Look up the word showstopper in the dictionary and this is what you will read: “A performer or performance that wins enthusiastic or prolonged applause. A spectacularly arresting or appealing person or thing.
At a fashion week, showstopper is a celebrity who showcases the last outfit which normally is the statement piece of the collection. Conceptually, the idea is to add some buzz. The person chosen ideally has some association with the designer or the collection’s philosophy. Though many designers do not seem to care about this ideal. Which you can read as — it gets the shutterbugs going! And the fact is it always does, so in some ways who can blame the designers.
It has been over a decade since I attended my first international show. As of yet I have not seen a showstopper on the ramps of Paris, Milan or New York. This Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW) we have seen Manoj Bajpayee for Samant Chauhan, Parineeti Chopra for Manish Malhotra, Sarah Jane Dias for Surily Goel, Diana Penty for Sakshee Pradhan. Young designers feel it will help them become an overnight name, designers who have been missing for a few seasons feel it will prove they still are influential in this glamorous business and for some, it could just be a cover-up for a luke-warm collection. At a sponsor show, designers often have no choice but to use a showstopper — it is the no-brainer way to create hype. This season one senior designer with a prime time slot was even willing to trade down for afternoon slot to ensure a showstopper’s presence. As for celebrities, they often use the fashion week ramp as a place to promote a new film, try to resurrect a floundering career or when starting out. The idea is to get noticed. While it does get you the 15 minutes of fame, it takes away from the real hero of a fashion show, clothes. There is no denying fashion and celebrity has a natural relationship. Celebrities (and this need not only include film stars) attending shows build that row one razzmatazz. This is an expected part of any fashion week. That sideline support adds a desired dose of allure that is an intrinsic part of fashion.
While you may be able to excuse designers who have an obvious Bollywood connect like Manish Malhotra and Surily, we are hopefully seeing this gimmicky trend slowing down. The fact we have seen less ‘showstoppers’ at this edition of WIFW proves the industry is finally maturing. Designers now have the confidence to keep the focus on their collections.
Fashion writer Sujata Assomull Sippy shares her insights on fashion in India in this fourth of a 5-part series