With 160 buyers and 75 designers responding, the spring-summer edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) kicks off here on Wednesday, the first time two such shows will be hosted in a year in keeping with international practices.
Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) Managing Director Rathi Vinay Jha admits it was a gamble but says it was one that had to be taken if India was to occupy a place on the global fashion stage. Hitherto, FDCI has been hosting only a fall-winter edition in the first quarter of the year.
"Beginnings always have concerns. The spring-summer show is a beginning. We had great concerns: will the designers come so soon (after the April fall-winter show), coping with their orders and other commitments? Our next concern was whether the buyers will come," Jha maintained of the Aug 30-Sep 3 event.
"They have come. So, there's been a beginning. There was a challenge and I'm sure it's only going to get better," Jha said.
She has every reason to be pleased. Of the 160 buyers, 70 are from abroad - a veritable creamy layer from 14 countries including the US, Britain, France and Russia.
Among them are Galeries Lafayette and Maria Luisa (Paris), Marubeni (London), Sunmotoyama (Japan), Tsum (Moscow), Zoxx Colours for Living (Israel), Sanskrit (Hong Kong), Zinia Fashion (Kuwait), Indomix Inc. (US), The Fashion House (Dubai), and Shatoosh (Spain).
In addition, buyers from Australia, Bahrain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey have also confirmed their participation.
"We are delighted that buyers have recognised the event as a platform to do business with India's best designers. Our primary objective is to promote trade, while showcasing our participating designers to India and the world," Jha said.
Among the 90 domestic buyers, the more familiar names are Kimaya, Ensemble, Evoluzione, Be, Ogaan, Carma, Shoppers Stop, Samsaara, Mogra, Hot Pink, 85 Lansdowne and Ayamik.
In keeping with the response, an extra day (Sep 4) has been added to the event dates and "dedicated to creating increased opportunities for buyers and designers", Jha explained.
"There will be no shows on this day as it is meant solely to promote trade," she added.
As for the gamble, this related to the scheduling of the event. "We had no choice but to peg ourselves just before the big four (London, Paris, Milan, New York) or just after that," Jha explained, adding: "This time, we did it just before because of the circumstances of festivals (like Dusshera and Diwali)."
"Then we ran into an unfortunate aspect. This is the end of the summer holidays in Europe (which could have affected buyer response). We took the gamble because, sometimes, we have to gamble and it's paid off. It would have been better if it was a slightly different time but we couldn't help it."
According to designer-choreographer-academician Harmeet Bajaj, the spring-summer WIFW signalled the industry's coming of age. "The industry is being taken more seriously rather than being painted as a frivolous, flippant entertainment industry. (The fashion week has) now becoming a trade-related event, which is what the objective was," she contended.
"What has also happened majorly is a certain recognition from international media and buyers. There is a word that has gone around that India has this fashion week and that it has a lot of talent and there are things to go and get from here," Bajaj pointed out.
WIFW will feature some of India's top fashion and accessory designers including Ritu Kumar, Rina Dhaka, Deepika Govind, Ashish Soni, Leena-Ashima, J.J. Valaya, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Arora - who will open and show - and Manish Malhotra, who will bring up the grand finale.