Why Indian designers prefer to play it safe

  • Ruchika Kher, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 14, 2015 11:58 IST
Models wear creations for American designer Rick Owens' as part of his Spring-Summer 2016 ready-to-wear fashion collection, presented during the Paris Fashion Week. (AP)

The international fashion week season has finally come to an end. In September and October, style meccas like Paris (France), Milan (Italy), London (UK) and New York (USA) showcased myriads of new collections, and set the pace for the latest trends to come in fashion. However, what stood out at these events, apart from the collections, were some dramatic elements that many designers relied heavily on to make statements on the ramp. For instance, designer Rick Owens left his audience in a tizzy, during his Paris Fashion Week show, when his models walked down the runway, literally carrying other models as human backpacks.

While Owens’s made headlines for his tactic, such tricks aren’t entirely uncommon in the global fashion space. Even earlier this year, he pushed the boundaries of what is considered risqué, and blended controversy and creativity when he presented a show in Paris that featured male models wearing penis-flashing outfits. On the other hand, British designer Hussein Chalayan showcased two models clad in papery lab coats standing in the middle of the ramp, when suddenly water began to pour on them, till the coats they were wearing, disintegrated.

A fashion show in Paris where dwarves walked the ramp.

But in India, designers tend to play it safe when it comes to showcasing their collections. According to designers, the reason for the same lies somewhere in between what the Indian audience is ready for, and whether there really is a need to break through the clutter.

“Fashion is an extension of what people want. Our industry is still very young, and our public is still not as experimental,” says designer Payal Khandwala, adding that it is essential for ramp stunts like these to also fit the image of the concerned brand. “Doing something that has shock value must be relevant to the brand. Owens’s designs are alternative and irreverent, because that’s his take on fashion. So, there is a synergy in what he is trying to communicate. Shock appeal, in terms of the presentation, which doesn’t echo the same philosophy as the collection, makes it unnecessary. The focus then becomes the antics, rather than the design,” she says.

Tommy Hilfiger created a water runway at the New York Fashion Week.

The others, who gave their shows a facelift with experimental ideas internationally this year, include the likes of Tommy Hilfiger (he created a water runway at the New York Fashion Week) and Gareth Pugh (her spring show at London Fashion Week saw models wear bold masks and wacky headgear). Even the decision to rope in model Madeline Stuart, who has Down’s syndrome, to walk for designer Hendrik Vermeulen, at his New York Fashion Week show, became a talking point.

Designer Krishna Mehta feels that in India, artistes like her don’t always need to rely on such shocking techniques to get their work noticed, as Indian colours and silhouettes give them enough scope to play with. “We showcase a lot of colour, elaborate silhouettes, especially when it comes to Indian wear, as well as a wealth of different textures and embroideries. The shock value in Indian fashion comes through the clothes themselves. Perhaps, having an elaborate show alongside that would make it cluttered and jarring,” she adds Nonetheless, Khandwala feels that even those who want to try such dramatic ramp shows might not do so because they don’t want to ruffle too

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