Textiles ministry move threatens to further split fashion fraternity

September 1st, 2008 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) India’s already fragmented fashion fraternity is threatened with another split with the textiles ministry moving to form an Indian Fashion Council (IFC) that would, in real terms, only duplicate the functions of the hitherto supreme Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).At a “brainstorming” session here Monday, Textiles Minister Shankersinh Vaghela was at pains to point out that the two bodies would compliment each other but from what various designers and industry leaders said on the occasion, it was quite clear that the schism was quite evident.

“The FDCI can’t complain. We are not in competition with the FDCI,” Vaghela explained, without addressing the deep differences that exist within the fashion fraternity.

These differences blew into the open earlier this year when Sumeet Nair quit as the FDCI’s executive director after a bitter spat with its board. He has thereafter become consultant to the newly created Fashion Foundation of India (FFI) that says it is more into the business of fashion than staging fashion weeks.

Nair has also announced plans to conduct a parallel event along with the FDCI-organised Wills Lifestyle India Fashion week here next month.

This apart, there is the Lakme Fashion Week that is staged in Mumbai and which is participated in largely by designers from Mumbai and Kolkatta who are not part of the FDCI.

In such a scenario, the entry of a new player like the IFC would certainly set the cat among the pigeons, industry analysts said.

This is largely because of the backing of the textiles ministry, to which entities like the Apparels Export Promotion Council (AEPC), whose members account for the bulk of India’s textiles exports, are affiliated.

Thus, at Monday’s meeting, the AEPC termed the new body a “brilliant idea” while FDCI president Sunil Sethi professed himself to be “unprepared for this”.

He also countered the textiles ministry’s contention that the IFC was meant to promote young designers, some 3,000 of whom were graduating every year from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and similar entities.

“We in FDCI are 160 people. When we can’t decide what is right for the industry how can 3,000 decide what is right for the industry. The question is, what are you bringing to the table,” Sethi, who has just returned from a trip to the US to attract buyers for the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, wondered.

Designer Leena Singh of the Ashima-Leena duo chose to be conciliatory.

“Look after your older children. Take care of your babies, but let’s have one school of thought (to guide the fashion industry),” she contended.

Admitting to a “lot of fragmentation” in the Indian fashion industry, designer Namrata Joshipura added: “This is because of the feeling that (some designers) have not made it to FDCI. But then, nowhere is everyone accepted.”

Surprisingly, Rathi Viney Jha, who has stepped down as the FDCI’s director general, welcomed the new body - but with a proviso.

“I think it’s a good idea but one that’s too late. We do need an India Design Council but one that is in sync with FDCI,” she said.

The contours of the India Fashion Council will be known only 15 days from now. That’s how long the textiles minister has given various stake holders to send in their written suggestions on the body’s role and functions.

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