Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The future of fashion : Indian Designers

Fashion loves to celebrate and this year there are plenty of reasons to party. Ashish Soni just held his retrospective in Delhi and soon after designer store Evoluzione hosted the Greatest Hits of Manish Arora's work.

JJ Valaya is planning his. Suneet Verma is gearing up for show and photo exhibition later this month which kick-starts his year of celebration and he is also working on a book. Added to this grand old dame of fashion retail in Mumbai and Delhi, Ensemble turns 25 years.

2012 is coincidentally a landmark year for many designers. Designers Anju Modi, Suneet Verma's labels turn 25, Ashish Soni, Abraham and Thakore and JJ Valaya are all 20 years old this year, at 15 there is Ranna Gill, Manish Arora, Rohit and Rahul, and proud to reach the decade mark are Gauri and Nanika as well as Anand Kabra.

Finally ready for “grown up school” at five years old are Nachiket Barve and Rakesh Agarvwal. So, get ready for lots more pomp and revelry. But the question is, is there much to celebrate? Has fashion really become a proper Industry?

Wedding market

Most designers only have a couple of their own stand alone stores. And though most senior designers have experimented ready to wear route (which is where volumes for fashion come internationally and normally marks the maturity of the fashion industry) most have found that India is a market where couture is what matters, mainly thanks to our wedding market. “In a textile and heritage driven country like ours, it really is about couture right now,” explains Suneet Verma, who closed down his ready to wear line Spice several years ago.

Anjana Sharma, Director Fashion, IMG Reliance, says, “We really have not created fashion houses yet. Look at Alexander McQueen, how the mantle was passed on to Sara Burton after his sad demise. Here fashion is still individualistic.” According to her we are not ready for all this celebration. “We are still on the first generation of designers,” she points out. So fashion is still young and perhaps in that respect retrospectives are a bit premature.

But designers feel there is plenty to celebrate.

Says birthday boy Suneet, “The business has changed drastically 360 degrees. From people wondering why I spend my parents' life's earning to becoming a tailor to every other young person wanting to pursue a career in fashion — from design to retail.”
There is no question that the advent of fashion week, 12 years ago, has meant better organisation of the industry. “When we started, there was just one multi-brand store Ensemble in Mumbai's Lion's Gate, now they have about five branches in more than one city,” says David Abraham. And stores like Evoluzione, Kimaya and Ogaan now all have a national footprint. Designers are finally focusing on the domestic market and proud of Indian achievements.

Says David, “When we started we really were an export company, today 50 per cent of our revenue comes from the domestic market.” Suneet adds, “By 2017 India will be the largest consumer of lifestyle, luxury and fashion goods in the world.” Plus we are one of the few markets that still celebrates homegrown fashion, despite the advent of the Guccis, Diors and Fendis. Most society ladies are as proud to wear “Made in India” as they are of “Made in Italy,” when it comes to high fashion.

As Ensemble's Tina Tahilani Parikh point outs, “The industry has expanded greatly in terms of fashion, merchandising, buying etc. More people are open to shopping at fashion stores for brands and the customer has become more discerning and educated compared to a few years ago. The industry is on its way to becoming a serious industry.”

There is already talk of LVMH's L Capital looking at investing in Indian design. US investment firm Franklin Templeton recently invested an estimated Rs.60 crore into multi brand store, Kimaya.

Birthdays are always a moment for retrospection and reflection. “We need corporate investment now for fashion to really grow,” says Suneet. To which David adds, “All the designer multi brands are still boutiques, and department stores should really work with us. That will strengthen the market.” He is hopeful that will happen soon. So it really does seem like 2012 is a turning point for fashion - and by next year there maybe more reason for the industry to merry make.

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