Nestled inconspicuously from the hustle-bustle of the Lakmé Fashion Week in a boardroom-turned-showroom, along the corridors of the 8th floor of the palatial St. Regis, Mumbai – is where the actual fashion business takes place.
Contrary to all the glitz and glam associated with a regular fashion week, there are no celebrities, street-style aficionados, flashy bloggers or hawk-eyed photographers rummaging the entrance. Instead, a meticulously categorised assortment of garments hang on neatly assembled pole racks, facing long tables that are weighed down with notepads, folders, laptops and lookbooks.
This is the real fashion week, away from the media circus, where the complex task of scrutinizing collections and then taking pieces from sample to shop is undertaken by fashion buyers, i.e. multi-brand retailers and boutique owners.
There are many ways to predict the next big trend for the season, but whether or not those trends will be a big consumer hit, is another story altogether. Here’s where our trend–hunting friends come into the picture – with a keen eye for design and astute business sense, these talented buyers are attuned to understand what you want even before you would know that you want it.
The five days fashion extravaganza wrapped up with buyers reviewing collections that scored high on transparency, coordinated sets pastels, mirror work, Indian-fusion wear, tailoring and bohemian looks.
Apparel Resources(AR) sat down and had a chat with the top brains in the fashion retail business from all over the globe including, Europe, the Middle East, Japan, US as well as domestic (Indian) players, to bring to you the insider report on what will really sell in the upcoming season.
So get your pen and paper/Notes app ready – as we are about to reveal the top picks of international buyers from Lakmé Fashion Week’s Winter/Festive 2018 edition – including the most sellable designers and the bestselling trends…
TOMOKO INUZUKA – VERMEERIST BEAMS, HARAJUKU, JAPAN
Tomoko works with styles that are very unique and different from the rest – in this light, Chola worked very well for her clientele. The clientele her store caters to in Japan, is extremely niche, where you find the likes of creatives such as artists, singers, celebrities who don’t mind experimenting.
“Among designers, Chola was her favourite pick, along with Untitled Co., and in the accessories department, she really applauded Studio Metallurgy – who is one of LFW’s Elle Graduate designers. The styles, she picked up were mostly tops, skirts, and dresses in black and beige colourways that were not intricately Indian, but versatile pieces that would suit the sensibilities of an international market,” stated Anusree Nair, Buyer Relations Manager at IMG Reliance.
To make the pieces more relevant to her market, she suggested a little bit of tweaking in terms of details and sizing, for example from Chola’s collection, she requested the discount of a few tassels and reduction in the layers, owing to the bouncy nature of some of the designer’s net-based dresses.
“Our (Indian) sizing is very different from that of the Japanese market, so such size based changes were also suggested. The top sizes Tomoko picked up were 8, 10, and 12,” Anusree said.
FELWA GHUSHAYAN – DANA TREASURES BOUTIQUE, RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA
“I travel all over the world to source products for our brand, but I have to say, the assortment one finds in India is unparalleled. Indian culture shares a deep similarity with our culture and style of dressing – unlike European style, the fabrics and textiles used by Indian designers are perfect – something I couldn’t find anywhere else in the world.”
Keeping in mind the approaching festive season post Ramadan, she picked up pieces that deploy the laser cut technique and, linen and silk as fabrics, owing to their luxurious quality. In terms of styles, the buyer went for long dresses and long kaftans, keeping in mind the sensibilities of today’s versatile, jet-setting shopper.
Indian designers’ prices are higher than anywhere else. I source from all over the world, including Japan, for both Ready-to-Wear and high-end brands but, Indian designers are the most expensive.
“Lakmé Fashion Week as a platform is amazing – it introduces me to new and creative talent that would otherwise go unnoticed.”
Designers she liked: “Pankaj and Nidhi and Amit Aggarwal are always refreshing, I really liked their collections for the upcoming season. I am also an ardent supporter of Urvashi Kaur and Urvashi Joneja.”
SHAIMA ALFADHEL – S STYLE GROUP, KUWAIT
“Styles such as the long to midi dresses and tunics, are something I really liked,” she said, adding, “There are always two kinds of customers – one who prefer picking up details whereas one who go for simple styles. Our main aim is to cater to our wide audience base spread out across seven stores, so we try to pick up styles that would satisfy the diverse and different market needs.”
Founded in 2004 in Kuwait, the multi-brand store houses international brands from England, Paris, Italy, US, Australia, and India.
“We come to India for sourcing our products because we feel that Indian brands are unusually creative and have an aesthetic which is not present in Europe or anywhere else in the world.”
Designers she liked: Amit Aggarwal, Mohammed Mazhar, Tarun Tahiliani, Punit Balana and Saaksha & Kinni
ATINIRMAL G. PAGARANI – Vesimi, Dubai
“For the next few seasons, it’s festive only. I have picked up a lot of concept sarees, fusion lehengas, crop top and palazzo sets, and kurtas. It’s going to get more cocktail-ish post November, that’s when the weather gets better and we see elements of fur and velvet coming into play,” Atinirmal told Apparel Online, adding, “Organza is very big this season, everyone is using organza – be it only for a dupatta or for an entire outfit, but organza is being used quite creatively. I think designers have realised that organza as a fabric can make someone look bigger than what they are, so they are using it in a way that compliments the body form, they are tapering it very well and are giving a slim cut just above the waist.”
Designers he liked: “Some of the designers’ work are very good, like Anushree Reddy – her work is a classic. Arpita Mehta is always reinventing herself, Ridhi Mehra has done well, Masaba is an all-timer, and for someone who likes drapes, Ujjawal’s Antar-Agni is the pick – you can’t mess with him… his collection was amazing, he’s just getting better.”
Quoting commercial viability of Indian designers, Atinirmal applauded Nitya Bajaj’s comeback collection to Lakmé, saying, “Nitya has come back with exactly what commercially sells as a collection. I picked up a gown of hers and asked her, ‘What’s the price of this- 2 lakhs?’, and she quipped, ‘No, Rs. 90,000!’ That obviously makes life much easier, not for me as a curator, but as a business, since it allows my staff to sell more as well, because the prices are clear and worth.”
For some reason, I’ve not gone wow this time, I think the feeling is because people aren’t spending too much as before, generally in life. I just feel people are recycling what they have in much smarter ways.
Another stand-out designer for Atinirmal was Arpita Mehta, who seems to have adopted mirrorwork as her signature. The designer has a knack for reinventing mirror season after season but still remaining fresh. “She has done freshness for the afternoon and for the evening. She is known for mirror, people can get bored of mirror but Arpita is like, ‘Listen, I’m not going to let you get bored of mirror!’”
Liquidity is hit because of the entire Turkey scenario – US dollar getting stronger, rupee getting weaker – it all affects the import duty… How much can you move around? Salaries are not going down, petrol is not getting cheaper… there’s a gap in this whole zone and I feel designers are realising this. They have the sensibility to have reduced their prices but even after reducing prices, you still need people to spend.
Ridhi Mehra’s judicious use of adornments (that used to be assimilated in chokers and earrings) over her belts have given a very traditional yet modern look which has sat well with the buyers.
SANGITA KATHIWADA – Mélange, Mumbai
Located in Mumbai on Altamount road, Mélange prides itself as being more of a gallery than a store that has thrived itself in the last 25 years by creating platforms for new labels and new designers. Their collection is very keenly curated, very specific to a philosophy that follows an unusual, rare and a very deep-rooted culture that has different values other than sole commerce.
“In the current season, we have liked six very strong labels, and out of those, five are the ones which have worked on something unusual with weavers, where they have really gone ahead and experimented. I really admire the way Yavi has worked with denim and chandheri – a fusion that is very difficult to weave and achieve,” Sangita said.
Designers they liked: Yavi, Arun Kumar, Chola, Urvashi Kaur, and Ajay Kumar.
ANUSREE NAIR – Buyer Relations Manager, IMG Reliance.
Best performers: Masaba, Urvashi Joneja, Nupur Kanoi, Antar Agni, half full curve, Mayank Anand & Shraddha Nigam, Ridhi Mehra, Soutache. The designers that did particularly well with Middle Eastern buyers are Mohammad Mazhar, Saaksha & Kinni, Indigene.
What’s selling: Dresses, tunics, easy separates – most consumers now want to style their looks, hence buyers look at a product not only as a set but also as pieces that can be sold as separates to create exclusive looks for their clients.
In a nutshell: Styles with a layer of dupatta or a heavily embellished/embroidered jacket over a simple tunic- those kinds of layered pieces do get preference. Depending upon brand-to-brand, if a designer has a very strong aesthetic in terms of layering, then that does very well.