In a world where change occurs exponentially, and fashions change faster than seasons, the Indian design world must struggle to keep its identity by finding its own solutions, and create its own and new worldwide standards. Given that fashion, till recently, has been steeped in textile, craftsmanship by hand, incredibly labour intensive and almost entirely designed for tropical weather, it is highly unlikely that we will switch entirely with efficiency and grace to the Western model of fashion — nor should we want to.
Given our great strengths, we can and must strive for great quality in reflecting our craftsmanship, manufacturing process that utilise our strengths (labour) and create distribution systems to create a new worldwide standard. This is one country where we can keep the element of the human touch, to mass customise in the world of design and luxury. This has always been our Indian way, and will be a great USP should we be able to continue with it.
I recently watched a film shot in Sicily in the early 50s which went on to win many awards. Ironically, I thought that everyone was dressed in Prada or something contemporary Italian… 50 years on, their style had not changed a great deal. The colours, the tailoring and the lean elegance were still very much a part of that vocabulary, and the world had enhanced that look making Italian designers and accessories the stars of the design world.
This in sharp contrast to India, where even in a shorter time frame, the norms of dressing are virtually standing up on their heads. If we really want to be influencers and not just have a false sense of pride, we will be terrific only by accepting what is relevant to us, to find solutions based on how that works without lifestyle and not just be susceptible to what foreign brands may dictate to us, in spite of a lot of irrelevance.
We have the ability to always create some things special and fine because of the vast human resources available to us. We can do this for ourselves and also use this comparative advantage for the rest of the world, thereby projecting what is so wonderfully unique to India.
Dressing always reflects a person’s sense of self and identity, and unlike many other cultures, India has not lost its identity — as China and Japan seem to have done.
We hope that Indian designers will create more solutions so that from day into night (and not just wedding!) this identity is sparkling in fresh incarnations, being modern yet giving a fillip to traditional crafts, values and a way of life.
And then, India modern can be relevant worldwide.
(Tarun Tahiliani is one of India’s most celebrated fashion designers)