Sunil Sethi: The Pope of the fashion church
Under his formidable and inspiring leadership, Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) President Sunil Sethi has been the key catalyst in shaping up Indian fashion in the past 11 years. Getting India’s leading design geniuses to share their creative canvas in harmony on one platform and presenting prolific shows year after year is no plain sailing. However, over the years, the affable and ageless Sethi has ensured that the scale of the event goes several notches up season after season. Given his incredible business acumen, meticulous care and an unsparing eye for detail - Indian couture and craftsmanship today is at par with the best of the world. In a tête-à-tête with us, the doyen of Indian fashion shares how modern Indian couture has found its relevance and a new voice in the ever-changing landscape of fashion. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
What changes have you seen in the couture market ever since the property started in 2008?
I was elected in the same year when the Couture Week started. This was one of the first major innovative projects that the FDCI set out to do. And as humble as I can be, this project was brought to the table by me. That time the bridal and occasion wear market was never treated with respect and the designers who wanted to have a name in fashion concentrated on prêt. Now, this market commands the same respect and this is the segment that gets these designers more moolah. I can proudly say that today, the Indian couture and bridal designer is ready with the infrastructure and designers are able enough to apply anywhere in the world. Also, with the red carpet trend coming into the picture, more and more designers started making couture gowns, which was not the case back then.
Are you content with the way the property has shaped up?
I am so proud of this property and I consider this to be closest to my heart. This thought has occurred to me a couple of times that even when I am no longer associated with the board, I would still want to contribute to this.
What’s the high-point this season at the India Couture Week?
This is the first time we are having three off-site shows. It was a long-standing demand from the designers as they needed to experiment with spaces and get more creative freedom. Also, on one hand, we have an Amit Aggarwal, who is one season old doing the couture week and the other we have a Suneet Varma, who has been doing shows from past 25 years. So we are giving opportunities to young and talented designers to showcase their creativity. Many successful couturiers have debuted here and they have started their couture journey with us. We have also partnered with luxury retailers and jewellers to make the shows more outstanding. We are also focusing on the menswear segment, with almost all participating designers showcasing their menswear line.
In this day and age of social media, how are you keeping the fashion week more relevant?
Social media has become really strong and if you notice, there is marked improvement in the way we handle the FDCI social media handle. The age group that the couture market caters to may not be that social media friendly as their kids would be. Therefore organising shows are more relevant to them. Also, attending and being part of a fashion show is an experience that you won’t get through social media. Had this been the case, top designers and brands internationally wouldn’t be spending so much time and effort in presenting such extravagant couture shows.
How are Indian couturiers reinventing themselves?
A platform like this requires a lot of effort and hard work. The designers have to be on the top of their game. I have had designers in the past, who have backed out because they weren’t well prepared for the show. I think it is only right to do so. Our Indian design mavens have that strength to play with traditional stitches and give it a contemporary silhouette.