I always wonder when I see buyers and even the press attend too many shows at Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW). The heart of WIFW is really the stall area. At Milan, Paris, and New York it is all about shows, shows and then there are re-sees for the press and buyers in the showrooms. Since we do not have a showroom culture yet, the stalls are where you see the clothes up close and actually get to feel the fabric.
This year you will notice that many of the “senior” designers like Tarun Tahiliani, Abraham and Thakore and Rohit Bal are not showing but they have stalls. Booking in access of Rs1 crore of orders is common for a few designers. Many mid-level designers like Pankaj and Nidhi, Nachiket Barve and Nikasha invest money on taking double stalls. Smart designers spend time and effort styling their stalls (which are about 9 metres square) into spaces that speak of their style. This is after all where they spend all their time.
For fashion editors you get to see the details in the clothes, and interact with the designers. This really is where you get the pulse of the trends for the seasons. For buyers they spend time working on collections and booking orders, so designers dare not leave their stalls. You even notice the city’s fashionistas like to spend time in the stalls —travelling all the way to Pragati Maidan for a twenty minute show requires a lot of dedication. If that can be tied in with a coffee at one of the cafes (this year we are loving the fact that Elma’s has set up a tea room in the stall area) and also walk through the 182 designer stalls to do a spot of shopping. Now that is an afternoon well spent.
It also means you do not need to spend five days at the week, which is great news for out of town buyers and press. Not to play down the need to show, that is what the lifeblood of fashion. That is how designers send their message, and never showing is not an option for any designer worth their salt. But in India, unlike anywhere else you can take a season out. In Milan if a Gucci, Prada or even Marni skipped a fashion week it would be akin to killing the brand. Here thanks to the stall system, it is very accepted.
Perhaps this proves when it comes to fashion like in so many industries we have our own ecosystem. We are tailoring our own structure and not aping the west, now perhaps some designers should take the same stand when they are designing their collections!