Designing new horizons
Does the future of Indian fashion designers lie in skipping fashion for design?
RAMP IS no longer their only roost, opulence is no longer their middle name; still `con-fusion' remains the word for Indian fashion in 2004. The year saw in the name of brand extension, designers finally moving into accessory business in a big way The branching out rash spread so much that some trousseau masters became amenable to designing tents and cards for shadis by the year end. From J.J. Valaya, and Tarun Tahiliani to Rohit Bal, all formalised something what some of them were doing over the years as friendly gestures. Fellow designer Ravi Bajaj termed them as nothing more than English-speaking tentwallahs forcing the phrase `brand dilution' make an ominous appearance.
Counters J.J. Valaya whose fashion house has tied up with shaadionline for designer shadis, "Ours is one of the India's best known fashion house with speciality in trousseaux. The wedding design company is purely a brand extension because it will cater specifically to design ideas only with the implementation part looked after by shaadionline."
Design or fashion
Yes, design instead of fashion is promising to be the defining word for the industry with the fraternity coming with suggestions to make everyday life beautiful. Designer Raghavendra Rathore forwarded an idea of making as routine a thing as traffic signal more eye-friendly. "Fashion is coming out of the niche closet where design is becoming more important than fashion."
Rathore is also moving into marriage business but he wants to limit himself to dresses only. "Plus, I have a hotel in Jodhpur so I can combine it as an option and instead of laddoos, offer young couples my designer chocolates." He doesn't believe `brand dilution' is an Indian concept and cites Amitabh Bachchan to nail his point. "In Europe, you get one chance here you can get a number of chances. In India, I am still known for making the largest shirt, and designing chocolates, fashion comes third," quips Rathore.
The year also saw select designers realising small doesn't mean dilution and they moved from the extravaganzas at the five-star hotels to the small-yet-niche spots where food and fashion mixed with ease for select eyes. "This has to happen. As Indian fashion is evolving from couture to ready-to-wear, cost cutting is the buzzword," says Rathore. While hosting a show in a five-star cost something around Rs. 10-15 lakhs, at a small placeyou can easily save Rs. 5-10 lakhs.
Ironically, India Fashion Week, the annual event to promote prêt beyond the niche segment remained just that, a hot spot for the rich and the famous. Fashion Design Council of India promised a market week strictly for business purpose but it never happened. "I don't participate in the Week because it is no different from private shows, same people, similar buyers. Mass is a vague term in India but if you have to take fashion even to a section of middle class, hold the Week in a public place," argues Bajaj.
Meanwhile, with saturation staring at their faces in home markets, international designers Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Valentino and Giovanni came looking for a public place called India. However, the number of their products in the market proved they are just testing waters. "
There is a danger for those who were copying international labels but for originals, there is no need to fear as no western machine can copy the hand-done kantha work," says Rathore. He admits the customer is demanding sharper cuts even in ethnic wear. "It is because of exposure to international fashion." Like most, for him influence stops at confluence that is fusion in fashion parlance.
The channels provided opportunities to designers like Manish Malhotra to anchor new grounds.
It is another matter he dished out a routine affair. Sabyasachi Mukherjee made waves with his frog princess and his demure foray into costume designing with Black is eagerly awaited.
In this branching out year, Rathore has the right word for his fraternity. "We call it harbari in Hindi. Hope things will streamline next year."
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