Kolkata-based Kiran Uttam Ghosh has taken designer John Galliano’s words seriously. “He said, ‘There’s a credit crunch, not a creativity crunch.’ That’s become my new mantra,” says the designer. Her newest collection includes recycled fabrics and combines inexpensive materials such as cotton netting with plush fabrics such as silk jersey.
This season, frugality is the new black.
Designers are using the economic slowdown as a source of inspiration for their upcoming Autumn/Winter collections, which are being showcased at the ongoing Wills India Fashion Week or Delhi Fashion Week, both being held in New Delhi. Some designers will show at Lakme Fashion Week, starting 27 March in Mumbai.
Downturn dressing: (clockwise from top left) Ghosh has mixed luxurious and inexpensive fabrics; Dayal is making investment pieces; Hemant and; Nandita have an optimistic take; and Mishra says he is providing value with reversible silk dresses.
Raghavendra Rathore’s collections for men and women will lean to the left, to mirror the economics and politics of the times. “In a normal garment, the balance of design is the centre. Without making it look absurd, I have moved all the detailing and embellishments to the left,” he explains.
Rahul Mishra’s latest collection is titled Reversing the Recession. Mumbai-based Mishra is offering what he calls “buy one get one free” because his line is full of reversible garments, much like the ones he has showcased in the past.
New Delhi-based Anupama Dayal says she wanted her collection to celebrate life, albeit within the parameters of the slowdown. Her line features expensive fabrics such as brocades, jacquard and hand-printed satin that have been crafted into day and cocktail dresses. “The clothes are not based on seasonal trends. Now everyone is thinking investment pieces, and people have cut down on buying whimsical or ‘flavour of the month’ designs,” Dayal adds.
Rathore echoes this sentiment: “People are buying everyday clothing. Anything that looks like it’s an edgy trend from Paris is ignored. The Indian market is very practical.”
Mishra’s two-sided collection, with graphic motifs, is also a practical alternative. The fall, cut, texture and weave on the inside of the garment is totally different from the outside, letting wearers use it both ways, without looking like they have worn the same piece twice, he says.
Noida-based Hemant & Nandita, too, has a collection titled My Recession Shiny Black which, the designers say, showcases their optimistic take on the slowdown. “Intelligent people are talking about it in a positive way,” says Nandita Raipurani. Their collection includes dresses with kimono sleeves and cowl necks, as well as semi-fitted dresses of varied lengths.
Ghosh has used a technique she calls twinning. Her silk couture jackets were teamed with leggings and T-shirts from high-street brands. “Instead of showing draped silk trousers, I’m showing the same jacket with leggings. The customer then also has the liberty to decide that they only need the jacket as they already have similar leggings,” she says.
Ghosh’s show, too, was a no-frills affair with a simple ramp, music and lights. Instead of the bound look-book she gives to buyers every season, this time she has cut costs by tying a bunch of pictures with raw jute. “That cuts out the binding and cover design costs. At the end of the day, we pass on all these costs to the buyer, so I’m giving them better prices by thinking smarter instead of compromising on design.” Her aim is to lower the price of her garments by 30%.
Dayal says that is the “painful part”. Her prices too have been brought “ruthlessly down” by 30%. Mishra says he is putting his skills to good use by developing new patterns to make the best use of the expensive Banarasi silk he is using. Hemant & Nandita’s prices have dropped as well.
Even multi-designer retail stores such as Ensemble are trying to get more conscientious about pricing. “If something seems slightly overpriced, we try and work with the designer to see how we can offer better value to customers,” says Tina Tahiliani-Parikh, executive director, Ensemble.
For Rathore, saleability is not a big concern. “My clothes have always been commercial. I know they will sell,” he says.
Most of the other designers are also confident of selling. The slowdown is an opportunity to sharpen their creative skills, which had been buried under an excess of Swarovski and zardozi. And they are more than aware of this. “I know we will emerge smarter and sharper out of this,” says Ghosh.