Promoting traditional garments and simultaneously developing functional wear, manufacturing green textiles and reducing use of toxic chemicals, besides recycling and setting up of online thrift stores, are some of the emerging trends in the fashion world, experts say.
"India is viewed as a fashion destination mainly for its traditional garments. The indigenous designs and raw materials are very popular abroad and Indian fashion designers should focus on these," Gianfranco Olivotto of Domus Academy, Italy, told IANS.
Olivotto was in the city to take part in an international seminar on 'Fashion in Global Economy', jointly organised by the National Institute of Fashion Technology and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
On the contrary, Anil Buchasia of the Apparel Export Promotion Council feels Indian fashion gurus need to shift gear to functional clothing to integrate with the world.
"Why can't we think beyond the traditional dresses? Why can't we think in terms of functional garments? We have to integrate with the world," said Buchasia.
Seconding Buchasia, K. Rangarajan, a professor at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Kolkata, said although intra-Asian trade rose by nearly 12 percent in the last year, India is facing stiff competition from Bangladesh's and Vietnam's fashion industry.
"In terms of low labour costs, Bangladesh is the competitor, whereas Vietnam gives India stiff competition because of its design superiority. It is time to move from traditional to non-traditional products," Rangarajan contended.
To keep pace with the rapid progress globally in an eco-friendly way, fashion designers must also factor in harmony with the environment and opt for "fashion with a cause".
"We must attempt to make textiles greener and safer for the environment. When organic cotton was introduced 15 to 20 years ago, it did not become very popular because of the price and because it was dyed using chemicals. So how much of organic cotton is really organic?" Arun Baid, founder-director of the Ahmedabad-based Aura Herbal Textiles, asked while talking to IANS.
To make textiles organic and thereby eco-friendly, Baid felt fashion designers must harness nature's bounty like herbs and other plants to extract dyes from them.
"We have to move to another level of technology and fashion to use natural resources. There are raw materials available in nature which Indians have used since ages. However, we have never explored those options for applying them to the textile industry on a large scale," Baid added.
On one end of the spectrum, while the fashion industry must turn to nature for answers, on the other it must make efforts to take the second-hand goods sector online.
"We have to start organising the second-hand goods sector to make it more palatable and affordable for the masses. Given the ability to recycle in an intelligent way, consumers are likely to generate vintage ideas rather than throw them away," said Deepsikha Chatterjee, lecturer in costume design and history at New York's Hunter College.
"Sites like ebay run on the model that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Similarly, we have to take the Indian second hand market online," added Chatterjee.
Besides the second-hand goods market, Chatterjee said artists can use the internet to directly showcase their work to the world.
Most importantly, Chatterjee felt that Indian designers should adapt handicrafts to everyday needs to sustain the sector. She said, "We have to be able to support our handicrafts by making our products better suited to everyday life rather than trying to preserve their museum-like quality and thereby provide a larger market for our art and crafts."