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Fashioning a business

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ETHNIC SHADES Models display JJ Valaya' s collection at the WIFW
ETHNIC SHADES Models display JJ Valaya' s collection at the WIFW

NANDINI NAIR takes a look at the trends and themes that scorched the ramp this year

As the country's biggest fashion fiesta, Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week (WIFW), comes to a close, chic wearability seems to be the flavour for the coming winter. The most notable collections combine creativity with practicality. But trends and themes apart, WIFW is about business. It is important for brand building. It prompts a correction of prices. Indian fashion seems to have a split personality. It is aware that its biggest strength is in the Indian market but is still aspiring for acknowledgement in the West.

Strong market

Eighty buyers attended WIFW. Buyers recognise the importance of local markets. Robin Schulie of Maria Louisa, Paris, says, "The market here is very strong, designers need to develop at their own pace. It is better to be first in your village than second in Rome."Rizwan Beyg, Acting CEO of Pakistan Fashion, supports him, "Why don't we come up with a local language of design, to create variations of the salwar kameez and sari?" Schulie despairs at the predominance of browns and wishes for the colours of India. He is impressed by Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Rohit Bal. He admires Arora for "playing into stereotypes of India and twisting it completely." He selects couture pieces. The average order from a designer ranges between 5000 to 10000 euro, he reveals. A fidelity to the local market is clear in JJ Valaya's collection. Valaya explains, "A lot of us pretend to be who we are not." He succeeds in exciting the world with his strong ethnic collection.To Raghavendra Rathore, founder member, FDCI, there exist two markets, one in Asia and one in the West. He explains, "You can't package a show in India for a London show. A designer has to take it to the right place."The right place for tie-ups has been recognised as South Asia and the Middle East. The Fashion Design Council of India and Pakistan Fashion agreed on joint collaboration. Rizwan Beyg says, "This will help create our own nucleus of fashion in South Asia." In September, Pakistan is to hold its premier Fashion Week in Karachi. Raghavendra Rathore reveals that dates for fashion sideshows in Dubai are also set. The Indian fashion business is set to impact Asia. Western influences with Asian flavours determine the Fall/Winter 07 collection. While the dominant colours are blacks and browns and greys, bright colours too flash past. Rina Dhaka uses Rajasthani lahhariya, Rajesh Pratap Singh explores pink geometric designs and Meera and Muzaffar Ali display the hues of Benaras. Bling has been replaced by more subtle embellishments. Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna use leather appliqué work to create flowers and embellish yokes. Shobhana and Vijay Arora choose chothi pathi and baddi pathi appliqué work extensively in their Shradhanjali collection. Malini Ramani uses ribbon embroidery for a sophisticated look. While mid-thigh length dresses and tights seem omnipresent, the sari seems a fading whisper. Rohit and Rahul, Ritu Kumar, Rina Dhaka, Shantanu and Nikhil are some of the designers to have used short dresses extensively. The inspirations of designers are various. But often the past has been re-worked. Of "Me, Myself and Rina", Rina Dhaka says, "The elements of the '40s have been re-constructed. It's not a direct lift, it's a modern interpretation of the '40s." The inspiration of Rohit and Rahul's "Light Fantastique" is the 1960s fashion diva. Using dark butterfly motifs on shades of black, they create clothes with Audrey Hepburn's elegance and Elizabeth Taylor's style. Gaurav Gupta's "Future Primitive" is inspired by Grecian and Gothic times. The anti-fit dresses evoke Cleopatra on the Champs-Élysées.

Fresh themes

Architecture too provides inspiration. In "Bombay Lieux", Shantanu and Nikhil are indirectly inspired by Old Bombay. Their straight lines are synchronised with the pillars of Bombay's old houses. Linear graphic prints reflect old wrought iron work. JJ Valaya's "The Taj Blueprints... Wright or Wrong?" collection is embossed with intricate blueprints of the Taj Mahal as might have been perceived by Frank Lloyd Wright. The collection ranges from blacks to creams. It is regal without being pompous.

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