Nurturing talent in any field isn’t really all that different from Gardening. The rules for both are identical. It is a mix of nature and nurture. The quality of the sapling or seed and the environment it is provided with in which to blossom.
Here’s the simple truth. Even the most perfect sapling cannot fully thrive without the correct environment. But even the most optimal environment cannot create a magnificent plant out of a poor sapling.
It all begins with the Designer. We will only grow whether it is in the domestic or the global market if our creativity is in place.
What makes a designer iconic? Its more than just beautiful clothes. it’s original design. The key word is ORIGINAL.
If you look at all the great names in global fashion each one of them has a sensibility all his or her own. They didn’t look at what existed and tweak it. They threw it out of their mental wardrobe and invented anew. Design when it is path breaking isn’t about giving people what they want. It is creating what you want and waiting for people to begin to covet it. That is the difference between an artist and a business. Artists don’t cater to a market they create an audience for their wares.
So I disagree with the notion that we must ‘lose’ our Indianness. What we need to shed is all forms of derivative fashion. Stop the borrowing. And give up wasting our time reinventing the wheel. We need to come up with something fabulous, free, unfettered. NEW. We need to stop aping, bowing, scraping. And tell the world. This is us. Love us.
I keep hearing the theory that we need to educate ourselves on what the international market wants. I don’t agree. Waves are created by those who break the rules. Not those who surrender to them. Stop following trends. Start setting them instead.
Abu & I received no formal training in Design. Creativity is in the blood. It cannot be taught. What can be learnt however is technique.
One area we as a fraternity lack in is tailoring and pattern cutting.
If we are going to make Western couture, we need to concentrate on these areas. It isn’t our core competency. The truth is that currently a jacket from Marks & Spencer fits better than any by an Indian Couture House. We cannot compete with a Dior, Armani or Prada until we incorporate this skill set into our product.
We’ve always been unabashedly Indian as a label. And our clothes have been worn by many non-Indians. -if we can adopt western wear there is no reason why the world cannot embrace indian silhouettes.
Once again it comes down to creating a taste for it among the global consumer. What else is the skinny jean except a revamped chudidar? How different is the kurta from the tunic?
Quality. We must be exacting in our standards. India must now be seen as it once was in the past. As the land of excellence as opposed to cheap and chic. More Hip less Hippie.
So that’s the role of the Designer.
Now we come to the Soil, Sun and Water that we need as a Fraternity. Environment.
There are three key areas when it comes to building an environment for growth.
Education. Infrastructure. Funding.
We need more institutions that focus on design. More NIDs more NIFTs. Places that can incubate natural talent and infuse it with technique. This is a role for both the Public and the Private Sector.
No Label can grow to its optimal size without ramping up infrastructure. And this can only come through Funding. The Fashion Industry in India will not make a global impact unless we are able to ramp up manufacturing and retail and promote and market our wares. All of these require big bucks.
Contrary to what many might think, the kind of money, designers no matter how successful do not possess.
Its not rocket science. In the West, Designers have grown across the globe because of the Arnaults, PPR’s and Richemonts.
We need Indian corporates to show the same belief in Indian designers as they do in Western labels. Instead of bringing International Labels to India, how about taking India to the World? Even before we go global, why not tap the huge market potential in India. Why can’t we produce the indigenous Zara’s and the Mango’s? Look at Couture. Why are Canali and Zegna selling the Nehru Jacket or Hermes and Cavalli, the sari? Because they see that Indian wear means big bucks. That the domestic market itself is a huge well waiting to strike oil.
We are uniquely positioned thanks to the mind boggling craft, textiles and raw talent we possess. But we are crippled by the lack of cash.
Cash to produce. Cash to flog our wares through retail outlets. Cash to build and create global hype through advertising and marketing.
It is time for the Patels to become the Pinaults.
We cannot fly without wings. Angels in the form of Investors. Its only a matter of time. If Indian corporates don’t get clued up and invest in us, International ones will. And how sad that would be. For Design India to go Global but be owned by non-Indians. That isn’t the ideal kind of Success. Our people need to recognise the wealth of talent and put their money and faith behind it.
We need to look no further than Japan as an example of how belief and backing can take you global. Japanese designers, headed by Miyake stormed the Bastions of global fashion with an entirely new ‘product’ alien to the western palate. And left them smacking their sartorial lips.
Fashion like all Luxury goods is ultimately about aspiration. And perception. If we are to woo the globe we need to have a presence across the globe. Once again it comes down to Money.
We need retail outlets in every key fashion capital. London, Paris, Milan, New York. You cannot conquer a market unless you penetrate it. People cannot buy your clothes unless they are available.
This brings me to the other Mantra for Success. Visibility.
We need editorial in international fashion bibles. And we need advertising.
If you look at what is taking place in Indian editions of international publications, there is a bombardment of editorial and advertising by international brands. We need to be able to afford to do the same thing across the globe. If you tell people something is in Vogue long enough and strong enough, they will begin to buy it as the Gospel Truth. If you look at content in all the premier design publications it is growing less and less Indian. International brands. Western silhouettes. How on earth can indigenous talent bloom if we are constantly telling the consumer that Indian isn’t as stylish as its western counterpart? This is how peculiar things like ballgowns at indian weddings have come about. So why don’t we use the same modus operandi and flood media across the world with the wonder that is Indian creativity? How about we make people wear lehengas in Churches across the world? The only thing stopping us is that we cannot afford to do so. We just don’t have the bucks.
Finally I want to touch upon us as a Fraternity.
As an Industry we need to stand together. This means lobbying government, it means ceasing the multi-fashion weeks, which only serve to fragment the impact. It means an end to infighting and the beginning of Solidarity.
Its all possible. The Dream is within reach. All it takes is will and dollars.