Kitsch becomes chic as Indian fashion walks the global ramp

May 23rd, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by admin  

By Shweta Thakur
It’s sophisticated and suave, bejewelled and bright, traditional and modern too… The Indian look is all of these, and grabbing eyeballs not just on ramps in the country but also in the fashion capitals of the world. The sari in all its many avatars is very much in vogue, as are the traditional long shirts called kurtas worn with long trousers, or churidars; not to mention Indian embroidery, intricate mirror work or the inherently Indian paisleys that have found their way to everything from skirts to stoles.

And as it gains acceptance worldwide and in India with its rapidly growing spending class, the fashion industry is poised to grow to $187.7 million by 2012 from the present $67.6 million.

“For long, Indian fashion has received criticism for its bright colours and embellishments. But today it is widely accepted because the west failed to ignore its vibrancy and the country’s potential market,” said renowned fashion designer Ritu Kumar, who was bestowed the Chevalier Des Arts Et Des Lettres (knight of the order of arts and letters) by the French government recently.

So, be it fashion weeks in New York, Paris, Dubai, London, Miami or Australia, Indian designers are fast spreading their tentacles in the global fashion arena.

High profile designer Manish Arora, who epitomises kitsch becoming chic, recently struck a deal with Reebok for limited edition shoes and an agreement with Walt Disney. He also hooked up with Swatch for watches, bonded with MAC Cosmetics for a beauty line and tied in a sunglass range with I-Specs. He even has his own TV show on Discovery Channel.

The show is a quirky exploration of fashion, lifestyle and design in the context of modern India.

“Over a period of time, Indian fashion has largely evolved and now the west is looking at it with both acceptance and appreciation,” as fashion guru Rohit Bal put it.

Global fashion store Saks has dedicated a large section to Bal in its Dubai outlet.

“Indian designers have understood the needs of the international market and are working accordingly. With the clever use of embellishments, indigenous techniques and craft - the Indianness intact - they are creating modern outfits, which are receiving global response,” added Ashish Soni, who is set to embark on a New York Fashion Week tour later this year.

The view from the outside came from fashion editor of International Herald Tribune Suzy Menkes, who was on hand to see the Lakme Fashion Week in India’s business centre Mumbai.

“I came to India after a six-year gap and was amazed to see the transition in the Indian fashion scene.”

She noted how the fashion industry in the country was changing and adapting to global trends and said Indian women now match kurtas with leggings and a stole. “This way, the spirit of the traditional attire remains intact but they get decked in a contemporary way.”

Comparing the worldwide success of India’s Hindi film industry Bollywood to its fashion industry, Menkes said: “Bollywood is making waves internationally and I assume the same would happen with Indian fashion.”

But she adds a word of caution too. “The Indian fashion industry is evolving and it should take its own sweet time without losing its soul and spirit.”

The increasing recognition to Indian fashion has meant more newcomers joining in to make Brand India a label to be reckoned with.

Amongst the newcomers on the ramp are designer duo Alpana and Nitin of label Azara, trio Ashish, Viral and Vikrant of Virtues - both labels would debut at the Miami Fashion Week. Also are Anupama Dayal and Vineet Bahl who will showcase their creations at the Australia Fashion Week.

Meanwhile, seasoned Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna are readying to display their creative brilliance in the US and Manav Gangwani is Hong Kong-bound.

According to Mickey Boardman, deputy editorial director of the New York-based magazine Paper, unlike other countries Indian designers are in a happy situation where they can choose to cater to either the domestic or international market or both.

“Indian designers are in an exceptional condition because the domestic market is huge, which is not there in any other country. It is up to the creative experts to decide which market they want to cater to - domestic or international.”

The one sign that the fashion industry in India is really set to go places is the increasing number of fashion institutes, which contribute to the industry in terms of fresh ideas as well as new talents.

The Indian government, for instance, has set up a new National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Rai Bareli in its most populated state Uttar Pradesh, far from the metros and big cities. It is the eighth NIFT of the country.

There are problems of course.

There is a dearth of trained teachers to hone skills.

“India does not lack raw talent, but the problem is how to polish them and make use of them. Unfortunately, we have not enough trained faculty members to guide youngsters. Teacher training and international exposure for them are also required,” said style guru Narendra Kumar, a visiting faculty in several institutes like NIFT.

“In the coming years, the biggest challenge for our industry will be from global players entering India. They can easily cope with high retail prices and give tough competition to Indian designers,” said Ritu Kumar.

But that is the stuff of competition, and an indicator of an industry on the move. Like India’s fashion industry - being tailored to fit the world.

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