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No desi Fashion Week?

Indian designers reeling from the bulldozing of their shops say they cannot focus on preparing for the nation's top clothing extravaganza, India Fashion Week.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 11:16 IST
AFP
AFP
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Indian designers reeling from the bulldozing of their shops say they cannot focus on preparing for the nation's top clothing extravaganza, India Fashion Week.

The stores at New Delhi's MG1 Mall -one of India's best-known shopping stops for the well-heeled -were smashed Thursday in a municipal drive against illegal buildings.

"We're completely in shock. It has been such a big setback. How are we going to concentrate on (getting ready for) Fashion Week?" said top designer Rohit Gandhi who had two stores at the mall.

The annual event, which is attended by international buyers, is due to take place in April and designers show their ready-to-wear lines for winter 2006.

The swish strip, where more than 60 lifestyle stores were located, was the latest to be broken up in a campaign by municipal authorities to demolish over 18,000 allegedly illegal buildings. A neighbouring mall, also a haunt of the rich and the famous, was slated for demolition soon.

The legality of the malls are hotly disputed between the Municipal Commission of Delhi which ordered the demolitions and the shopowners.

The municipal commission says the malls are illegal while the shopowners say the commission is acting wrongfully.

"None of us knew the buildings were illegal," said Suneet Varma, another top Indian design name, whose outlet was demolished. "All my business activities have come to a screeching halt."

The designers watched in horror as the bulldozers moved in Thursday.

Some weeping storekeepers waved letters which they said were from top Delhi officials declaring their properties legal.

The mall, completed in 2002, has more than 60 stores selling high fashion, top-end jewellery and luxury furnishings by most of India's leading designers.

Another designer, Rahul Khanna, said he would have to focus now on finding a new store where he could sell his stock and his work for fashion week would have to take a back seat.

"I'm in no mood for a fashion show now. I can't even think of getting back into action," he said.

Gandhi said the smashed mall would reflect poorly on India when international buyers turn up. They visit the stores year-round, not only during ramp shows.

"There's no doubt the government of India has let us down badly with this move," said fashion designer Leena Singh.

The municipal authority's drive to seal and raze buildings began in December after a court told it to demolish 18,271 structures which have sprung up illegally across the city.

India's clothing industry is estimated to be worth 12 billion dollars -half of it exports to destinations like the US, Europe and the Middle East.

But the fashion design industry is still nascent and estimated to be worth just 50 million dollars. It mainly caters to the domestic market and Indian stores abroad, but of late designers have started to get orders from top international retail outlets like Britain's Selfridges.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 18:27 IST