In a world globalized so much that a t-shirt and bermudas would do at the workplace, you ask what is the place of fashion, especially that of the Indian fashion industry in the world? Will the handlooms that have been buzzing and clacking in remote villages and houses of India really disappear? Will the tiny by-lanes bustling with textile trade vanish from the map?
Well, these are issues that the Indian fashion industry seems to be facing at the moment, but for an industry as old as our civilization itself, that’s not a scare.
So read on if you were considering a move into fashion or were just plain curious about this industry in our country.
Actually, no, the fashion industry is not about fashion designers. Well, not only about them. There’s a whole gamut of other roles in the industry that makes up what we see on the runways and in malls.
The fashion industry in India, just like in any other country is also about fashion photography, pattern making, garment construction, accessory designing, make-up artists, modelling, fabric weaving, textile research and development, fashion journalism/editorial, and manufacturing to name a few.
Fashion designers are just a small portion of this whole game. In India, other sectors like manufacturing fabric, importing and exporting textiles, embroidery and dyeing make up a much bigger proportion of this industry.
The fashion designer just has to make use of these available resources to introduce new designs into the market. So yes, if you’re considering a career in the fashion industry, good news is, your options are not limited to fashion designing.
Current size of the Indian fashion industry is worth INR1000 crore, while the market size is approximated to be INR 20,000 crore.
However, Indian fashion accounts for a meagre 0.2% in the world market. But this is expected as Indian fashion has just rolled over from infancy to the growth stage.
The signs are everywhere- growing number of designers, boutiques and outlets, design schools and customers!
It is only getting tougher and tougher to get into the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), the premier fashion institute in India. Wait, there’s a national institute for Fashion? Oh yeah!
As I love to hanker every time I can, fashion has its own technology. I would love to bust the myth that Fashion is all about art. Fashion, when it actually comes down to sewing a dress, is actually Math.
If you were bad at geometry in school, forget enjoying fashion designing. If you cannot understand that shaving off 1 cm from the seam line would make the dress unwearable for your customer, or it is necessary to draw perpendiculars for the darts, then it’s probable you cannot come up with a practical design.
You would end up copying someone else’s designs and wouldn’t be able to manage your tailors well. (Imagine if they stitched a tent dress too large, just because you said give some extra width!).
And that’s why NIFT has tough aptitude tests for entrance exams, and it’s highly competitive. Fashion is not meant (supposedly) for the back-benchers or the D-graders in school.
Continuing from the point above, the numbers are so low only because much of the industry is really unorganized.
Indians just find old habits die hard, don’t they? They continue to trade in the old-fashioned way through small home stores, selling individually to friends and their friends.
Much of this trade goes unaccounted for. There are many NGOs which harness the talent of underprivileged women to make delightful accessories and bags, but this is rarely considered as fashion.
If you decide to start up your own home boutique, that also would go into the unorganized part, and would rarely reflect in the industry’s profitable nature.
Ritu Verma, Rohit Bal, Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi- these are names that not only you and I know, but are famous international names.
If they could do it, then anyone else can do it, even you. Their design sensibilities draw from Indian traditions and they have played an important part in showcasing our culture to the world.
Even with modernity thumping on the doors, many Indian designers find a way to weave in traditional ethos into their costumes and that is one reason why Indian fashion remains unique.
If I asked you which sold most in India – Kurtas, Sarees or Denim, you would be amazed that Saree is the highest selling fashion apparel (greater than 1/3 of apparel sales).
It trumps all other kinds of styles by a very large margin and continues to grow at 8.8%. As a sourcing merchandizer at one point in my career, I have travelled the narrow crowded lanes of textile markets in Bengaluru to find the choicest silk sarees.
The sheer volume of sarees sold here will leave you spell bound and the business done in these bustling hubs will make your jaw drop. And every other person I know sells sarees from their home or on an FB page. Time that you started your own saree line, huh?!
Well, maybe Bollywood is sleazy. Just because they made a movie “Fashion” which was supposed to depict the Indian Fashion industry, doesn’t mean the entire industry functions that way.
It’s neither scandalous nor abusive bar for some exceptions. The clothes that you see in your favourite store come from talented designers, normal people like you and me, who work several hours a day and worship their job.
All the people in the industry take their work seriously and it is a real profession. And just because of whatever happens in Vegas, it doesn’t mean the whole fashion industry is into it.
It’s always a joke when my family sends me clothes from the U.S. It has a Made in India tag!
Not only is India one of the largest exporter of textiles and clothes but many foreign countries set up their manufacturing unit here. Gap Inc & Tommy Hilfiger come to mind.
Due to the cheap labour here and other Asian countries, you are bound to see that all the high-end international clothes are indeed made here. So basically, such international brands are easily able to sell at 400% margin.
Unfortunately for us, all the best quality fabrics are used for goods that are meant to be exported and the clothes that remain in India are often of poorer or cheaper quality. And then again, it all depends on how much we can afford.
We are the second largest producer of Silk (after China) and third largest producer of Cotton. With such a background and surplus, it is only natural that most of our fashion would use these fabrics.
It is heart-warming to see all the designers of our generation bringing back the humble Khadi and handloom fabrics , innovated to suit our tastes. Khadi/Cotton is our pride and replacing it with synthetic materials following other countries had had a backlash on traditional fabrics.
But the Indian fashion industry is able to innovate and bring the by-gone traditions back. You and I can be a part of this revolution by being interested customers or patriotic designers!
So all said and done, India still has a long way to go in carving a niche for itself in the world’s fashion scene. If you thought that our industry is mature and knows what it is doing, then I disagree.
In terms of quality, in terms of talent, the research and innovation, we still have much to prove. When you see the runway abroad and then on our own turf, you can immediately see the striking contrast – from the way the fashion show is presented, the accessories used to the professionalism.
Even when it comes to funding, we lack support. “Vogue India” is not yet in vogue. Apart from 2 second glances from the international audience and courteous smiles, Indian fashion is still seen as ornamental and decorative.
There’s a long way to go before we can discover our confident and comfortable space. And then, we can calmly say, Namaste.