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Liz at Lakme fashion week

The glamour of Bollywood stars tipped to attend and the appearance at a pre-show party of British supermodel Elizabeth Hurley has given a fillip.
None | By AFP, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 18, 2006 12:37 PM IST

The first of two Indian fashion weeks kicked off in Mumbai on Tuesday after a spat between organisers of rival city shows threatened to overshadow the emergence of a new wave of designers.

The glamour of Bollywood stars tipped to attend and the appearance at a pre-show party of British supermodel Elizabeth Hurley has given a fillip to organisers of Mumbai's inaugural Lakme Fashion Week seeking to challenge an established festival in New Delhi.

Thirty designers will show off their ready-two-wear autumn-winter lines at the five-day event taking place just before the larger India Fashion Week in New Delhi.

Four days after the Mumbai event ends, 80 designers will display their creations at the seventh and biggest-ever India Fashion Week, run by the Fashion Design Council of India.

Lakme was associated with the New Delhi show until it pulled out following last year's event after a row over sponsorship money. Instead it teamed up with sports, leisure and lifestyle management company IMG to launch the rival Mumbai event.

The controversy comes as the nascent Indian designer wear industry is growing rapidly with clientele including the British prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, pop star Madonna and British actress Dame Judi Dench.

Sandeep Khosla, who with partner Abu Jani is one of India's best-known design teams based in Mumbai, called the row over the rival shows "silly" and said it could confuse buyers.

"It's silly and it doesn't make sense," said Khosla who will be showing at the event in New Delhi.

"There is only one Fashion Design Council of India and only one fashion week," he said.

Some critics have labelled Indian haute couture fashion a cottage industry driven by individuals with small turnovers.

But a study by accounting group KPMG says the designer wear industry which was worth 1.76 billion rupees (40 million dollars) three years ago has been growing at a rate of 11 per cent a year.

Organisers of the Lakme Fashion Week said the event was a showcase for a "refreshing gathering of fresh talent" and said it was happy with the designers it had managed to attract.

"If someone had given me this list when we announced the show.. I would have taken it," said Ravi Krishnan, managing director of IMG South Asia, said.

But New Delhi organisers trumpeted their success in retaining "India's biggest names" in the fashion and creative industry, with a line-up including designers such as Varun Bahl and Manish Arora.

India Fashion Week spokeswoman Kanika Shriram said: "There is a visibility of Indian fashion on the international market and lot of them belong to our camp.

"At the end of the day, the strong man wins."

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