The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 19, 2001

More about controversy, less about fashion

HAS the Indian fashion design come of age? This was one query that was on the mind of every person associated with the Lakme India Fashion Week 2001. This year, the second since its inception, the Fashion Week took place in Mumbai from August 6 to 12, at the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the event were showcased works of 44 of India's leading designers, which were displayed by 48 of India's best models.

Malini RamaniOne had expected that the Fashion Week, the first of its kind in the country and probably in this part of Asia would generate a lot of excitement within the industry—of designers, models and sponsors. The excitement was there all right, but so were the controversies that dogged it from the very beginning.

For instance, several of the reputed designers have stayed out of the event. Like Ritu Beri. Though she had recently returned from a Fashion Week at Paris and is preparing to go for the second one in October, she decided to keep away from the show. But while her clothes might have been off the ramp, the lady herself graced the occasion when she came to town and entered an evening do with the chairman of Fashion Television. Michel Adam.


Designs echo her mood
Designs echo her mood

Surprisingly enough, this wasn't really a part of the Fashion Week show. In fact, Beri had a separate show at the hippest restaurant in Mumbai, Athena. Titled Ritu Beri's Memories de Divas Collection, it was a different affair all right. Instead of a ramp, where models show off the best of the designer's collection, here a bevy of models wore Beri's clothes and moved around in the party. Beri herself made a very late entry at about 11 pm. Called an FTV party, it seemed a bit strange that it should have happened around this time. Only recently, Ritu had said in an exclusive interview that she was staying out of the show due to a prior appointment. Did that mean that by not participating, keeping away and doing her own stuff was away of showing that she no longer had to be part of a herd?

But some of the big names participated with full gusto. Like Tarun Tahiliani. Rohit Bal. Manish

Malhotra. Sangeeta Chopra. Krishna Mehta. Ritu Kumar. Rocky S. Last year, the ramp boasted of several international models and it may also be recalled that a couple of them created quite a ruckus with their no-bra look, but this year, the ramp show looked ike a dry run. Several Indian models decided to stay away from the show because they felt that the discounted charges that the organisers wanted from them was unfair. In fact Madhu Sapre, the tall, athletic supermodel had even said that it was ridiculous to expect this from them. Later of course she retracted this statement and came up with a formal rebuttal. "I never said the whole business of the FDCI or the Lakme India Fashion Week is to exploit models. I am deeply disturbed and upset with the quotes attributed to me." But the controversies regarding the models seemed to overshadow the event even before it started. Finally, a couple of days before the D-day, the organisation issued a formal statement. The excerpts read like this:

Leena Tipnis with her creation
Leena Tipnis with her creation

"There are sections of the media that have reported that models Noyonika Chatterjee, John Abraham and Kelly Dorji were unwilling to participate in Lakme India Fashion Week 2001. The fact is that neither of the above mentioned were on the FDCI model target list. Others like Dino Morea and Bipasha Basu that were approached, declined, due to a prior overseas shoot commitment, whilst others were not comfortable with the fees offered. This was their individual decision and we respect it. Per international practice, different models charge different fees. Models for Lakme India Fashion Week are contracted for a fee, as are other key groups e.g. choreographers, hair/make-up artists, light designer, sound specialist, set designer, security company, etc. to work for the event. Models, per the norm, charge on a per show basis. Normally, in one-off designer shows, models are required for a full day of fittings, a full day of rehearsals, and then for the show itself i.e. three full days. At Lakme India Fashion Week, models were only required to attend fittings and the main shows.

There were no lengthy model rehearsals. With 27 shows scheduled to take place over seven days, the organisers had specified a competitive fee structure for models for a multiple package of shows during the week, with a minimum guarantee of shows. Model fees were the single largest expenditure of Lakme India Fashion Week. All sponsorship monies were invested in organising and managing what today is the country's largest fashion trade event. Whereas, designer participation fees are invested back into the FDCI corpus, which, as per their mandate, is invested back into the industry through research and feasibility studies of the Indian fashion industry, other events, etc., and the functioning of the not-for-profit council, that was formed to represent and promote the business interests of the Indian fashion industry. We do believe that Lakme India Fashion Week offers in addition to established individuals, younger talent in the industry, be it upcoming designers or models, the best launch platform with national visibility."

Savio Jon uses varied materials
Savio Jon uses varied materials

Whew…now isn't that completely comprehensive? But that said and out of the way, it appeared that the events would all now fall into line and go off smoothly. It did on the first day. Ritu Kumar exhibited her clothes-a collection far removed from the zardozi and lovely prints that she is known for her. This was called "Say no to Toosh" as in Shahtoosh shawls and is part of her campaign against the usage of this material from the endangered species. There was also a display of her gorgeous Ikat in black and white used for western clothes.

The other designer of the day was Savio Jon. Talk of outrageous stuff. His clothes were slashed, frayed. And he uses material that are as varied as lycra and leather. What's more his clothes had names" Like how? Like this: "Porn Star", "Elvis", "Punk", "Public Enemy." Yeesh? Our thoughts exactly. On August 8, the highlight was Malini Ramani. Bina Ramani's daughter, who hit the headlines last year by wearing a dress made out of the Indian national flag that brought the moral police, the BBC and Newsweek at her doorstep, is back again this year. According to Malini, "My collection is an extension of my mood at this point in my life." And just what is her mood? A 'glamorous, fairy tale…' Sarees and kurtas that are a flashback of the flower child days with Indian embroidery, denim with paint, beads, crystals and leather trimmings." She calls it the "Rockstar-meets-Indian Princess" look. Whether this look will go down well with the buyers and viewers, is something we could not gauge right away.

The designers to look forward to in the coming days are Lina Tipnis, Tarun Tahiliani, Krishna Mehta, Rina Dhaka and ,of course, Manish Malhotra. The most awaited of these is of course Manish, the man most sought after by everyone from an Urmilla Matondkar to a hip, hop happening Mumbai socialite. But what was a little baffling is just what Manish was planning to exhibit at the show. After all, he had just had a show at the Sheetal Design Studio only a few weeks back. The collection was titled Enchanted Ensemble and it was a rhapsody in pastels. This ready-to- wear collection will be available at the Sheetal Design Studio outlets in Bombay and is supposedly affordable by the high middle income group. Still, it was definitely an event to watch specially since his collection was a part of the Grand Finale, along with those of Rohit Bal and Rina Dhaka.



Party Time

Whether the Lakme India Fashion Week was a success or not, undoubtedly the social scene in Mumbai had hotted up. First was the Ritu Beri party and then the party at Rahul Akerkar's Indigo restaurant. It was just after Monisha Jaisingh's show and as the party people trooped in, it was evident that they were all in the mood to have a blast. Tarun Tahiliani, Shobha De, ad man Prahlad Kakkad, designer Aki Narula, Verve publisher Anuradha Mahindra and a host of other models. Point is, with fashion world's beautiful people making a beeline for these parties, who will the rest of the glitterratti call?

Sssh… toosh

The Lakme India Fashion Week was not all fluff. If you thought it was just about clothes, more clothes, money and more money, you are sadly mistaken. Designers like Ritu Kumar and the Fashion Designers Council of India had teamed up with film celebrities like Madhuri Dixit and Manisha Koirala and industrialists like Jindal to endorse programmes by Wildlife Trust of India and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to protest against the usage of Shahtoosh shawls. Now, that's pretty impressive, isn't it?

No, not in India.

For those teaming up for the Lakme India Fashion Week event, hoping to catch a glimpse or…er two, of certain female body parts, there was big time disappointment. Forget Indian models, there were even no firangis willing to bare all and dare al.. But that's because this is India and we Indians are 'good people'. When Indian models go abroad and walk the ramp, this doesn't hold true though. Like Ujwala Raut, who recently participated in designer Maurizio Galante's haute couture show in the Paris Fashion Week. And guess how she walked the ramp? In a sheer, netted Galante outfit, with er….absolutely nothing on top underneath it. What's this got to do with Lakme India Fashion Week? Nothing. You can bet, absolutely nothing.