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Indian fashion still has miles to go

Slackness in marketing fashion is a problem that is preventing acknowledgement of Indian designers across the globe.

fashion and trends Updated: Apr 09, 2007 18:57 IST

Two recently concluded fashion events - Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) and Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) - are indicators of the growth of the Indian fashion industry. But it needs to overcome many pitfalls before it can make a real mark on the international fashion fraternity.

Slackness in marketing strategies is one such problem that is preventing the acknowledgement of Indian designers across the globe.

"Indian designers are hardly known in Kuwait. Nearly 60 percent of the couture market in Kuwait is dominated by Italy and 30 percent by France. Only 3 percent accounts for India and the rest encompasses others," said Mohammed Salah, a buyer from the designer store Modain.

"Moreover, designers do not support buyers as catalogues and brochures are rarely given to us while we are watching the collection on the ramp. Also, the whole range of outfits is not showcased on the ramp," Salah told IANS.

In a bid to woo international buyers, designers are rolling out western lines. But the collections do not appeal to foreign customers as they are over-embellished, do not have perfect cuts and lack originality.

Robin Schulie, a buyer from Paris, agreed.

"Some designers here are living in a make believe world. They are overlooking the splendid local market of India and are looking to Europe for approval. Where is the Indian identity?" asked Schulie of Maria Luisa, an upscale accessory store.

"Designers here overemphasise on embellishments but the cuts of the outfits are not perfect as yet," he added.

Though the turnout of buyers soared appreciably compared to the previous editions of the fashion weeks, the buying system proved a reason for annoyance.

"The buying system is not very efficient and systematic here. It's crazy - designers open their stores at 10:30 am and close by 9 pm. The time clashes with the show timings, so buyers can't make the most of it. How can a buyer see the collection and buy at the same time?" asks Mickey Kanoh of Saaya, a designer boutique in Japan.

"Designers must either open the stalls early or close them late, so that buyers get more time," added Kanoh.

While the way of presentation impressed the buyers, they did not find the pricing of garments and accessories up to the mark.

"Indian techniques and use of colours is impressive. The fabrics are very comfortable too, but sometimes the use of accessories disappoints. The heels models wear are unreal. No customer will buy such high heels," said Veronique Poles, a French consultant business developer.

"The presentation is extremely impressive, but compared to previous years I've noticed a hike in the price of outfits, which does not always match the quality," said Kanoh.

Talk about hairdos, and celebrity hairstylist Dar looks helplessly dissatisfied.

"Indian designers are so creative but the hairstyles don't go with their collections. The hairdo is overdone and makes the model look like a 'nobody'," confesses Dar.

Regardless of all these lacunae, none can deny that the Indian fashion industry is developing phenomenally when judged against its age. And learning is a part of growing up.

"We are a young organisation and a nascent industry. We will learn and evolve with time," said Ritu Kumar, designer and president Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).

"Despite growing by leaps and bounds season after season, the Indian fashion industry has a long way to go before it can compete with international fashion weeks. But we have lived up to the promise of delivering the 'business of fashion'. Getting government recognition and support for the fashion industry has been one of the most strategic milestones," said Rathi Vinay Jha, director general FDCI.

The buyers were impressed for much the same reasons.

"I am impressed by the level and progress of the whole fashion event. It is so professional and, most importantly, legitimate. I must confess designers like Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Rohit Gandhi-Rahul Khanna offer us tough competition," said Schulie.