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India readies to take on the world
Indo-Asian News Service, PTI
New Delhi, April 27, 2005
First Published: 20:35 IST(27/4/2005)
Last Updated: 20:43 IST(27/4/2005)

With a strong emphasis on business and cutting down on frills and glamour, the first post-textile quota fashion week in India was all about preparing for massive growth at home and readying to debut on the world stage.

At the sixth Lakme India Fashion Week, that ended late on Tuesday, there was an overwhelming emphasis on business as designers shunned partying for picking up orders. This was by far the most business-like and focused fashion week, trimming past spotlight on socialising and socialites.

"This has been the most mature fashion week," Raghavendra Rathore, one of the country's top designers, said. "We have finally grown up to the fact that this is primarily a business event and that should never be diluted."

For years, fashion weeks in India have been a melee of glamour and partying where Page Three and celebrity antics overshadowed trade moves in the $50-60 million industry.

But not this time.

"I was very pleasantly surprised," said Elisabeth Pedersen, designer room (women's wear) buyer for London's Selfridges. "The fashion week was very well organised and it was fairly buyer-friendly.

"It was all very well coordinated. It helps that everything was under one roof, at one venue, unlike in London where you rush from place to place. There was a sense of business-like approach," said Pedersen.

"None of the designers had time for anything but business this year," said Rathi Vinay Jha, head of the apex Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), which organises the fashion week.

"Often they didn't even have time to speak to the press. I think the frivolousness has gone."

This purposefulness is what the FDCI hopes would drive the industry to around $225 million in the next 10 years.

It is also this seriousness that has helped designers like Anamika Khanna pre-sell their collection to Harrods. "There is great dynamism in the market," said Khanna. "People are look every carefully at us."

There is certainly no dearth of demand. "I came back to the fashion week this year looking for genuine spark," said Michael Fink, senior fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue.

"We believe that India has something that no other country does and if it uses its wealth of textiles and heritage in the right way, it can make an enormous difference. Many designers here know their customer and their collections are very focused. Raghavendra Rathore, for instance, is very crystal clear about who he is clothing and why.

"Rohit Bal has that sense of glamour and dynamism and Rajesh Pratap Singh is very powerful in the elements that he uses."

Even back at home, the clamour for more designer brands is growing. By 2006-07, around 50 million sq ft of retail space would be up for grabs across the country - more than half of this is expected to be filled by fashion and lifestyle goods, which are the fastest moving in the segment.

The fashion segment has a potential of drawing Rs.200 billion ($4.5 billion) in retail sales in coming years.

"There is a sense that India is a look that won't die out in hurry," said Idris Maricar, managing director of the Diamond Trading Center in Kuwait.

"India, it seems, has given us an everlasting look."


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