Every fashion insider knows that there are two – not one – part of any fashion week. One is the creative side – which forms the collections, and the other is the business side – the buyers.
India is home to a massive pool of unbridled talent and creativity, especially when it comes to hand embroidery and handwoven textiles – and with sustainability at the forefront of the entire global dialogue, it is no surprise that many a hawk’s eyes are fixated on the subcontinent.
The overall sentiment of consumers spending less has also been a major pain point among not only buyers but designers as well. Given the grim situation caused by the ongoing trade wars between nations, the Trump effect and Brexit, an obvious downward spike has been a point of concern.
Due to the similarity in cultures and cross pollination of tradition, India poses as a rich hub for buyers from the UAE, the Gulf countries, Japan, US and Europe. Lakmé Fashion Week occurs at the ripe moment wherein these countries prep up for their upcoming festive season which lasts well beyond 4 months, concluding with the heavy wedding season.
Keeping the essence of the designer alive, buyers regularly work on a customisation model with designers to create exclusive one-of-a-kind piece for their particular clients. This, in turn, allows designers to reach wider pockets and an international audience. Overseas business forms a big chunk of revenue for Indian designers, if pricing is met with qualitative demand, India has a profitable opportunity to claim its position as one of the top luxury retail destinations worldwide.
Team Apparel Resources sat down and had a chat with the top buyers in the fashion retail business from all over the globe, including Europe, the Middle East, Japan, US, etc. to bring to you the insider report on what will really sell in the upcoming season.
“Consumers are very smart and aware now. They think twice before spending – ‘Will I wear it?’; , ‘Where will I wear it?’; , ‘How many times will I wear it?’; , ‘Is it worth the price?’ These are the questions we keep in mind while sourcing.” – MOUZA
MAUZAN – AL AIN
Founded in 1990, Mauzan is a UAEbased company having 7 multi-brand stores spread across the UAE with two in Dubai, three in Abu Dhabi, three in Al Ain with one on the way.
Essentially an abaya company having its own workshop factory and five in-house designers, Mauzan has branched out into dresses and kaftans over the years, keeping up with the evolving market demands.
“I came to Lakmé Fashion Week to source kaftans. I have really liked the work of 8 designers and already met them for initial orders and samples,” said Mouza, General Manager of Mauzan Group of Companies, to AR in an exclusive interview, and added, “I have ordered both traditional and modern styles, but since the dressing customs of our customers are different, we have made customisations in almost 90 per cent of the styles we picked up. For example, I converted skirts into kaftans, some beautiful tops also into kaftans and added sleeves to items that were sleeveless.”
The company sources around 15-20 pieces per style for heavier designs which mostly go under the formal or festive category, and around 30-50 pieces per design for casual, light styles. “What I’ve noticed at Lakmé Fashion Week, is that most of the designers here are following international trend guidelines in terms of colours and prints because of which, it was easier for me as a buyer to pick stuff up. I liked most of the pieces at this event,” Mouza said.
Standout designers/shows for the company included Payal Singhal, Ridhi Mehra, Kaveri, Bandana Narula, Abhishek Sharma and The Right Cut. Elucidating on why she picked up these designers, Mouza said, “Nowadays, the demand (for clothing) is traditional yet modern – Abhishek Sharma had modern kind of embroidery which was way out of the box since it was fused with traditional Indian embroidery techniques. Ridhi Mehra offered traditional Indian embroidery but with a feminine twist in terms of fabrics and embellishments used. She used so many nice, interesting fabrics which weren’t used in a traditional Indian way which I liked very much.” Shedding light on the current retail scenario and consumer spending, Mouza told AR, “Everyone says the market is down, I don’t think the market is down – I am a consumer after all and I don’t think my buying power has decreased. But yes, I’m not that active.” She further added,“Consumers don’t like going to the shops anymore, they prefer online shopping since it is more convenient.”
When asked how they are rising up to the challenge of consumers purchasing less, Mouza averred, “We work it out in our pricing and our production – we reduce the time of production so that we can reduce the cost and then reduce the price for the customer. It’s just about being flexible with the market.”
FABUSSE – LEBANON
A regular at international fashion weeks and the Indian fashion circuit, Ramez Basmaji is the Founder of Fabusse – an agency that connects international buyers with designers by offering curated services that combine concept, important insights, products’ image and implementation.
“This might be my 10th time at Lakmé Fashion Week; it is always surprising me. Upon each visit here, we find something that is evolving with the consumer’s demands and we always buy from here. More buyers buy from Lakmé Fashion Week because the designer line-up over here is very professional, they constantly introduce new talent and different inspirations – they are ingenious,” Ramez told AR.
This season, the company saw fusion embroidery performing well. “What’s working for us are Western silhouettes with less-to-medium embroidery because consumers are not as flashy as before; they are now focusing more on the cut of the dresses, lengths of the dresses and the colours and prints are very important,” Ramez explained.
SWGT proved to be a standout designer for them and colours such as brown, red, skin colours, were among the top choices for their buyers. They also sourced hair pin accessories – which are currently a big hit internationally.
Commenting on the suffering retail scenario around the world, Ramez said, “Earlier, the purchasing sentiment was nice but now it is not too good. Especially if we talk about the Middle East, the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, etc., consumers in these countries like the work of Indian designers but they are not purchasing like they used to before,” further adding, ”Consumers are asking for cheaper price. This is the case all over the world, not just here.”
To tackle this challenge, Ramez regularly works with designers to customise their creations to suit his market.
VERMEERIST BEAMS – HARAJUKU, JAPAN
Tomoko is known to pick up styles that are borderline avant-garde, unique pieces that stand out from the rest. The clientele her store caters to in Japan, is extremely niche, wherein you find the likes of creatives such as artists, singers and celebrities who don’t mind experimenting with styles that are conversation pieces. For this reason alone, Tomoko is extremely selective about the designers that are housed in her store.
“This season, I have picked up long length dresses and dramatic detailing,” Tomoko said, explaining further, “Nowadays embroidery is not working, people are preferring more of prints, colour play and free-flowing silhouettes. Consumers are liking more of big, extravagant silhouettes and flares.”
“Nowadays embroidery is not working; people are preferring more of prints, colour play, freeflowing silhouettes, big, extravagant silhouettes and flares.” – TOMOKO INUZUKA
At Lakmé Fashion Week, Tomoko placed orders for summer styles with SWGT, Rara Avis and SVA, among others. Her materials of choice included silk, cotton silk and cotton poplin in mostly red and black colourways to suit her consumer tastes.
Commenting on the biannual fashion event, Tomoko said, “Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) gets better with each season and it was definitely better than Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week (LMIFW) this year. At LMIFW, everything is the same and designs are repetitive throughout seasons, but LFW has a good mix of everything – different kinds of styles and product categories – ranging from casual, to heavy to traditional to modern, which meets my varied needs.”
NASRAH HUSSAIN MUKHTAR
COLLAGE – UAE
“This is my fourth time at Lakmé Fashion Week, and it is always a delight to come back here, due to the amazing line-up of talent found here. Nasrah Hussain Mukhtar, Partner at Collage, a multidesigner store based in Dubai, told AR.
Nasrah mainly picked up for the festive season which is about to start in the UAE, keeping in mind Diwali, Ramadan, followed by the approaching wedding season. The ensembles were hence mostly formals but not very Indian in their styling. “The consumer’s focus is shifting to something that is essentially a fusion in its appeal, so drama in terms of sleeves, flares, ruffles, drapes and flowy silhouettes, is what I have been looking for,” Nasrah said, adding, “I generally pick up whites, beiges and pastels, but because of the festive season, I’ve also incorporated vibrant shades such as reds into the mix.”
“The stalls have been extremely vibrant this season, there is a lot of hustle-bustle, there are more designers – and they are quite busy – and the business is good.” – NASRAH HUSSAIN MUKHTAR
Commenting on the consumer psyche, Nasrah said, “The purchasing power has decreased considerably worldwide, not just in specific countries; it’s a domino effect and the market has become very priceconscious.”
Collage is trying to overcome this challenge by working with designers to give them better prices and also tweaking some designs to suit their clientele better. “Customers today want a better price and also wish to be a little different from the crowd.” Nasrah said.