03 October 2011

Fashion Weeks Don't drive Business: Former FDCI Chief

Fashion weeks are giving recognition to new designers, but they are not driving business growth, says Vinod Kaul, a former director of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) that organises four hugely successful style extravaganzas every year.

"The fashion weeks no doubt have an important role to showcase designers and their collections and to rally the industry under a common flag. They have been especially good in giving recognition to new designers. Having said that, they continue to be more into glamour and hype and have been unable to drive business growth beyond a point," Kaul told IANS in an interview.

"Fashion weeks abroad are majorly business events in addition to being a glamorous one. In India, it is glamorous but with little business and often degenerates into a Bollywood sideshow. Also, most of the new fashion weeks have inadequate financial support and are often badly managed," he added.

Kaul came on board as executive director of FDCI in 2002 and served till 2004. From 2009-2010, he worked as director, but his role was more of behind-the-scenes support.

The man, who saw many young designers making it big in the fashion world, is happy that the fashion industry is churning out new talent.

"The industry has been churning out talented young designers at regular intervals. The good thing is that they (young designers) have no baggage like the first generation designers when it comes to design or commercial perspectives," he said.

At the same time, he agreed with young designers' complaints that they have to go through an exhausting process before getting a chance at fashion weeks.

"Their (young designers') complaint is somewhat justified as FDCI has been a closed lot dominated by coteries. Struggle will continue to be the hallmark for new emerging designers for some time until the market develops further," he added.

Asked about the problems the Indian fashion industry is facing nowadays, Kaul said that the list was endless and included finance, retail, infrastructure and marketing.

"Fashion designers may be the starting point, but fashion can only bloom when it is driven along commercial lines at the other end. While there have been some interaction between industry and fashion designers, it has not led to dynamic changes or growth.

"The Indian industry is still hesitant about investing in Indian designers, who still drag their feet by their egos! That is the biggest hurdle and then there are the finance, retail, infrastructure and marketing hurdles. It is now left to foreign investors and companies to bring up the Indian fashion industry," he said.

Nowadays many fashion weeks are backed by corporates like Wills Lifestyle, Lakme Aamby Valley and many more.

But Kaul feels it's time for brands to tie up with designers.

"I would like to see the Indian corporates play a stronger role in recognising Indian designers and partnering with them to make solid businesses and brands," he said.

After his brief hiatus with FDCI, Kaul is currently focussing on his company RVG Newsvision.

"My company, RVG Newsvision is involved in consultancy in the retail and fashion industries. We have helped by advising designers both officially or privately on a variety of personal, industry and commercial issues," he said.

"Also, my focus at the moment is on our start-up initiative, the retail database DataLive. If funded, I would like to develop a similar model for the fashion industry. I would also like to associate with an upcoming designer and take them up the steps in the commercial world," he added.