Walking The Talk

Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
To dismiss the India Fashion Week (IFW), which kicks off in New Delhi today, as a jamboree of, for and by page 3 celebrities would be doing it a disservice.

Over the years, the IFW has tried to facilitate commercial interaction among the fashion industry, promote greater awareness of fashion and equip our designers and buyers alike for the business of fashion.

On at least two counts, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the proprietor of the IFW, has met with considerable success: One, it has managed to consolidate to a large extent the hitherto fragmented design community.

For a fraternity used to functioning like Chicagos infamous mafia gangs, the graduation to collectively showcase creations and to do business under one roof is no mean achievement.

The second feather in FDCIs cap is that it has substantially improved fashion consciousness at home.

This achievement is mirrored not just in the style-conscious youths increased knowledge of trends arguably, a spin-off from the media blitz the IFW generates but more importantly, in the burgeoning participation of standalone boutiques and multi-chain malls.

A mere five years ago, designer pret (ready-to-wear) was a fanciful idea. Today, its a booming business, thanks in large part due to the IFWs concerted focus on marketing fashion for the masses.

That said, the IFW is clearly struggling on one vital count. Notwithstanding increased buyer participation, and despite the pool of design talent and business acumen that India possesses, our fashion industry is yet to acquire a critical mass.

There is a phenomenal swathe of business territory which is yet to be covered. FDCI has estimated that business worth Rs 30 crore was initiated through the IFW last year.

But the designer market at home alone is estimated to be around Rs 3,000 crore and America and Europe remain largely untapped.

The organisers may stress on the events recent origins its indeed only in its fifth year but the fact is that professionalism continues to elude a large section of the industry.

That is hurting business and, as much as it is a mindset issue, it is a cause for concern.

FDCI may have introduced concepts such as standardisation, global benchmarking, lead times and buying patterns but standards of quality, production infrastructure, and marketing knowledge vary significantly. Part of this burden must be FDCIs to bear.

For instance, it must raise the quality bar for participants rather than concentrate on ramping up numbers. And those who participate must corporatise and invest in research and development. Buyers will buy more only if they are assured of quality and on-time delivery.