The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fashion carnival set for image makeover

Mumbai, June 12: It’s that time of the year when all channels begin to look like FTV.

The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) today announced India Fashion Week 2003, to be held in Mumbai. The fashion capital pipped Delhi, Bangalore and Goa to the post after much debate on the issue. The week was organised in Delhi last year.

The event, to be held from July 18 to July 24, also looks set for a change of image. There is a conscious attempt to define fashion as high art this year. For the first time since the event started in 2000, it will be held not at a hotel but at a “serious” arts venue, the sprawling National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), home to the city’s cognoscenti.

“Fashion is high art,” said Vinod Kaul, executive director, Fashion Design Council of India, the organisation behind the show.

The aesthetics is important — the ambience of NCPA would be conducive to the event and there would be space, while the high ceiling of the NCPA with a priceless chandelier as its centrepiece would make for more effective lighting for the ramp, says Kaul. But the council is anxious about the other important aspect — the business.

Though there was a lot of noise about the fashion week attracting international buyers, the council still does not have too many clients from abroad buying Indian designer wear. Selfridges is the only big foreign name that has come to India and shopped.

So fashion week is targeted at the domestic retailer, the mainstay of the Indian designer. While the organisers are excited that Galleries Lafayette from Paris has shown interest and is expected to be present during the week, among the most wanted dignitaries at the event will be the representatives from Be, Raymonds’ ready-to-wear line, and shopping chain outlets Westside, Shopper’s Stop and Pantaloons.

The common man may still find them prohibitive, but “affordable” designer wear reportedly is turning the fashion industry around.

“There is tremendous scope for the Indian designer industry to expand,” says Kaul, explaining the focus on retail.

He says that now the total designer industry is worth around Rs 150 crore, but it can grow into an industry of Rs 3,000 crore and retail will play a very important part in it, though India is among one of the most backward retailing countries now.

“In the US, designers constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. But in the West the ratio of couture (formal wear and very expensive) and pret (wearable and affordable) is 30:70. But in India, the ratio is reverse,” says Kaul.

“The transformation has to take place in favour of pret for India’s designer market to expand,” he says. Retailers will play mid-wives to this transformation.

They already constitute the most consistent form of buyers for Indian designers, as foreign buyers may not be regular.

“We are always in touch with Indian designers individually and at events like the fashion week that present the designers at a convenient, common platform,” says Aniruddh Deshmukh of Raymonds. He says Be sells Rs 6-7 crore of pret — ranging from around Rs 650 to Rs 6,000 — every year.

He added that it is part of a lifestyle change that has taken place in the country -- pret like his store sells follows going out, travelling and wearing designer perfumes.

Kaul says that the pricing at the fashion week has been done keeping the market in mind. Pret will start from Rs 800 till Rs 10,000. The difussion set will be between Rs 10,000 and Rs 30,000 and couture will cost Rs 30,000 upwards.

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