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Will India Couture Week 2020 be a reality?

With no clarity on the extent of the imposed lockdown and FDCI planning to go ahead with its luxe property, designers share their vision for couture.
Sunil Sethi, chairman, Fashion Design Council of India, has been most involved with India Couture Week since the beginning.(Photo: Amal KS/HT)
Updated on Apr 27, 2020 03:43 PM IST
Hindustan Times, Delhi | ByManish Mishra

Given the extended period of lockdown and an uncertain retail future, the way couture is conceptualised, created, showcased and consumed won’t be the same. Forget bulk orders for a lavish wedding comprising nine events! Besides scaling down the extravagance, designers will have to figure out a new made-to-measure lexicon to communicate with an evolved buyer in the post-pandemic world. India Couture Week organised by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) has been the veritable platform for Indian couturiers to showcase their craft just before the start of the wedding season year after year. However, the unfortunate Covid-19 shutdown has spelled trouble for most couture houses as there’s a lack of artisans in designers’ factories. This period of uncertainty has made some designers to pause, think and tread with caution. While some are hopeful that ICW takes place in the last week of July in New Delhi as planned, others plan to completely skip the season. And then there are those working on their Spring 21 lines. However, one sentiment which echoes vehemently across the board is the idea of editing down their offerings to instantly connect with the post Covid-19 consumers. We spoke to the FDCI Chairman Sunil Sethi and some leading design mavens on the likelihood of India Couture Week’s 2020 edition.

Sethi says, “India Couture Week is definitely close to my heart since its inception in 2008. Ever since I joined FDCI, it’s been an initiative that I’ve been most involved with. There’s no way I’m going to let this go. We are holding on to our bookings at the Taj Palace, New Delhi in the third week of July. If the situation ahead doesn’t seem conducive for many people to be part of it then we’ll see. If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain’.”

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Couturier Manish Malhotra observes that nothing can be planned as of now. “As everything starts opening up and once they do, we have to be responsible at our stores and at our workplaces, so the process of everything functioning will take time. However, this is a time for all of us to be sensitive, and responsible. Fashion can slow down a bit and take its time and reinvent and innovate. I have been a part of India Couture Week since it started in New Delhi and I am in full support of Sunil Sethi and been with him in the hard work involving putting up the property. According to me, it should be delayed to September/October as I said, it’s a time for us to take it all slow and with deep thoughts. I am sure FDCI and Sunil Sethi will do so. Whatever they decide, I am in support of them,” says Manish.

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Designer Suneet Varma had already started work on his couture collection as early as in January. “Mr Sethi called us at the end of the last year and asked us about our date preferences etc. It was all very well planned out. Even if the couture week happens, we plan to showcase a more precise line as opposed to the 65 pieces, which we usually send out. If that doesn’t happen then we plan to do a mid range in October. I am still hopeful that there will be a couture week, if it doesn’t happen in July then maybe in August or otherwise in September. Since the lockdown started, which was very sudden, we haven’t had the time to revisit the line. Till the lockdown, we we were working on our couture line comprising pastels and beiges. I believe that besides certain tweaks in the merchandise, there will be a massive tweak in the mindset. Even when things open up substantially, people will think twice before planning a mega wedding. Morally, it may not be correct and people may question the need to do nine wedding functions,” says Suneet.

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Designer Rimple Narula observes that due to the lack of karigars, it’s been difficult to give shape to the ideas. “One can’t come up with a half-baked collection. I am worried about my karigars - most of them have returned to their home towns and also care about their physical, mental and financial wellbeing. I’d love to work on a couture line provided I am given three to four months so we’ll now focus on Spring 21. I can’t suddenly make a transition from couture to pret. That doesn’t happen over night. I’d like to stick to couture and control my expenses. Once the lockdown opens, we will see the strength of our karigars. I’d rather say no at the point than giving a false commitment. The period has allowed Harpreet and me to amplify our creativity to the utmost level, but there haven’t been any sources to execute it,” shares Rimple.

Designer Monisha Jaising plans to completely skip the couture season and work on an affordable, online friendly line. “I don’t see the possibility of people walking into brick-and-mortar stores and trying out clothes because you don’t know who has tried them out before you. As I see the future, it’ll be e-commerce driven where the garments will come to you boxed. You get the garment, send it to either dry cleaning or wash and chuck the box. Having said that, there are no events happening and no one is buying couture. Even if smaller gatherings take place in the future, who’s going to be wear couture there? I see weddings being toned down. They may just comprise a small ceremony with close family until the vaccination comes out,” says Monisha.

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