‘Fashioning India’ at Times Lit Fest Delhi 2016 saw a confluence of various thoughts about the changing face of fashion and a lot spilling the beans on how the fashion industry works. The most interesting bit was designer Ritu Kumar blaming the leading fashion institutes for giving false aspirations to students and making them believe that they all will be the future Rohit Bals with a degree. Fashion Choreographer Vidyun Singh added fuel to the fire by claiming that uninspired Indian designers are ripping off each others’ designs.
The concluding day of Times Lit Fest Delhi 2016 saw an array of interesting discussions on topics of great diversity and one of them which proved to be nothing less than an enriching experience for the attendees was one between the stalwarts of Indian fashion industry – designers Ritu Kumar, JJ Valaya, renowned choreographer Vidyun Singh and TOI Write India director, Vinita Dawra Nangia. Attended with great enthusiasm by fashion lovers and bloggers alike, the session attempted to unravel what has changed for good or bad in the Indian fashion industry over the years. The wonderful trio began the session by hailing the contribution of late Rohit Khosla, who was incidentally trained by JJ Valaya and is tagged as the harbinger of fashion in India.
Vidyun Singh set the ball rolling by claiming that though not much has changed in the terms of the thought and passion behind designing but these days all that designers care about is getting a sponsor. She also decided to open up about the bitter truth hounding the industry– plagiarism. “Indian designers are ripping off Indian designers. This is happening because there is a lack of freshness in terms of designs. Wendell Rodricks is the only designer who has stepped back from designing and handed over his label to a person he trained. Now, that’s what one has to do to keep the label and its freshness alive.”
The master designer JJ Valaya echoed a similar sentiment by saying that youngsters end up replicating designs as fashion education still has a long way to go in India. He also said that though we’ll always remain maximalists at heart, “we have now developed a gora hangover which fails to die.”
Legendary designer Ritu Kumar blamed the leading fashion institutes of the country for misleading the aspiring fashion design students. They are made to believe that they’ll become the next Rohit Bal of the country as soon as they get their degree. “There is a great deal of disillusionment. Why don’t we have Indian designers competing with Zara? There is too much talent in this country to not compete with international high street fashion labels,” added Kumar.
Former fashion journalist and TOI Write India director, Vinita Dawra Nangia gave another interesting perspective to the debate. She reminisced the time when she used to visit workshops to get the look and feel of the garment but now fashion reporting is limited to armchair journalism. “When I started off as a fashion journalist, there were no dedicated fashion journalists and then things changed, and now only armchair journalism is rampant,” she said.Ritu Kumar and Vidyun Singh expressed their concern on fashion market being dictated by films. “Films look like a departmental store, selling products catering to aspiring youngsters. Everybody wants to look like Alia and Kareena these days,” claimed Vidyun.
The trio agreed on the fact that fashion has indeed come a long way but it’s done well for the business. “Earlier there was only ooing and eyeing but not buying,” chuckled Vidyun. To which Vinita quipped, “But now it has become all click, click and buying.”
As the room opened for questions, the designers couldn’t help but dodge the question of the impact of demonetisation on the industry. While Ritu said there won’t be any long term impact and it had for now only affected the craftsmen who are usually paid in cash; JJ Valaya joked about the whole thing and said, “Suddenly, everybody has credit cards” to deal with the problem!
The session ended on a note that Indian fashion had indeed become more versatile and affordable since now we can find designer clothes online. “Good times have begun for the Indian fashion industry,” concluded Valaya. Ritu Kumar signed off by saying that the future of Indian designing was extremely bright and if there’s a chance of handicrafts surviving anywhere, it’s going to be only in India.