The India fashion story

- July 24, 2023
| By : Asmita Aggarwal |

Couture in India is recession-proof and a money spinner for the 16 couturiers, who are ready to wow the Indian ceremonial wear market, at the India Couture Week 2023

SHOWSTOPPER: Models Sanea Sheikh and Hemangi Parte at last year’s India Couture Week at the Taj Palace Hotel

If each designer participating at the FDCI India Couture Week (ICW) is spending Rs 1 crore, he knows that a mammoth business is being generated.

Behind the snazzy lights, magnificent sets and ethereal music, couturiers are serenading the money churner — Indian ceremonial wear, on which no one is scrimping or cutting corners as recent reports say.

Despite recession and post-covid fear, sales are rising.

Also read: Hand-looming on Delhi’s Fashion Street

In fact, for those who are unaware, a wedding joda (dress) can go up to Rs 10 lakh if you are buying from Falguni and Shane Peacock, who this year are the opening act for ICW 2023, which runs from July 25 to August 2 at the Taj Palace hotel.

Sunil Sethi, who has been relentlessly working for the fashion world for the last two decades came up with the idea of ICW 16 years ago.

He says it has only got bigger and better.

“Couture customers are the most important for the designer. This invitation-only show is attended by the biggest spenders, besides celebrities,” says Sethi, who is also Chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).

PIONEER: Sunil Sethi started the Indian Couture Week 16 years ago

The big field

It is not just 400 people who view it at the venue, but lakhs who watch it with rapt attention online.

This year, 16 designers are participating — Anamika Khanna, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, JJ Valaya, Rahul Mishra, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Suneet Varma, Falguni Shane Peacock, Dolly J, Gaurav Gupta, Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, Varun Bahl, Shantnu Nikhil, Kunal Rawal, Rimzim Dadu and Rose Room.

Rimzim Dadu who is making her debut this year, is known for mixing new age materials with age-old techniques, catapulting her to the position of a favourite for millennials.

“For me, ICW is extremely important as I have been given this platform, despite being the youngest, to showcase a line which I believe is more futuristic, especially due to the fact that I work with alternate materials like steel,” she adds.

It has been 16 years, and on an average, every year, the FDCI’s most coveted show, the ICW, has at least 12 shows.
Sethi says, “You can imagine how much money has been generated till now in this niche market.”

He adds that now with the addition of the FDCI Wedding Weekend to be held on August 5 and 6 at the Taj Palace hotel, it will now be catwalk to closet — you see and you buy eliminating any time lapse which was earlier a norm.
The weekend will have everything you need to plan your wedding — apparel, planners, décor, accessories, jewellery among other things.

But having said that, this year Hyundai India, along with Reliance, has generously supported the only fashion body in the country.

“I have been driving a Tucson and also have a Creta in my garage. I have driven their offerings for the last 20 years, and they also boast of a variety like us making them an ideal partner,” says Sethi.

With these two sponsors on board, Sethi says “who knows we may do a couture show internationally too and I only have Darshan Mehta of Reliance to thank for this”.

Though there is a definitive history behind ICW, he recalls that when he started, his advisors suggested to give it a moniker of “bridal week”.

But he refrained from using that word and elevated it to ‘couture’, the finest form of craftsmanship in the world, made-to-order and the most superior art form.

“When we began couture week, there were no red-carpet events and no one wore Indian couturiers like now when when you see supermodel Naomi Campbell, Nicole Kidman, Cardi B, Beyonce falling over each other to woo Indian couturiers,” says Sethi.

STAR ATTRACTION: Designer Falguni Peacock will also showcase her designs at the ICW

That is why the Wedding Weekend will have gowns, lehengas, saris, not just for the D-day but something for everyone in terms of cocktails, sangeet, mehendi, reception et al.

Couture is recession proof

If the stock market is anything to go as well as NIFTY, luxury buying has only increased.

Master couturier JJ Valaya says, “Mercedes is now concentrating only in the Rs 1.5 crore car category, as the sales are up from 12% to 25% post covid. So where is the recession?”

Couture pieces are timeless and they will stay with you for the longest time, says couturier Anamika Khanna, who says brides often come with their mom’s outfits and ask them to tweak and rejig it for them. So, in some ways, we have increased the longevity of each ensemble.

“Couture is a legacy. It has memories, mood, feelings attached to it. It is a form of self-expression, thus it will always remain an important part of a bride’s trousseau,” adds Anamika.
More than 20 years ago, Sethi did an “India promotion” in Selfridges. It was a super hit at that time as the exposure to Indian design ethos was low. But today, Indian designers are making their space at the Paris Couture Week, with Rahul Mishra and Gaurav Gupta winning over Hollywood.

India is known for its artisanal strength and it is unmatched in terms of hand-work.

Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior, gets the atelier’s embroideries executed in India, which are then sold for millions of dollars internationally.

“But we have a huge domestic market for weddings. The size is $50 billion. Need I say more?” says Sethi.

He adds that he honours designers who have conquered foreign shores. It started with Manish Arora who became the creative head of the French fashion house Paco Rabanne and then others followed.

“I am hoping that in years to come, more will join the Paris Couture Week,” he affirms.