New Delhi: Tanzeel Ahmed hasn’t slept since 31 August. The production supervisor says he’s been working round the clock along with 400 men in preparation of the big event.
In the green room, mirrors are being hung and air conditioners installed to keep models and stylists cool. The two 18-metre catwalks have already been built. Now, all they need are models.
The 10th edition of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week will start on Wednesday at the India Trade Promotion Organization in Pragati Maidan. It will feature the work of more than 70 designers, many of whom are high-profile figures such as Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani and Rina Dhaka.
The event’s organizers hope to attract nearly 5,000 people per day, says Rathi Vinay Jha, the director general of the Fashion Design Council of India, the proprietor of the event. Last year, there were 70 international buyers from 12 countries, including upmarket stores such as Harrods and Bloomingdales.
Many insiders see the fashion industry in India as having big potential, though there are still plenty of challenges to overcome.
“Expansion and awareness of the industry in India has leapt multifold in the last 10-15 years,” says Jha in an email interview. “With the opening of the Indian economy, (the) Indian marketplace has changed extensively.”
Jha also says that Indian consumers are more in tune with the latest styles and conscious about their purchase.
Runway shows and the sale of luxury clothing have picked up in India in the last 10 years as a result of higher standards of living, says Felipe Olivares, head of apparel operations at Technopak, an Indian consulting firm that advises companies on, among other things, fashion.
“The middle-income group here is increasing,” says Olivares. According to Richa Bansal, executive editor of IMAGES Business of Fashion, India’s luxury retail market was pegged at Rs2,500 crore two years ago, but has since grown to Rs3,875 crore.
But challenges in the industry remain, especially in marketing, says Olivares. Very few Indian manufacturers have developed a brand domestically that has launched successfully, he says.
Another obstacle in Indian fashion seems to be the lack of success in developing high-end brands for women.
According to IMAGES F&R Research’s 2007 India Retail Report, “Women’s fashion branding is still elusive. (But) With some of the fashion companies entering the women’s market, we see the stirring of a revolution...”
Another challenge, Bansal says, is the lack of a luxury retail environment in India. Its presence has largely been confined to five-star hotels with luxury stores.
However, with new age shopping centres, such as Select Citywalk, referred to as India’s first ever luxury shopping space—a 1.3 million sq. ft project— coming to New Delhi, India’s fashion future looks bright, experts say. “It’s a market that’s set to boom,” says Bansal.