I believe in destiny, and in the 41-year-odd career, I have had a tryst with fashion twice. The first time, 21 years ago, to set up India’s first school of fashion—National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT)— and then four years ago, to head the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).
Both assignments were challenging, eventful and memorable. A couple of years into my tenure at NIFT, I was directed to wind up the institute. In a country where even basic needs were not met, how could public funds support elitist education, asked the government? We fought to save the institute and some day put India on theworldmap of fashion.
My wish was fulfilled 20 years later when alumnus Manish Arora was invited as the first Indian designer to the Paris runway. A year into my tenure at FDCI, a decision to change an event manager lost us a title sponsor and many perceived this was the end of the road. We still came up trumps with Wills Lifestyle that brought in a perfect fit and synergy to the business of fashion.
The year 2006 was all about new beginnings with two fashion shows and a spring/summer showcase for the first time.
Didier Grumbach, the grand guru from Paris, opened the doors for India to the Hyeres Festival of France. WLFW autumn/winter 2007 was our largest event to date with 87 designers. The year also brought in the first invitations to Paris.
Manish and Anamika showcased in Paris that September. Rajesh followed the next season. These are among the many achievements I will cherishas I retire at the end of my assignment with the Council. I was able to tide through crises, build the credibility of the FDCI and make the fashion weeks more about business.
Politics of it all
The Council’s mandate goes beyond conducting fashion events. It is more about development and supporting the industry. It is about being democratic and reaching out to all designers, the best and the emerging, the famous and the unknown.
Politics is part of all organisations and fraternities worldwide but it needs to be contained before it becomes a cancer.
The present situation is leading to the creation of elitism within the industry. This will destroy the cohesion the Council had achieved in the past fewyears. Can the situation be saved? It is for future leaders to tell. Or is this the beginning of the end?