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Not all of it is fashionable

The cost of organising the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week has increased manifold. Is it paying off? Ruchira Hoon reports.

fashion and trends Updated: Mar 27, 2010 23:58 IST
Ruchira Hoon

Exactly a year ago, fashion columnist Suzy Menkes was spotted in Delhi at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week. She isn’t around this year. If the last time she couldn’t “deal with the politics of it”, this time around she would certainly have been a pool of sweat.

Despite spending a whopping seven crores to organise the event, the turnout has been abysmal. From a buyer list of 150 (domestic and international) including names such as Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Anthropology, Selfridges and Browns London, less than 40 per cent showed up. And those who have can’t help but complain about the ‘conditions’ at the buyers’ lounge, an exclusive area for the buyers to hobnob with the glitterati. “Refreshments are a long way off, we’d be happy if the air-conditioning works at all,” says a buyer from an international fashion house. Most of them are flown down business class, put up at 5-star hotels and over Rs 3 lakh is spent on each of them. “Most of them just see and go back. It takes almost two-three visits to place a large order,” says designer Suhani Mahajan. “But standing with them under the heat doesn’t make the best of buying conditions.”

For an industry that’s worth more than

Rs 500 crore, the designers continue to generate business for weeks after the event is over. “I’d imagine roughly about Rs 20 crores worth of business is generated every season through the event,” says Sunil Sethi, president, Fashion Design Council of India. “While most of the business comes from domestic buying, foreign buyers, especially from West Asian countries and from Japan and France, have begun contributing.”

Ten years ago, setting up the fashion week would cost about two crores; today it’s gone up over three times. “Now with an entourage of 150 buyers, 130 designers (including 19 new ones), 75 shows, 53 models, six choreographers, three make-up artists and well, a posse of guards there’s a lot of money involved,” says the FDCI official. While sponsors cover most of it, designers have to shell out participation fees, which means up to Rs 3 lakh for a solo show and at least a lakh extra for their stalls.

This year, which is incidentally also the 15th edition of the fashion week, has seen the founder members of the FDCI — Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal, JJ Vallaya, Ranna Gill, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Niki Mahajan, Suneet Varma, Payal Jain —unveiling their latest collections like every year. But it’s designers Abraham & Thakore who are making the news. After 18 years in the business together, they’re making their debut in the fashion week this year. That would mean designer Shahab Durazi, who has managed to stay out of the politics of the fashion week since the last 15 years, may now just be thinking about wading his way through the next one.

So why does the India Fashion week (IFW) not hold a candle to its counterpart in London, New York or Paris? The answer is simple. The IFW doesn’t follow the international calendar and often results in clashes with the fashion weeks in the west. Buyers prefer heading to the bigger names, which is why designers often miss out on them. Plus the politics of the two fashion weeks (Lakme and Wills). And to make it worse, they all work on Indian Standard Time — 15 minutes too late for everything, but this year they are running a whole 24 hours late.

Maybe that’s why Anna Wintour or her alter ego Miranda Priestly didn't make it to this one either.

With inputs from Vinod Nair