As expected, recession has taken its toll on the fashion industry with buyers playing safe and sticking to their regular designers and experimenting less with the new ones at the just concluded 12th edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW).
Though figures on the business generated at the five day event March 18-22 are still being collated, Sunil Sethi, the president of event organiser Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), said the premier business-to-business show had thrown up a mixed bag for everyone.
"Some designers managed to get good business while for some, it was lower. But what is important is to acknowledge the fact that despite the recession, the buyers were there but in lower numbers and their budgets were really low this time," Sethi added.
For established designers like Rina Dhaka, Ranna Gill, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna of label Cue, and Ashima-Leena, business was much the same as the previous edition as their regular buyers placed orders with them.
"Business has been quite good and there were no order cuts for us. As we pay attention to each and every garment, buyers prefer our clothes," Leena Singh pointed out.
"Our regular buyers from the Middle East brought their major chunk from our line. We also lowered our prices so that the buyers didn't feel the pinch and this we did by reducing our overheads," she added.
Another designer Niki Mahajan said that business was not at all bad, as apart from her regular buyers she impressed new ones as well.
"Other than from my regular clients from the Middle East, I have also got positive responses from buyers from Japan and Hong Kong," Mahajan said.
"But even my regular buyers have reduced their orders by 40-60 percent, though they didn't negotiate on the price aspect," Mahajan added.
At least one buyer said that in times of recession, he was playing it safe as was looking for "value for money".
"Business is tough and we are looking for products that give us value for money. We all know that these are tough times and hence we are more choosy about the items that we are picking," David Schneider from Portuguese store Living Fashion told IANS.
Schneider also said that unlike at previous editions of the fashion week, he was paying a lot of attention to small details like fabric, tailoring, cuts and quality.
"There is no cut in our budget, which is $2 million per year, but yes we have cut down on orders a lot. Now we are focusing on smaller orders from a larger number of designers, including a few young ones. We are playing it safe," he added.
Another major buyer Megan Dever from US store Anthropology agreed with Schneider and said that the quality of designs has improved a lot from the last time. This was because designers too have understood the fact that to impress buyers in a time of slowdown, the "product should be of top quality".
She also said she was not cutting down on her budget.
"Customers are of the utmost importance to us and we don't want to disappoint them by buying less. We are looking for western silhouettes with the Indian touch," Dever explained.
Both Schneider and Dever placed orders with their regular designers like Ranna Gill, Rina Dhaka and label Cue of Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna while Schneider added two new names - Rajesh Pratap Singh and Manish Arora - to his list.
Japanese buyer Tomoko Inuzuka took 50 pieces from her favorite designer Manish Arora. She also liked the work of Kavita Bhartia, Namrata Joshipura and Amit GT but has not finalised anything for the moment with these designers.
While designer Vikrant of label Virtues admitted that the buyers' response to the younger lot was very "cold" this time as they were apprehensive of experimenting, designer duo Hemant and Nandita witnessed 'double' sales.
"No new buyers visited our stall this time while our previous buyers are negotiating hard on the price, which has never happened in the past," Vikrant said.
"Apart from our old buyers," Nandita said, "we got many new buyers as well. The only thing that we focused on was lowering the prices of our products without compromising on the quality and this decision has paid off."