GenNext on the ramp

GenNext on the ramp

American author and poet Maya Angelou once said “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” But to believe this light of desire isn’t fading away, one needs constant assurance to put to rest all self-defeating insecurities.

After starting her fashion label ‘Quo’ in 2014, Ishita Mangal was going through bouts of self-doubt. She was constantly introspecting and contemplating whether the
decision to start her own business at the age of 23 was a good idea.

It was only in February, this year, when she was declared one of the seven chosen designers for the Gen Next designer Programme of Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) 2015; the 24-year-old knew “she was on the right track.”

“I wanted it so badly then because after being in the business for one-and-a-half- years, you start questioning yourself. You just want to know that you are on the right track... you just need one confirmation,” an excited Mangal says. “You are putting in so much money in the business without even knowing much about how the industry works,” adds Mangal who made who is going to present her debut collection ‘Misprision of Treason’ at the LFW autumn/winter show.

There is no data available to inform us how many fashion designing students pass out every year from the fashion schools in India. But looking at the bullish growth ‘lifestyle and fashion’ has witnessed in the past few years, it is clear that it is one of the lucrative industries that has good career prospects both – online and offline.

On hindsight, the foundation of this very industry is based on ‘brand identity’. The success of a designer is usually dependent on his ability to sell and market well. A fashion designer is a businessman in disguise who not only has to understand design sensibility, but also market sensitivity.

Based on this very idea of giving an opportunity to a young fashion designer and grooming him for the activities that begin with starting a collection, presenting and pricing it and then selling it to the buyer, LFW launched the Gen Next Designer Programme a decade ago.

The basic idea was to make a difference in the Indian fashion landscape and discover young and promising talent.

The programme took its time to head in a direction that was conducive and lucrative for both – youngsters and the business of fashion. The platform now boasts of luminous alumni like Rahul Mishra, Nachiket Barve, Masaba Gupta, Kallol Dutta and Aneeth Arora whose design aesthetics have redefined Indian fashion outlook.

“The level of expectations has changed over these years,” says Saket Dhankar, vice president and head - Fashion, IMG Reliance Limited.

“Earlier there used to be a lot of drama on the ramp in this Gen Next show, but now we have steered towards mature designs. The focus is more on producing and pricing and commercial aspect of fashion. Business is the key,” he adds.

Seven feisty designers are chosen for the 20th batch of the programme. For all of them, this is the biggest opportunity of their life that can either make or break their career. Each one of them is focusing on the ‘wearability’ of the garment and is trying hard to impress the critics and buyers in clothes they get to show on the ramp.

“The product has to be wearable to be saleable. There can’t just be drama on the ramp,” says Kriti Tula who recycles and upcycles her garments as she believes in the sustainability. The 27 year old has been designing and retailing ‘eco-friendly’ clothes under the label ‘Doodlage’.

Her LFW collection is titled ‘Evolution of Basics’ in which she has recreated the white shirt, oversized scarf and many such staples using intricate handwork.

The programme truly is a giant opportunity in their budding careers as they would get to present their collections alongside veterans of the industry, and hence would invariably be exposed to exciting future collaborations and associations.

“You can achieve so many things on this one platform. One just has to push boundaries and present what they know the best. There will be expectations, but how are you going to brand yourself and present too would matter. There are no shortcuts, so this is the first big step to reveal your identity to the world,” says Charchit Bafna who would be predominately showcasing men’s wear.

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