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London calling, again

Manish Arora?s encore at the London Fashion Week will be more important than his debut last year

india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 01:16 IST

All those who said that an Indian presence at prominent international fashion weeks is a ‘one-off’, eat your words.

Manish Arora, who debuted at the London Fashion Week in September 2005, will be back this season as well, on schedule between February 14-19 at the Natural History Museum.

On schedule designers are considered the most prestigious. These 39 designers chosen by the British Fashion Council are from around the world. There are off schedule showings as well, but these are not as prestigious.

If Arora’s first showing at the London Fashion Week was an important step for Indian fashion — he was the first designer based out of India to be chosen for the Week — his return to London this next season is equally, if not more, significant.

Dots on the world map

Designers from India have in recent years been making waves. There’s Ashish Soni who was very well received at New York Fashion Week last year, about the same time as Arora was in London. Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Tarun Tahiliani have shown at the Milan Fashion Week as part of the Indo-Italian Chambers of Commerce initiative. And Ritu Beri showed at the Paris Fashion Week when she designed briefly for Jean-Louis Scherrer some years ago.

But this is the first time that an independent designer will return to an important fashion week two seasons in a row. “I never planned to be a novelty item for one season,” says Arora. “I want to be a constant presence in London.”

Arora had to apply to the jury yet again, as per procedure, but found himself on the schedule soon enough. “I think the media response to my first show and the international reviews helped,” says the designer. What also helped are the 55 stores he began supplying to after his show at London Fashion Week, including an order of 150 pieces by Saks Fifth Avenue besides such stores as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Harrods, Le Bon Marche (Paris) and Podium (Moscow).

Tackling the hurdles

Critics of Indian fashion have often said that even if designers manage to get orders, they are unable to meet them, thanks to a lack of infrastructure, organisation and — the unkindest cut — discipline. “We do have our problems of infrastructure, but I’m managing quite well… no problems so far,” says the designer.

Arora has a middle of the day slot on February 15 at the London Fashion Week. Ashish Soni will have space at the exhibition area, along with Abraham and Thakore, both of whom were in the exhibit area last year as well. Rajesh Pratap Singh will also exhibit.

Arora has already begun work on his collection, which he says is very different from his September 2005 over-the-top kitsch look, rated by fashion critic Hilary Alexander as “a brilliant show”.

“It is much richer and more serious,” Arora says of his forthcoming collection. “It will still be very flamboyant. That’s my trademark,” he concludes.