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EAST WEST FASHION DIVIDE

— Meher Castelino

Is fashion driven by market needs around the world and not the seasons? It’s autumn—winter fashion in the West and very soon it will turn to spring—summer in early 2016; but Indian fashion seems to revolve around just two segments — festive and bridal wear throughout the year. This very diverse seasonal fashion divide between International and Indian designers has been present for decades.

 

Why is there such a marked difference between the type of clothes shown for these two important seasons when International and Indian designers are mentioned? The look at the Berlin, Dusseldorf, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Moscow, London and New York fashion weeks shows heavy winter wear for autumn—winter; while for Indian fashion weeks it is glittering bridal and festive wear that has no similarity with the same season in the West.

 

Falguni Jhaveri of Fuel, multi designer stores in Mumbai, who visits all the fashion weeks in India feels “India is a huge and growing market where the demand for Indian fashion has grown many fold. Indian designers want to cater to this market as their own sensibilities match very well with consumers and so the business opportunities are vast. Hence, the collections cater to the sensibilities, needs and likes of these Indian consumers and are different from International collections.“ Tony Singh, The Designer Studio, which has been in business for over a decade remarks, “International collections are based on the preferences and a deep knowledge and understanding of these markets. Indian collections are based on the designer’s perception of the International market and not the depth of information and the requirements of the domestic customer.”

 

On the designer side, the reason to stick to festive and bridal wear seems to relate with market requirements. “India is like a universe with many body types. Many cater to Indians, which is a matter of choice; the ones that want to cater Internationally are doing so. Manish Arora, Shane and Falguni Peacock and I too have shown oversees many times,” says Jattinn Kochhar who shows in India and overseas. Wendell Rodricks, who has displayed in Paris as well as Dusseldorf, remarks that “International collections show the next season’s clothes and the media reports briefly during the time it is being showcased. The major part of the reportage is done only when the collections are in stores. It is all market and business driven. In India, the newspapers and most magazines cover the collections immediately. So, at times even before a designer has delivered the collection, high street malls and others have copied it for their diffusion lines. This problem has been compounded by the Internet. Today a mall can just go online and rip off the collections.” When it comes to catering to foreign buyers’ needs, Wendell is very direct. “Let's get one thing clear; where are the foreign buyers and where do they come from? The Middle East? What are they buying? Indian wear for NRIs? Then there are no seasons involved. This entire International buyers’ scene is a smoke screen of sorts.”

 

However Far East countries like China, Japan and Hong Kong seem to have got their fashion act right unlike India which is on its own ethnic path. “The markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong and other Far East countries don’t have a distinct look in terms of fashion, the way India has. Their fashion is similar to other International markets so their fashion caters to their local and international tastes. Their local markets may be huge but the look that they cater to locally may be the same as most International markets. So their collections are in synergy with other International markets. But Indian fashion is completely different from the International market, so if a designer is keen on catering to the local market, why would he have synergy between International and Indian collections? One does not see the Japanese wearing a Kimono in their daily life (it may be reserved for a special occasion) whereas in India nearly 80 per cent of the population wears saris and salwar-kameez daily,” observes Falguni. Even Wendell agrees, “There is a synergy in the Far East as they are serious about European Markets and they have similar seasonal weather patterns like Europe. India lacks that! Hence we do mainly spring—summer and festive wear, which works for the Indian market.” Jattinn is more direct when he states, “There is a need to get out of the Indian mode, think International and one has to do the homework. Chinese are totally clued in. Most of the population wears ethnic clothing in India which is part of our lifestyle, while western wear in India is ‘occasion’ wear. In China and Japan they live in dresses so even International designers create special collections for these countries.”

 

So will this Indo-west fashion seasonal divide be always there between International and Indian designers? It seems Indian designers who cater to domestic markets will remain in festive and bridal wear categories, which is what they want to design. “Today some of the biggest names in Indian fashion are largely catering to this festive and bridal market of India. Sabyasachi, Rohit Bal, Neeta Lulla, Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahiliani are doing very well for themselves. Even for spring—summer, designers keep showcasing festive and bridal collections owing to summer weddings, destination weddings and festivities during that period.” says Falguni. Jattin concludes, “autumn—winter, festive or bridal, the Indian market is relevant for us. The biggest faux pax fashion weeks make in India is they are not showing ready-to-wear off-the-rack collections but clothes that are customised with Swarovski and zardozi.” 

 

So while the West may be covered in dull heavy winter wear… Indians will flaunt their ornate creations throughout the year and cater to the biggest global market where even foreign brands want a piece of the pie!

 
MEHER CASTELINO
 
02-APRIL-2015
 
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