Lakme Fashion Week 2020 kicks off 'seasonless' digital edition, as hopes ride on online sales in face of coronavirus pandemic
Following a parched few months in luxury retail, can digital fashion weeks like LFW offer greater business to designers?
Read the preceding report in this series: As global fashion events contend with COVID-19 era, Lakme Fashion Week 2020 gears up for first-ever digital edition
For the first time this year, LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury group, saw a growth in fashion revenue — a 12 percent increase in the third quarter. Analysts attribute this trend to the remarkable recovery of Asian countries, primarily China, where domestic shopping has ramped up. Similarly, in India, luxury retailers say that overall local spending has not lost its momentum. At a time when buyers cannot opt for duty-free shopping abroad, the onus falls on domestic designers to deliver, and fashion weeks to provide them with the right retail platforms.
As the five-day Lakme Fashion Week opens today, 21 October, Jaspreet Chandok — head of lifestyle businesses at IMG Reliance (a co-sponsor of the event) — remains hopeful that sales will ramp up. “We expect some upturn in consumer demand around the festive period which is a reason we chose these dates to do the event,” he said. “With the direct-to-consumer shop off the runway feature that we are introducing into our shows, we hope we can generate business for our designers.”
Lakme Fashion Week’s Gen Next programme, which provides young designers with mentoring from industry professionals and a platform to debut, continues this year. This time around, due to social distancing, they were mentored over video calls and were asked to send in their outfits to be styled and filmed. Alumni of the programme themselves, designers Rimzim Dadu and Saaksha & Kinni will be closing the show at the grand finale this year.
Since the duo Saaksha Bhat and Kinnari Kamat debuted at LFW in 2016, their garments have been worn by the likes of Sharon Stone, Winnie Harlow, and almost every Bollywood actress. “Gen Next has had a pivotal role in helping us prepare our business,” they say. “Right from how to build a strong collection, convey a message, interact with buyers and handle the media, LFW has held our hand all through the journey thus far.”
With regard to this season, Bhat and Kamat remain optimistic: “It is also unfortunate that buyers do not have the opportunity to touch and feel garments themselves — something so essential when deciding to buy clothes. However, support with the community is immense, and you can feel that everyone wants to support designers and karigars and are doing whatever they can to help. Online sales have also dramatically increased, creating a window of opportunity for multi-designer stores to change their model and go digital too.”
The fashion industry’s steady acclimatisation to the digital world is widening job opportunities for models after a difficult few months. “However,” observes supermodel Lakshmi Rana, “the pay capacity of designers has declined. Unfortunately for models, this means that only our effort has increased.” Filming for digital shows amounts to longer hours, with heightened scrutiny on every gesture, movement, and expression to achieve the perfect shot. “There is a need to strike the right balance so that it is fair for both models and designers,” the runway veteran adds. “Having said that, everyone is happy that work has resumed and we are looking at a good season [going] forward.”
The trends to look forward to
At the end of the day, any fashion week is only as good as the clothes. Lakme Fashion Week’s five-day line-up includes designers like Abhraham & Thakore, Payal Khandwala, Suket Dhir, Rimzim Dadu, and Urvashi Kaur. Raw Mango’s Sanjay Garg draws inspiration from the folk and Marwari aesthetics of his home-state, Rajasthan, for his festive collection, ‘Moomal’. Anavila Misra’s ‘Dhanak’ is inspired by rainbows, while Hemang Agrawal’s ‘Tatva’ collection will showcase his use of the sustainable material Bemberg. The Gen Next designers — Anmol Sharma from Dhatu Designer Studio, Bhumika and Minakshi Ahluwalia from Mishé, and Aarushi Kilawat from The Loom Art — are all set for their debut.
As far as trends go, the designers behind Saaksha & Kinni anticipate the rise of versatile, utilitarian garments: “We have to look at fashion in a new light — the client no longer has the resources to spend blindly on garments they don’t need. People want season-fluid garments, those that can also be mixed and matched and repeated effortlessly. We kept this in mind while creating this collection. We wanted it to be a collection of strong separates, interesting unique and experimental designs, and colours that could effortlessly be inserted into anyone's wardrobe.”
Pankaj and Nidhi Ahuja agree that “there is a need for clothing which is comfortable and easy to wear, and can be worn at home, for work, or while meeting friends.” In the upcoming collection for their eponymous brand, they work with cutting edge antimicrobial and antibacterial fabrics, and silhouettes that are easy to get in and out of.
After an almost 15-year career in fashion, the husband-wife duo has used this period to reflect upon the privilege of being able to create. “The experience of doing a digital show has been overwhelming as the future of the world seemed so bleak after COVID-19. We are still in the middle of this storm but we are striving to do our bit to keep our business and employees together. We are trying to keep our spirits aloft,” they said. “We are in a position of privilege to have this opportunity. Whatever the outcome, we are happy and satisfied with the fact that we tried. We wish the best for everyone.”
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