The charisma of international models, 10 debutant designers and a new and bigger venue could not prevent international sales from taking a nosedive at the tenth edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) that ended here Sunday.
Of the 63 international buyers who had registered for WIFW at Pragati Maidan - which lacked the touch and finesse of a five-star hotel venue - only a handful were spotted at the five-day fashion fete.
"Five-star hotels make for a better venue for the fashion week. Although the area (in Pragati Maidan) is bigger, I am missing the sophistication," said Mohammed Salah of designer store Moda In of Kuwait.
Compared with the previous edition of WIFW held in March this year, business this time went down by nearly 30 percent, although some established designers such as Tarun Tahliani and Manish Arora were not affected as much.
"There was a dearth of buyers, especially from the Gulf countries, in this edition of WIFW. Hence the business was definitely not as good as the last one. For us, business has gone down by 30 percent," designer Deepika Govind said.
Well-known designer Rina Dhaka, who sold nearly 5,000 outfits in the last edition, could only manage to sell a little over 300 outfits this time. Designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock said, "The business was not as good as the last edition and we have registered a dip of about five percent in sales."
Tanya Sahi, senior designer with Cue, a label of Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, said, "There were very few international buyers this time."
According to most designers, a reason for the fall in the number of foreign buyers attending the fashion week was that the fashion extravaganza was scheduled at the same time as the New York Fashion Week and the Paris Fashion Week.
"The number of buyers attending fashion weeks got divided globally since so many fashion fetes are happening around the same time," said designer Puja Arya.
Also, the value of the autumn-winter collection, which is showcased in March, is more due to the fabrics used in them, such as wool and fur. "The value of fabrics used in making the autumn-winter collection is higher, hence the prices and profits go up automatically, unlike the spring-summer collection," said Sahi.
Kichiro Motoyama, president of Japanese fashion store Sun Motoyama Co Ltd, one of the regular buyers at WIFW, said, "Indian designers change their season-specific collections drastically. So much so that from a distance one cannot recognise an outfit belonging to a particular label.
"A designer must never compromise on giving his collection a signature touch and a personal feel. A bit of change is what fashion is all about but not drastic ones that strips a label of its identity," added Motoyama.
Tarun Tahliani and designer duos like Shantanu and Nikhil, Ashima and Leena sold a little over 800 pieces each. While Varun Bahl sold over 200 outfits, other designers like Manish Arora and Rocky S reportedly did good business but refused to divulge details.
Commenting on the dearth of international buyers, Armand Hadida, founder of French fashion store L'Eclaireur, said that "the competition is tough and Indian designers have to give buyers an extremely strong reason to come here rather than go to other shows".
Of the 30 designers who showcased their collections, hardly 10 managed to grab the audience's attention.
"The other major problem with Indian designers is that some are good with fabric and techniques while others are good with design and cuts, but not both. They also lack the personal touch in their collections," Hadida told IANS.
"They are not sure of their target audience. They must decide whether they want to sell in the Indian market or Middle East or Europe, and work accordingly," he added.
Buyers also said that Indian designer labels need global promotion, marketing and international media coverage to allure global buyers.
"Every year we bring some fashion journalists along with us at our own expense so that the Indian fashion week can be written about and customers become aware about the labels. Unfortunately, we could not manage it this year. So, there will be no coverage of the fashion week in our country," said Motoyama.
Rathi Vinay Jha, director general of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), which organises the WIFW, however said that 80 percent of those who buy Indian designer labels are domestic buyers. "The Indian fashion industry is growing at the rate of 10 percent per year," she said.