Don’t let success kill the essence of the concept

Don’t let success kill the essence  of the concept
In 1999 when my mother started her own label, we had limited financial resources so we never got into advertising or aggressive marketing. Instead, we started participating in exhibitions organised by women’s clubs. We were amazed by the response. We were not the only ones. Seeing the craze for these exhibitions, some private companies started organising fashion and lifestyle exhibitions, taking the concept to a different level.

These firms started to add professionalism to the concept, layer by layer. Advertisements in newspaper, hoardings and personal invites to the rich and famous and what not. Though in early years the focus was more on bridal wear, these fashion retailing events gradually expanded their portfolio and now even accessories form a part of them.

I still remember Delhi being one of the first metros to start this culture and others followed suit. It was a win-win situation: fashionistas got to know about small start ups and indie labels that were bringing creativity at a reasonable price. And the bold fashion entrepreneurs were emboldened further, given that they had ready access to retail.

One can best describe these events as shopping bonanzas, which lasted for two to three days. A lot of people — not just designers, but the people involved in logistics, marketing and organising of these exhibitions as well — depended on them.

As it is said, when a concept becomes a phenomenon, everybody jumps into the fray. So is the case here, as we saw more and more players — from NGOs to socialites-turned-entrepreneurs to fashion publications — trying to milk this cash cow. So much so, today we have more than 100 exhibitions each year in Delhi alone.

Yes, it’s a consumers’ paradise, but the overkill has everybody in a spin. For one, buyers are not able to keep up with so many exhibitions. Some people that I know actually stopped going to such exhibitions, as they are getting confused with this overflow.

Starting a venture is not an issue, but maintaining it always will be a challenge. Being an independent industry, there is no bar on who can organise these exhibitions, but lack of vision will affect the concept sooner or later.

One may ask what the solution is, then. Study the exhibitions that have kept their quality intact, you’ll understand the dynamics. The key reason for their success is that they screen the products. They also have a clause that the exhibitor will not participate in any other exhibition three months prior to their’s. It might sound harsh initially, but those who have been assosciated with these exhibitions have grown much more than those who exhibit anywhere and everywhere.

It is time we look into this seriously before chaos overrules whatever good these home grown retail platforms have come to achieve.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)

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