All through 2012, the brouhaha around Indian fashion’s 25th year revealed a major shift in its consumption and creation. If the first decade of the industry from the late 1980s to the 1990s was about formal fashion education and establishing retail, the second decade from 2000 was about organized fashion weeks, grand finalés and industry politics. All this, as global luxury brands arrived commanding not just consumer ambitions, but a new design aesthetic, offering competition to local brands. What was initially seen as a playground of the dress-obsessed and the wealthy is now a map to understand the story of entrepreneurial transformation. Which is why this third decade of Indian fashion appears to be freeing itself—well, to some extent—from the tentacles of petty politics. It is likely to be a time of exploring mature global-local collaborations, ways to enter collective recall beyond just the fashion republic. Here’s what to look out for in 2013:
Bal’s turn to bat
A Rohit Bal autobiography? If your first reaction is a mix of a smile and a sigh, get ready for a possible best-seller. Will it be a photographic memoir or a hair-raising tell-all, non-fiction book? No confirmations there. But it better be a mix of image and imagination, the two sides of the valuable coin called Rohit Bal. “Inshallah,” says Bal (on email) when asked if he will complete it this year. Chiki Sarkar of Penguin, the publishing house which has reportedly signed up Bal, chose not to comment.
The layers of Péro
Aneeth Arora of Péro, whose handwoven textiles and layered garments won her the first Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2012, will launch a home line this year. Wait out for home linen woven in varied weaver clusters from Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh to Kutch in Gujarat. Another of Péro’s 2013 highlights will be her boho sari. “Sari sensibilities are clear in India, that’s why I will unveil mine when I can show how to style it,” she says. Expect a red and white gamcha blouse with checked textile saris with subtle gara embroidery.
From the store to the museum
Ensemble, India’s first fashion store, celebrated the first event of its year-long 25th anniversary at its 3,000 sq. ft flagship store at Lion Gate in Mumbai on 12.12.12. A string of events in other cities will follow, culminating in one of the first fashion exhibitions accessible to the general public at a Mumbai museum later this year. Tina Tahiliani Parikh, who mentors Ensemble, is tight-lipped about the details, but it’s definitely something we’re waiting for.
Spain in India and India in Holland
Embassies of different countries are now taking a keen interest in India’s fashion scene. In October, an Indo-Dutch collaboration mentored by fashion veteran Harmeet Bajaj took centre stage at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi and this year will be the turn of Spain. “The Spanish embassy has extended full support for a show and display that will take place in October,” confirms Fashion Design Council of India president Sunil Sethi.
For the second leg of the Indo-Dutch handshake, the Indian fashion contingent will set up a massive stall at a trade event in the Netherlands this July. Some of our most-known designers will set up shop there.
After a successful entry into India’s retail consciousness last year with the International Woolmark Prize (won by designer duo Pankaj and Nidhi), the Sydney-based Woolmark Co. intends to retain its foothold in India. While the award will have its second Indian edition this year, news is that Mr Minimalist, Rajesh Pratap Singh, has been tapped as India’s wool ambassador for 2013. An almost ready-to-be-announced association will see Pratap creating a wool collection to be retailed from his stores.
The Manish mania
December saw a partnership between ethnic womenswear brand Biba and artist-designer Manish Arora raise a toast. It launched Arora’s first Indian by Manish Arora collection (the other two being Fish Fry and Manish Arora Paris) at Delhi’s DLF Emporio. Since Biba retails from more than 100 outlets in 46 Indian cities, the plan is to make “Indian” accessible in many Biba stores across the country. “My focus will be on creating a great product and making sure that there are many happy young women wearing my designs,” says Arora, who largely works from Paris. A good business strategy for a designer who has partnered with numerous brands in the past. Our question: If masstige is the aim, why have the first store at DLF Emporio, marked as luxury environment?
Valaya comes home
Valaya Home, one of the sub-brands of couturier J.J. Valaya, will have a full-fledged launch this year. So far, Valaya Home only offered commissioned, single-edition pieces (like the densely and beautifully woven wall tapestries displayed at The Leela Palace New Delhi). Now Valaya Home gets a home of its own—a 5,000 sq. ft space at the designer’s flagship store in Mehrauli, Delhi. “Look out for furnishings, interior design consultancy, especially curated home accessories and more,” says the designer.