Making fashion relevant

Else where

When Lakme held the first India Fashion Week at the turn of this century, sceptics everywhere asked why the industry was dividing itself into seasons alien to the Indian psyche. Spring and Autumn, they said, are Western concepts unfamiliar to almost all our countrymen except for a few in the northernmost states. And March-April, traditionally the months that herald Spring in Europe, is the start of Summer on peninsula India. Relevance, the critics said, was everything.

Ten years and twenty seasons later, it seems the fashion fraternity agrees. Normally held in April, this year’s event was brought forward in an attempt to better cater to Indian consumers. Unlike previous incarnations that showcased clothes six months in advance, offering ample time to rip off designs by such masters as Rohit Bal and Ritu Kumar, this time round organisers were chiming in with Indian fashion cycles.

We are also people who want our needs met instantly — and once we’ve seen something on the ramp, we want to own it now. Without the clear-cut demarcations of summer and winter, we have simpler wardrobes that we add to or subtract from through the year, rather than pushing entire racks to the back of our closets every six months because they are too unseasonal to be worn. Because there isn’t much more than ten degrees’ difference in temperature between the two seasons, we wear clothes we bought in the summer in the winter and vice versa. So there’s no need to wait half-a-year to be able to wear anything and we see no reason to.

So consumers have been turning up at stores asking for next season’s clothes days after they’ve been sent down the ramp. And designers, trained to follow the Western calendar, have been forced to turn away clients. Over the last few seasons, then, they simply started showing clothes that could be made available right away.

Enter the just-in-time fashion cycle. They show it this month, we buy it next month. For smaller designers in particular, who must deal with a few hundred pieces of each style rather than the thousands of  pieces per style handled by the likes of Prada and D&G, there’s no need to wait six months to finish manufacturing everything and ship it to stores worldwide. Relevance, it seems, is suddenly in fashion.

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