What we can learn from the French fashion scene

What we can learn from the French fashion scene
TAKE YOUR PICK: Visitors at one of the stalls at the Who’s next – spring summer 2015 edition in Paris
It was a pleasure and a treat to experience one of the most well-known trade exhibitions in the field of fashion, ‘Who’s next – spring summer 2015 edition,’ at Paris. With a hardcore agenda of business development, the exhibition was divided into sections such as ‘fame’, ‘premier,’ ready to wear, accessories and lingerie. As always, it was a thoroughly professionally managed event with complete information on the help desk to guide buyers, media or visitors to their section of interest. And since language is still an issue in Paris, the organisers had ensured there was enough English speaking crew for any assistance.

The event had more than 700 exhibitors from various parts of the world, which included fashion and accessory designers as well as manufacturers. With so much variety to choose from, it was clearly a buyer’s paradise. Every designer had done their homework, understanding their target market and developing product lines accordingly. For example, the ones targeting West Asia had kaftans in full flow whereas those targeting European markets had lot of cotton and wool tops and dresses. Then there were designers who specifically exhibited casuals such as denims and tees. One stroll-through, and you could figure out each designer’s target market from the designs they had showcased in their booths.

One of the most heartening things to see was the huge presence of fellow Indian designers, and let me add, the numbers are increasing every season. It again proves my belief that our country is all set to make a major impact in the field of fashion sooner than later. The ready to wear section, in fact, seemed like a mini-India for not only did Indian designers far outnumber other nationalities, there were also a large number of Indian manufacturers from Surat, Delhi and Jaipur who either sell printed fabrics or develop prints for certain buyers.

Another encouraging aspect was the number of sponsored stalls that encouraged fresh talent to showcase their creativity on such a big stage and become the fashion entrepreneurs of tomorrow. From fashion colleges to fashion portals to corporate groups, all had stalls where they introduced new talent, giving buyers a whole new range of choices.

However, though it appeared like a buzzing hotspot on the surface, things weren’t as hot as they appeared. When I interacted with designers, buyers and agents, the sense that I got was that, overall, this season has been comparatively lean in terms of business. And that there have also been fewer registered buyers this time around — in fact, someone told me as many as 200 brands did not participate this season.

So, just like every dark night is followed by daybreak, I am sure even this lean phase of the fashion retail industry will quickly pass by. And whatever may have been the case with foreign brands, at least for us Indians, the biggest lesson from this experience was that Indian designers and manufacturers can grow much more provided they get this kind of exposure.

(The writer is a Delhi-based fashion designer)

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