New Delhi: “Neither you or I need anything new to wear for a year or two at least. But that’s not what fashion is about,” says Fern Mallis, senior vice-president, IMG Fashion, which has been organizing fashion weeks in India since the very first one was held in 2000.
The woman responsible for launching the New York Fashion Week and giving several other countries their own fashion weeks, Mallis was in India earlier this month to judge Marie Claire’s Made in India fashion awards.
Gesturing with hands laden with a dozen multi-hued bracelets from Mumbai’s Colaba market, she says that fashion is about magic and aspiration. “It’s about seeing something and being convinced that it can change your life in some way,” she says.
Apart from the socio-spiritual implications of fashion, Mallis is well-versed with its practicality. She has played an important role in redefining the way fashion is presented to Indian consumers. A recent and crucial development is modifying the international Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter format to suit the Indian market. “It’s high time we accept that there is no Autumn/Winter in India. I mean, yes, you get off the aircraft in Delhi and see people wearing ski jackets, but really, it’s not winter. This is a season-neutral country,” says Mallis.
One way that the Lakme Fashion Week is going to address this incongruence is by hosting the shows about 30-60 days before garments hit the shelves. This is so that consumers aren’t confused, reading about collections on the ramp but seeing them in stores only six months later—as is the norm in the fashion industry now. Accordingly, Lakme’s show in March will be called “Summer Resort 2010”.
Much like the bright pink Anamika Khanna kurti she is donning in the picture, almost 40% of Mallis’ wardrobe is resort wear by Indian designers. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Another way in which Mallis and her colleagues will attempt to buttress the Indian fashion industry is by highlighting its strengths. ““No one does resort wear like Indian designers,” says Mallis, adding that this pre-Spring season is one of the longest selling seasons internationally. Resort wear, she says, is more than beachwear and flip-flops. “It’s what you’d wear to the Cannes, a benefit at the Hamptons, a yacht party in the Carribean…” For Mallis, the ethos of resort wear is inherent in India—in fabrics, colours, embellishments. Pinching her bright pink kurti by Indian designer Anamika Khanna, she points out that international designers have been looking to India and even having their garments manufactured locally.
According to the IMG Fashion team, as a growing fashion market, India can incorporate these sartorial shifts within a few seasons. And the Lakme Fashion Week is actually leading some of these directional changes for the international fashion community, according to Mallis.
“There’s no denying that the perception of India internationally is that it is full of talent,” says Mallis, adding, “But its creativity has to be channelled in the right way.”
A globetrotting fashionista, Mallis shares her impressions of what characterizes the fashion weeks of the world.
New York Fashion Week: Is like New York City itself. It’s international, knows how to market itself and is the best-selling fashion week in the world.
Paris: Is a think tank, the ultimate in fashion world creativity.
Milan: Commercial, with big advertisers on board. No one spends money on advertising like the Italians, which is why there are more publishing and advertising people on the front rows here.
London: Cutting-edge and experimental. Not so great for business but a breeding ground for new talent.
India: Very much like New York in its celebrity quotient (unlike Paris and Milan, which pay Hollywood celebrities to come down.) Like New York, Mumbai houses celebrities who attend because they live locally and have relationships with the designers and publicists.