— Jasmeen Dugal

Widely acclaimed for promoting indigenous handwoven textiles and sustainable fashion and simultaneously transforming Indian fashion as an artistic, cultural force worldwide, Sunil Sethi, Chairman, FDCI is now gearing up for the first- ever digital edition of India Couture Week, a platform he created in 2008. In conversation with the man who is loved, admired and deeply respected by the fraternity.


Do you feel a digital edition will replace catwalk shows just this season or is it part of a broader industry transition considering the global reach of the online medium?


We have started the digital edition of India Couture Week because there is no other solution! This is the need of the hour in the current times. There are several benefits — we are going International with this edition. There are so many, many NRI Indians who cannot make it to the couture week and now they would all be a part of it. Speaking of the future, some designers may continue with digital editions while others may return to the traditional format. It is difficult to say anything at this point.


Digital is part of the shape of fashion and designers are happy to take it as a opportunity for innovation. But since buyers cannot be physically present at showings how do you plan to get the collections seen and potentially bought?


In actual shows, designers have around three hundred seats for buyers, store consumers, friends and family. Of course, all of them would not be getting married and looking to purchase couture. With the digital edition, they can showcase to a wider audience. The more the merrier, in fact, as we do not have special registration to view showings. Instead of a handful, there would be lakhs of people viewing the collections. The FDCI would be further assisting designers by inviting wedding planners and people who host red carpet events and actively involving their database.


Today The FDCI has adapted digital innovation to fit the industry's needs; is it possible to incorporate digital runways with e-commerce in future editions?


The FDCI is a not- for- profit organisation. Moreover, e-commerce will require permission from the board and opinion of all the designers. It is a lengthy process. That said, we wish to support all the e-commerce stores and buyers who have supported us throughout. So I'm not sure starting our own e-commerce venture is a good idea. Besides, couture is not see-now buy-now; it is customised, not off- the- shelf.


Planning for the next season is no longer business as usual. What are the crucial challenges you foresee, post- pandemic? How would you advise designers to adapt to the "new normal"?


Getting customers into shops for good sales is a challenge the Fashion industry will face post- pandemic. Established designers will continue to create collections with smaller teams but younger designers are struggling with bills and opening stores. Although landlords and real estate people are helping them with subsidised rates it is challenging regardless. Thirdly, migrant labour has to come back in full strength. The tailors, the karigars, everyone. That is very important! Lastly, we must look at season-less design instead of trends. This is what we feel now. But fashionistas may not agree and want new trends each season! So we can only wait and watch!!




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