Monday, 8 March 2010

Lakme Fashion Week, Mumbai: Generation Next, and a Way Ahead

Generation Next: Sabah Khan

Indian fashion has always been at a disadvantage because it doesn't have a winter season, or so several journalists to whom I've been talking suggest. I don't know if they are right but, if they are, then it was a sharp move for Mumbai fashion week to rebrand itself as a resort event. There's no end to the number of little dresses, kaftans, ponchos and pants that can come down the catwalk under that title. And no need to tailor anything at all if you don't want to. So, with that one word – Resort – Mumbai stops fighting for a place with the major Western capitals (at least for the time being) and pitches for sales on a much more level ground.

By competing not with Paris and Milan but with Miami, Rio, Sydney and other fashion weeks favoured with almost perpetual sunshine, Indian designers can begin to show the West what they have to offer. During this week I have already seen cruise clothes that would perfectly fit the West's need to push away the midwinter blues. But there is still a lot of traditional fashion, and not only the sari but also the sort of elegant sophistication in evening wear that can come from it. I try to imagine some of these jewel-encrusted items on backs in the West and, fabulous as they are, I can't. Nor can I see fifties' resort shapes that rely entirely on colour being worn at the beach instead of the tried-and-tested Pucci formula.

It seems to me that the way for Indian fashion to go is the Generation Next route, but even then I think that fresh young(ish) talents should be … well, fresh; and for that one has to look at the art colleges. What I am saying is that India has a long and exciting visual history and it isn't evident enough on the runways of Mumbai. And it should be, and I am sure it could be. Young designers have to be carefully chosen and then given very specific nurturing and mentoring. I started this in the West when I set up Fashion Fringe @ Covent Garden which is an initiative to find good young London-based designers. Step one is finding the talent, but more crucial is step two: to build these strong young talents into real businesses that can be supported as they grow. Now, mentoring and sustaining talents has become part of the young fashion scene in London and the British Fashion Council and other independent bodies have found considerable amounts of money to do so.

There is very much more money in Indian fashion manufacturing than in the UK, so I see no reason why a similar approach tapping this vast wealth would not work here. With a fashion world focused on the West and with world fashion currently totally dominated by huge conglomerates and mega brands it seems to me that the best hope for keeping Indian fashion alive and moving is by helping good talent to get a foot on the ladder and then start climbing. And that means organisational and financial support.

Frankly, fashion weeks are useful profile raisers but they are only part of a complex mix of support and development required to build a national fashion industry, much of which often brings little or no immediate return on investment. It's about having faith not only in the future of designers but also in one's country, surely.
Generation Next: Vipin Batra
Generation Next: Sukhwant & Aastha
Generation Next: Sougat Paul


  1. I Agree totally,it is not the design talent or the manufacturing capability that is missing, it is the "positioning" of the Indian fashion Industry on the international scene, that seems to require a lot of work right now...

  2. It does seem curious that so many European designed fashion items are manufactured in India, yet top Indian designers aren't that significant in the global catwalk stakes.

    Is this because Indian designers have tended to focus upon creating clothing that's suited to the demands of the consumer, rather than desires fed by the press?

    India is a huge subcontinent: It would be interesting to compare fashion manufacturing output figures for export versus production for home use.

  3. I think a huge part of why Indian runway designs have so little influence on what the average person wears, has something to do with the fact that there is very little organised financial backing behind even the biggest labels. No LVMH, no PPR, only some restricted tie-ups with high-street brands to produce diffusion lines, it's bound to hurt their business. That, and the problem of how fashion education in India is run- I've heard people complaining that NIFT (I bet that's the college a lot of these young designers went to) spent far too much time making its students study WGSN, and didn't foster creativity or even technical excellence. Obviously, it has put out quite a few talented designers, but things need to change.

    Also, I am sick of hearing that cut and fit are not important to Indian designers because of the traditions of Indian clothing- IMO it's just an excuse to be lazy and let their artisans/textiles do most of the work, and is a huge part of why people don't always find Indian designer clothing worth their money.

  4. I completely agree with blue floppy above ,Indian designers rely too much on fabric, prints and embellishment and though that is their strength, somewhere in all that flash and bang, the cut and fit are lost.

    That isn't going to work for western wear, because that isn't how western outfits are meant to be, and so on the international ramp these garments seem like a total mismatch.

    Things are changing slowly but it will take time , although I have high regard for NIFT in general , the Indian fashion schools do need to wake up and see if their curriculum matches international standards.

  5. Wow lovely fashion pics, I really love runways, this collection looks pretty cool, and the modern dresses are amazing for hang out tonight!