraki Project at LFW 2017), or witnessing curvy, plus-sized models grace the ramp with utter zeal and confidence (Wendell Rodricks at Lakmé Fashion Week 2017), India has its own bunch of trailblazers who have, quite efficiently led the Indian fashion scenario and eventually, also paved way for substantial international exposure.
Indian fashion weeks, just like any other, comprise of a diverse range of attendees from across fields. While the most obvious ones are the press, buyers, advertisers, celebrities and the designer’s personal network, there is also a cluster of other people which are rather quite unknown.
There are people not affiliated with fashion at all, who also attend fashion weeks. These include lots from real estate, theatre, students, fitness instructors, corporate employees, and more. Event promoters and foreign delegates from various countries including South Africa and Ecuador, and basically, anyone that can use an approach to get a pass,
says Vedant. Sonam, who along with her partner Paras Modi presented her couture collection at Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2017 says,
Fashion has become much more than just a retail industry; bloggers are constantly in search of new style references and collaborations with designers. Their work and following helps us in increasing our reach.
However, amidst all the hubbub of a glitterati clad fashion week, what often goes unnoticed is that fashion weeks, too, can be an extremely tedious process. What with going about RSVP-ing to various shows, zigzagging rather relentlessly between multiple show venues, shows not starting on time, collections not being available sooner for the customers to buy being just a few of them.
Behind the scenes is very hectic. There are delays because of improper fittings, mishaps such as models tripping on ramp, poor choice of venues, difficulty with seating arrangements and so on,
he adds. Sonam agrees. She says,
It sure does look glamorous from the outsider’s perspective. However at the back-end, there’s a lot of effort and hard-work that goes into making this industry a glamorous one,
while encapsulating factors like long working hours, models’ call times and technicalities such as music and visuals which have to be well organised to make sure the presentation goes well.
For today’s frenzied customers, brands like Burberry and Tom Ford have reformed the way buying cycles work by implementing the see-now-buy-now model, which essentially slashes the time between seeing a collection and buying it. This ‘runway to retail’ technique particularly means that the collection is up for grabs as soon as it is sported on the runway. While this means enhanced accessibility and convenience to the buyers, whether or not will Indian designers be able to cater to such a quick and increasing demand and whether the ‘runway to retail’ concept will work here remains a huge question, to which Sonam says,
Straight off the runway availability creates a positive stir amongst buyers and clients. It would work in India and a lot of designers have started implementing it this season.
However, Vedant demonstrates a different side to it –
Not so much for stores but more for individuals looking to buy single pieces. Suppliers would not risk keeping more than one or two samples and sizes.
Sonam, who has been taking her label to the ramp since four years now, says that they were able present more looks this time around compared to last season.
This time, it was all about digital media, hence we could promote it well on a larger scale over social media platforms – this helped propagate our collection before and after the launch,
she says. Availability on e-commerce platforms helps people all over the world to shop at ease – it is also cost-saving. Proximity and accessibility to direct clients helps in creating a rapport between buyers and designers, she adds, hence highlighting how buying cycles can be further enhanced in India.
While it is no surprise that international fashion weeks have a better curated crowd and traction in terms of sales for designers, Indian fashion weeks, too, can be well equipped to keep up with the same. How?
They should adopt technology as it is becoming increasingly available. There are a lot of ways to involve remote buyers now, and international buyers are only waiting for us to approach them,
The strategy adopted by most new comers is to get sponsors such as consulates, chamber of commerce, alcohol companies, or co-working spaces to be able to showcase their work, according to Vedant. Post the event, he adds, especially in the case of prestigious ones such as Lakmé, they end up with a good media promotion that lets them find sponsors to set up stores and continue to grow. Fashion weeks, in this very way, can be a great space for entrepreneurial talent as well.
Throwing some more light on the progressive front that India is adopting, Sonam remarks,
With every passing season we are getting exposed to more acceptability on an international platform.
She adds that buyers from all over the world are stocking up on Indian designer ensembles; and trade shows are providing a launch pad to upcoming designers.
That being said, technology, increasing entrepreneurial effort, enhanced marketing tactics, a sales-oriented view and designers plunging into progressive design techniques are some agents which are unabatedly playing catalyst in reviving India’s fashion weeks. However, there is a lot more strategic change to come and that, precisely, should change the way fashion weeks function, but only if we let them.