It’s not fashionable to be firang, according to the rules of FDCI’s Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW). While models from across the border are welcomed with open arms, designers of foreign nationalities are not. As Greek-Lebanese designer Alecca Carrano found out the hard way, only Indian designers or those of Indian origin are allowed to showcase here.
“I’ve been living in India for five years, I pay taxes. We’re an Indian company. Yet, I’ve been turned down every time I applied for membership,” she says. “The rule was only officially put up on the website this year. Until now, they’ve been rejecting my application without a reason. I was told, ‘go back to your own country’. I would have gone to Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, but they don’t have buyers there, and this is a business for me.”
Anita Walia, a jewellery designer and buyer of mixed origin, who recently participated in Mumbai’s Fashion Week, was surprised when a buyer mentioned that her mixed parentage gave her a chance at WIFW. “It was a strange rule. I do have an overseas citizenship card, but I’m a German national. I would be very offended if I was denied a stall on those grounds,” she says.
Designer and store owner Kavita Bhartia, whose Ogaan stocks designs from Carrano, throws light on the subject: “Even in New York’s fashion week, designers are mostly New York-based, save for a few invited from elsewhere. There are a lot of international designers in India, they might also demand to be included in the fashion week.” But she does petition for exceptions to be made in certain cases: “I understand FDCI’s cause, but Alecca is based out of India. I didn’t know of this rule, but I now intend to bring it up.”
However, Sunil Sethi, president, FDCI, sticks to his guns. “We don’t have any foreigners showing on the ramp or in stalls. There have been people who have been asking for membership, but we have been refusing their requests, because we are here to promote the business of Indian fashion designers.”
However, he does reveal a loophole in the argument, explaining that exceptions would be made for foreign designers who have Indian partners. “In Alecca’s case, she did have an Indian partner. We promised him we would try to work something out after he approached us a year ago. But we haven’t heard from him. She doesn’t need us, young Indian designers do.”