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Some like it haute

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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CHAT Laurent Guichoux, director of a French design school, says designers no longer set the trends. Fashion, he says, moves with the times and is linked to sociology

Knowledge of rootsIs important, says LaurentPhoto: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Knowledge of rootsIs important, says LaurentPhoto: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

India is still not internationally relevant in fashion, says Laurent Guichoux, Director of the Lisaa (L’Institut Superieur Des Arts Applique) School of Design India. But, he believes, the prospects are bright.

“India has a great culture in terms of textiles and ethnic artisanship and craftsmanship. But in terms of what is design today, the revolution of design, India is still not at the global platform, especially in fashion. There are perhaps two or three designers who are relevant abroad,” observes Laurent. “Education in India is significant and design will become important in India in the coming years.” And Lisaa, which is based in France, has recently opened its second school in Bangalore, after Delhi.

“There are a lot of people in India who work for export houses or in merchandising, basically assisting designers who sit in New York or Paris. It is important to develop a generation of designers who have exposure and who can compete with international designers because there is a need for it. After the FDI has opened up, many global retail chains will come to India and they need local designers to develop products which are interesting and can meet international standards.”

At the same time, he says, it is important not to ignore one’s roots, which is a challenge that is faced by designers in every country. “If you are a writer, you have to know your classics. You cannot, however, in India, write like Tagore. Nobody writes like Tagore, but everybody has to know who he is. Young people in India don’t wear only kurtas or saris. They wear jeans, t-shirts and shirts. They want the same things that we get in Europe or Bangkok. We need designers who are trained and able to understand both sides of culture.”

Yet, he explains, design and the demand for well-designed products is more prevalent in the West, where the art director is as important as the CEO. “People in India have a specific taste.A designer here should be able to propose outfits which can not only speak to India but also to the world. And this depends on the segment, whether it’s the mass market (including streetwear) or couture. And whatever the market is, the designer has to speak to the customer,” he says.

“In India, over half the population is below 25 and they would like to wear the same outfits as their stars on MTV. Streetwear or ready-to-wear in India is more or less close to what it is in US, UK or France. And today, we see that more and more youngsters have an interest in punk and underground culture, which cannot be answered with an ethnic approach.”

Laurent feels that designers don’t start off trends anymore, unlike in the 70s or 80s. On the other hand, trends move with the time.

“For designers, it is a questions of observing the world. Trend analyzers, who listen to music, watch TV, read business newspapers and travel around the capitals, find that trends are linked to sociology, which plays a bigger role than the design itself. Punk and heavy metal are so relevant today because it is a reflection of the refusal of this generation to fit into the current social structure.”

Anna Hazare, he finds, is an example. “Those who followed him, refused the existing political scenario. This correlates with the punk culture. Maybe it’s not the same people, but they are connected.”

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

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