The Indian fashion industry’s most famous falling-out has come to an end. After 15 years of holding separate biannual fashion weeks, fashion industry bodies Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and RISE Worldwide (formerly IMG Reliance), and beauty major Lakmé have called a truce.

The trio announced on March 1 they would be holding a joint “phygital” (physical and virtual) FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week from March 16-21. This collaboration is for just this season for now.

The opening show of the FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week on March 16 will be presented by leading Indian designer Anamika Khanna.

In 2006, corporate biggies IMG Reliance and Lakmé parted ways with FDCI after a public disagreement over issues related to finances and on whether the India Fashion Week should be held in Mumbai or Delhi.

Delhi is often called the fashion capital since some of the biggest fashion houses like Tarun TahilianiRohit Bal, and Ritu Kumar are based there, while India’s business hub Mumbai is where the major sponsors like Reliance and Lakmé have their headquarters.

Since then, it has been a mad rush for fashion journalists, stylists, and buyers who have had to dash from one fashion week in Mumbai to another one in Delhi or vice versa twice a year, sometimes with barely a fortnight in between.

“It’s an idea that is long overdue. I know that the Mumbai team has reached out to FDCI at least two years ago asking to join hands, but things didn’t work out for the FDCI end,” Namrata Zakaria, journalist and fashion columnist, told Zenger News.

“The truth of the matter is both sides have been struggling to get in participants and fill the show areas. Eventually, both fashion weeks became merely event platforms, as opposed to business-conducive platforms.”

“Top designers would take part only if they were given a sponsored show, and based on their names, the younger designers would pay to participate to garner some eyeballs. This wasn’t a sustainable model for a fashion week. Secondly, the media coverage became only about celebrities who attended as opposed to trend stories or show reviews.”

With the pandemic putting an end to the drama of physical fashion weeks, the lavish sets, the coveted front rows, and the after-parties… the fight for the title of fashion capital has become redundant — at least for the time being.

All the major fashion weeks around the world — like the recently concluded Milano Fashion Week F/W 2021 — have been held in the digital format ever since the Covid-19 outbreak with designers showcasing their collections through fashion films instead of runway shows.

“If there was a conflict earlier, there isn’t one today, and this is the right time for the divide of 15 years to go away,” Sunil Sethi, the founding president of the Fashion Design Council of India, told Zenger News. “The pandemic has forced everyone to mend fences. With the fashion weeks now being held virtually, the conflict of whether the event should be held in Delhi or Mumbai ceases to exist.”

“The retail business is in a bad state. Designers are suffering and there are hardly any sales, so we are hoping that a joint fashion week will revive the industry. No one has the time to see many digital shows, so it’s better to come together, do a limited number of shows, and showcase the best talent.”

A still from a Lakmé Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2019 show. (RISE Worldwide)

Sethi is hopeful that the current arrangement will not be a rerun of what happened 15 years ago because of the flexibility that the current arrangement offers.

“We are not stepping on each other’s toes. While we do have a common schedule of shows, we do not have a common platform for the shows. Our designers will showcase on our platform, while Mumbai designers, or Delhi designers who have sponsors in Mumbai, are free to showcase on the LFW platform. In addition, all the designers will get a chance to retail their clothes at our FDCI ‘Stockroom’.”

Like Sethi, designers and other members of the fashion industry are hopeful about the new developments.

Designer Gaurav Gupta, who has dressed international celebrities like British model Lady Victoria Hervey, Paris Hilton, and Shakira, and has served on the board of the Fashion Design Council of India, said that the joint fashion week is a culmination of many conversations between the concerned parties.

“It is a great idea to consolidate the fashion weeks of India, especially the ready-to-wear ones,” Gupta told Zenger News. “India is a big country and Mumbai and Delhi are cities that are fashion capitals in themselves. So, now that things are digital, it is probably easier to combine them.”

Senior stylist and fashion expert Ekta Rajani feels that India’s fashion industry is still at a nascent stage when it comes to fashion and is not ready to handle two back-to-back mega fashion weeks per season.

“Consolidating will be in the interests of both the parties. The industry still requires some structure and hand-holding. Having two fashion weeks divides resources, time, and viewership. This is a landmark step and if this pilot run works, we will see more such collaborations in the future.”

The general mood in the industry has been upbeat after the announcement with many designers posting about it on social media. Designer to the Bollywood stars Manish Malhotra posted on Instagram: This coming season @fdciofficial and @lakmefashionwk come together for 1 fashion week. I am so happy about this and on our many board meetings and discussions all of this is finally happening (sic).”

However, Zakaria sounds a word of caution amidst all this euphoria.

“Both, the dying of a fashion week as a business generator as well as the waning interest of the so-called ‘serious media’, can be seen as evolutionary changes. However, these have called for a new model, and hence it’s better to have one event that has a reasonably full house as well as reasonably decent coverage, as opposed to two strugglers.

“That said, I believe that this merger will see only one of the two teams survive. It’s anybody’s guess which one.”

(Edited by Uttaran Dasgupta and Amrita Das.)



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