Beyond fashion weeks, designers eye the lucrative wedding industry. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo reports
The Indian wedding business, estimated at Rs. 1,90,000 crore in 2010, is expected to grow by 20 to 25 per cent annually. From wedding planners to hospitality industry, everyone has a share in the pie. The fashion fraternity, in particular, has woken up to this.
A few summers ago, the industry had two groups — one that showcased collections at events such as Bridal Asia and the second that frowned upon wedding bling and worked towards spring/summer and autumn/winter collections for bi-annual fashion weeks. The scene is different today.
“Indians splurge on weddings. If you build a loyal clientele and sell during the crucial wedding seasons, both in winter and summer, you can make enough money to last through the year,” laughed Delhi-based designer Varija Bajaj, while unveiling her bridal collection in the city. Tarun Tahiliani recently showcased his luxury line of saris and lehengas in Hyderabad, and the piece de resistance was a lehenga with Swarovski crystals, priced at Rs. 7 lakh! The ‘sold' tag displayed prominently was an indication of deep pockets in Hyderabad.
The city's swish set has never disappointed designers. High-end wedding wear moved off the racks even during recession and the well-heeled travelled to Delhi or Mumbai to get their trousseau from leading designers. Not surprisingly, bridal lines of Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, Satya Paul and Ritu Kumar make their way to the city each season. The price tag ranges from a few thousands to a few lakh of rupees. A stylish cocktail sari for a pre-wedding event can cost you Rs. 30,000 or more.
City-based designers are definitely not left behind. If Kiran Rao flaunted a sari designed by Anand Kabra at actor Imran Khan's wedding, Ganesh Nallari has NRIs booking appointments even before they land in the city. And brides who prefer subtle elegance queue up for Sashikant's collections.
“Weddings are an event of a lifetime and there are no fixed budgets. You don't design just for the bride or the groom but also for their families. Those who have theme weddings want their friends and guests to also dress in certain colours,” says Sashikant.
Ganesh Nallari seconds this and adds, “Hyderabad, with its diverse culture, is a great market for weddings. South Indians stick to their Kanchi saris but seek help from designers for blouses. They are ready to experiment for pre-wedding functions. A designer invests the same time to bring out a ready-to-wear line and a wedding trousseau. The latter being a luxury product fetches better returns.”
Anand Kabra feels designers have taken to bridal wear for more than business reasons. “It's an extension of a designer's sensibilities. Tarun or Sabyasachi don't design merely for business. Having said that, we must remember that the designer market for weddings is still a growing one in the South where Kanchi silks are preferred. It's only in the recent years that people are looking beyond silk saris,” says Kabra.
Sashikant adds, “A few brides restrict the Kanchi sari for mahurats and pick up lehengas for other functions. Some are particular about softer colours and fabrics for summers while others stick to tradition-dictated colours for specific functions.”
As more designers join the wedding brigade, Kabra feels fashion weeks cannot be ignored. “Fashion weeks get you better visibility, national and international buyers and in short, a good brand recall. In a way, the wedding market and fashion weeks are interrelated,” he sums up.
The look: Destination and theme weddings are catching on and this dictates the bride's look. The fabrics are softer and the colours mellow this summer. Anand Kabra has dressed a few brides in whites. Ganesh Nallari advocates cotton silks and Chanderis.
Who's designing? Rocky S, Arjun Khanna, Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna, Manish Malhotra, Shantanu and Nikhil, Raghavender Rathore, Ritu Beri, Rina Dhaka, Ashima and Leena, Siddharth Tytler and Varun Bahl balance fashion weeks with bridal lines. Some of them have exclusive collections for men.