India Fashion Week has long been regarded as an event space wherein the number of designers taking part are massive – a feat that serves and suits the diverse palettes of international and domestic buyers who are always short of time. The event serves as a platform for a semblance of garments, accessories and footwear from all parts of India under one roof.
But variety minus innovation is a lost cause. A common grievance raised by buyers this season is a lack of newness and freshness amongst designers. They feel that since the past few years, fashion that is being presented has become very repetitive and monotonous. There is a need for disruption, for something unusual and out-of-the-box that challenges the existing norms and sets a precedence for the future of the entire industry. Buyers bank on India’s strength in traditional handwork processes such as embroidery and dyeing techniques, and watching Indian designers shift their focus towards an outside culture does not work for them.
Apparel Resources met with a few prominent international and domestic buyers during the recently concluded Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 edition, to discuss which designers worked for them, what they are on the lookout for, what their clientele demands from them and how can Indian designers reinvent themselves to regain their stronghold within the industry.
Salah Alsabah – Moda In, Kuwait
Founded in 2000, Moda In has two stores in Kuwait and boasts of a decade long association with Indian designers which started with industry top notches such as Ranna Gill, Anamika Khanna, Sabyasachi, Tarun Tahiliani, Aki Narula, etc.
“I have been in fashion since 2002, having started with Lakme Fashion Week Bombay. I started out a long time ago – at that time, nobody believed in Indian designers because everybody liked Armani and all these other European brands, but I was amazed when I discovered Indian designers. They have something special and unique about them, right from the fabric and materials to traditional techniques such as dyeing – there is something unique about them,” Salah told AR.
From then till now, there has been no looking back. The Middle Eastern buyer prefers India over other international fashion destinations, skipping the Parisian and London shows to instead visit Indian Fashion Weeks.
Moda In essentially stocks designers who are good with embroidery work and have an Indian touch. They specially like the use of organic colours and the implementation of dyeing processes.
“We appreciate the clothes we source from India. There are some dresses that may take around three months to create – we see the effort put in by Indian designers and the kind of work they do. We understand and we try to reflect this to our customers by educating them constantly,” Salah said.
“I always give feedback to every designer I meet, on their collections, based on my market demand – specially on the price point. Because nowadays, the new generation doesn’t want to spend much, they want to spend on mobiles, gadgets, food, restaurant, travelling, experiences mainly – and this is happining the world over, not just only in Kuwait. So we try our best to sit with our designers and give them feedback because if we don’t succeed, they won’t succeed either – we are all connected.” – Salah Alsabah- Moda In, Kuwait
Designers they liked: As stated by Salah, “For this season, from Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week, my number one designer is Sumit – we have a very good order with him, and we also liked Not So Serious by Pallavi Mohan’s S/S ’19 collection. The way she has fused different materials together and has used appliqué is very interesting. In styles, we are picking up almost everything-kaftans, skirts, tunics-everything to serve the diverse palette of our consumers.”
Najla Boutique – Saudi Arabia
Najla Boutique was founded by two cousins with a fashionable eye who specialise in designer evening gowns. Currently retailing from Kuwait’s first retail incubator – SOAPBOX – an initiative of The Promenade, the multi-brand retailer is a regular at India Fashion Week (now Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week).
“This time we are picking up a lot of kaftans, dresses, etc. as the demand for such products is very high in our market. Sometimes we opt for certain alterations in existing designs to make them more relevant for our consumers – changes in terms of length, embroidery, colour, size alterations, etc. are being undertaken, but overall what Indian designers make falls in line with our demand over there, so it works well for us.” Najla said, adding, “I like Indian designers, they are the best when it comes to embroidery and detailing.”
Designers they liked: “This season, I would like to specially mention Geisha Designs – they have beautiful and modern designs, and also Varun and Nidhika, and Hemant.”
Sara Al Mutairi – SARA
Based out of Kuwait, Sara owns a multi-brand e-store which goes by her own name. A buyer for fashion, clothes and accessories, Sara retails via THOUQi which is a global fashion destination for Middle Eastern Designs ranging from fashion clothing to homeware to jewellery and accessories.
THOUQi offers over 80 luxury Middle Eastern brands and provides express worldwide shipping to more than 25 countries and enables same-day delivery to Kuwait.
“This is the second time that we have come to Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week. Coming here is a good opportunity for us as it enables us to view all designs up and close, and also to discover new talent,” Sara told AR adding, “Indian designers are very creative – they know how to merge traditional techniques and beautiful embroidery with modern pieces. They specially understand and fall in line with the demands of our clients.”
To keep their assortments fresh, they come up with exclusive collaborative collections with designers to ensure that their clientele always has something new for consideration.
“We have worked on a special design with Nikasha this time. She is very creative, we work together to ideate and customise an exclusive piece,” Sara said, commenting on her latest collaboration and adding, “We work on the lengths, some cut here, some detail there – something that makes the pieces more specific for our clientele.”
Ramadan is an extremely important period for Middle Eastern buyers – it serves as their main buying season. The dates fall in line with fashion weeks in India, so this period is ripe for a lot of forward buying.
Sara generally picks up a Western, more modern collection which comprises of styles such as gowns, dresses, and tunics. “I prefer dealing with designers who create more modern collections and not purely Indian silhouettes. But you have very creative designers in India; the fabric in India is beautiful. We have immense demand from our clientele over there for Indian designes and they ask us to deal with some designers again.”
The minimum order quantities that SARA deals in range from 20 to 25 pieces per designer, which are placed after taking due feedback from their clients and making changes, if required, and then ordering more pieces or colour options as per demand.
Designers they liked: “One of the designers I liked this time is Shruti Sancheti; she has a beautiful collection, very boho, very vacational and we really like her attention to detail. Besides, I really like Roopa and Janavi,” Sara said, adding, “Some designers I already work with are Bhanuni by Jyoti, Varun & Nidhika, Nikasha, Janavi for scarves, Doodlage, Kanika Goyal, Taika by Poonam Bhagat and Dhruv Kapoor.”
Tasneem Roowala – Hind of Kuwait
Founded by Tasneem Roowala and Fatima Almusallam, Hind of Kuwait is an exclusive trunk show brought to Kuwait which is curated with some of the trendiest designer labels in India.
“For us, it’s important to have that relationship with the brand that we work with,” Tasneem told AR, adding, “Our main aim is to pick things up that one can re-use and keep wearing – that’s Hind’s success mantra.”
HOK buys pieces based on what works for their demographics. Having a keen sense of understanding in this regard, aids the team to pick the piece as is – “We don’t make any changes to the original piece as such. Because we work closely with our clients to understand our demographic and its needs,” Tasneem concluded.
Their target market aspires to invest in something unique or one that can be worn differently – something that nobody else has.
In the past, the pop-ups and trunk shows curated by HOK have done exceptionally well, creating more demand for Indian labels in the region. “Dresses perform the best for us. Layering-if you’re covered, if you’re not covered, then not so much of layering. We present a look, so whether you buy that look or use it as separates – that’s your personal style,” Tasneem said.
Designers they liked: Monkey See Monkey Do, Payal Pratap, Ikai, Love Birds and Amrich.
Tomoko Inuzuka – Vermeerist Beams, Harajuku, Japan
Tomoko has been a regular at the event, essentially picking up styles that are unique and different from what is readily available in the market. She caters to a clientele that is extremely niche, where you find the likes of creatives such as artists, singers, celebrities who don’t mind trying out experimental looks. A vary of its own label, BEAMS only houses selective designers in its store.
After meeting Tomoko at Lakme Fashion Week in August, we bumped into her again at LMIFW to seek her feedback on designers and collections being showcased in Delhi.
“Designers are just doing something that has already been done, it has become very repetitive. Every year, it is all very same. I like infusing my store with something unique and different every time, but this time it has become very difficult. I am interested in newcomers but I have been unable to find any new and fresh talent this time,” Tomoko conveyed to AR concluding, “India is well known for beautiful embroidery and beautiful dyeing, I want to see those kinds of pieces but I haven’t come across anything this time, it has been very dull.”
Neetu Gupta – The Verandah, Bangalore
Based out of Bangalore, The Verandah is a multi-branded store headed by Neetu Gupta who personally hand picks garments from different designers. Dealing in pret and diffusion lines and a very small section of Indo-Western, The Verandah houses pieces which have special silhouettes, fabric and detailing.
“Unless the garments have a unique story to tell, I don’t usually source them. I am not looking at picking designers who already exist in Bangalore – it’s always about discovery for me – I like the discovery, I like the surprise. I like something unique,” Neetu told AR.
Founded nine years ago, The Verandah is curated constantly and additionally holds pop-ups every one-and-a-half months in Bangalore. These pop-ups aim to introduce somebody new each time, ensuring that freshness and newness is maintained within the store to keep clients coming back for more. Every region comes with its own persona and aesthetics, which need to be taken into consideration while curating looks. What works in the North might not necessarily be as profitable down South. Keeping this in mind, Neetu pays special attention while sourcing to ensure that the garments fit into Bangalore’s aesthetics and her client’s lifestyle.
“I have understood that as we grow older, we want to declutter our lives, so the garments have to serve a purpose in my client’s life and should be exciting enough for them to want to pick it up,” Neetu said, adding, “So wherever there is new talent, or there is a craft involved, or the fabric is special, and the colours and silhouettes work for the age group that we cater to, largely between 30-60 years, this is what I look out for.”
The Verandah currently houses national level Indian designers which they keep refreshing as per market demand. They do not limit themselves to fashion weeks to discover designers and labels, but also scout leading fashion exhibitions and social media.
“I would be interested in working with a few Pakistani designers as well, but it is something I’ve not caught onto yet. Slowly I want to increase our pret and diffusion line, because people want clothes at a better price especially with the success of online retail. So I am trying to change the strategy of the business and see how it goes,” Neetu told AR, while speaking about her future plans. She also stated, “I am also in talk with one or two Hong Kong based designers who supply to me – it’s still in the nascent stage because of the export policies being worked out.”
Designers they liked: “From this season at LMIFW, I have liked Abhi Singh, Notebook and Ananaya’s bags which are very boho. I am doing a pop-up with Love to Bag, and I am in talk with one or two other designers, but largely, I’ve not found too many good designers this time.” Neetu said.
Archit Dixit – Ensemble, Mumbai
Ensemble believes in experimenting with the type of designers they work with. This season looks at experimenting with surface techniques over fabric and not towards traditional fashion. “Overlays are very much in fashion these days, so we are concentrating on that while picking up designers this season. We are actually pushing the designers, who are going into the traditional zone like Cell design; they are doing a beautiful linen collection this time which we really liked, so we are thinking of having a pop up with them or something on those lines,” Archit Dixit, Buyer & Stylist at Ensemble told AR.
Designers they liked: “The designers we liked this time are Amrich and old designers like Varun and Nidhika, Hemant and Nandita, and Abraham & Thakore. Abraham & Thakore have presented the same collection they showcased at Lakme Fashion Week, they’ve not shown something new for LMIFW, but we really like their latest collection.”