Fashion’s Power List


Fashion’s Power List

New Delhi : If fashion is about appearances, its power is worn right on the sleeve. The Indian fashion fraternity is an influential lobby of power brokers, fashion week honchos, sponsors, designers, distributors and representatives of global luxury brands, buyers and stylists. The total worth of this powerful consortium is much more than their wardrobes, front row seats, personal indulgences or their celeb friends can reveal. The apparel business in India is estimated at more than Rs 1,00,000 crores a year now (including all segments of the market — premium, mass and luxury, as well as fashion, accessories and innerwear). In this exclusive power list, Eye lists individuals who make a difference to the business, image and value of fashion in India. People with the power to mould opinions, establish properties, strategise big monies and open new territories of business that make fashion an industry that attracts high-voltage attention and much media space. It is not a definitive list; it is a representative one and the sequence is random, and not indicative of the extent of influence each person on the list wields.

One-man Army


Why: He became the glue when the fashion industry was falling apart. He combines power and professional ego with hard work creating a unique work strategy. Even those who dislike him give him credit for bringing buyers to Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WLIFW), and the feel of an industry to a consortium of warring designers.

Also: He recognised the potential of the Made-in-India label long before it became a hot-seller. As a 19-year-old in the late Seventies, he would pack suitcases with saris and wigs to sell in Mauritius, and sequinned T-shirts to sell in Canada. In 2000, he took a Bollywood-themed show to Selfridges, London, with the work of 17 Indian designers, bringing back name and business.

Finally: As senior vice-president of Li & Fung (India), a $16 billion MNC which operates a sourcing network across 40 countries, he handles their India operations for home and lifestyle products, textiles, handlooms and handicrafts, generating a turnover of Rs 500 crore.

Dress Code: Rajesh Pratap white shirts and black form-fitted bandhgalas.

Hot Wheels: A second-hand Fiat. In the Seventies, it was one of only six cars in Delhi University which were owned by students.

Known to: Be the chief orchestrator of make-ups and break-ups in the fashion industry.

Fashion Force


Why: He is the one who initiated fashion weeks in India. The idea of the Lakme India Fashion Week in association with FDCI was hatched by him along with a few designers in a New York café. But he did not allow the messy split between Lakme and FDCI in 2005 to derail his idea of an India Fashion Week. He said no to FDCI, and Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) was born.

Also: It was under him that the GenNext category was introduced for debutant designers at LFW, giving a platform to talented newcomers. It became the single-most important step towards the future of fashion.

Finally: He made Lakme use fashion to brand its beauty products. Every season, LFW introduces limited edition cosmetic collections and the Lakme brand has been extended to 135 beauty salons across the country.

Dress Code: Ravi Bajaj jackets

Oh Really Factor: Wears his name badge and carries his guest invite for the LFW finale and the party thereafter (where he plays host), so that security personnel don’t get hassled.

Known to: Make the meanest Bloody Marys in Mumbai.

Retail Wisdom


Why: She is one of the most discerning fashion buyers in the country. She chooses well, orders huge consignments, pays on time and does not shy away from returning poorly finished garments or plagiarised creations. Sister of designer Rohit Gandhi of Cue, she displays fashion like a curator, with focus on individual designer sensibilities.

Also: She is fashion mentor and adviser to all Chennai fashionistas.

Finally: All Indian designers worth their salt want to be stocked at Evoluzione.

Dress Code: Is gaga about Alexander McQueen.

Oh Really factor: Trained under designer Suneet Varma.

Known to: Spend entire nights hanging clothes on the racks in her stores even before their price tags are put on.

TT Power


Why: She was chosen by a brand as powerful as Christian Dior to represent them in India. She has given Dior a recall value in the Indian luxury market by creating a matrix of hype around it. Bollywood calls her for style tips; socialites ape her prowess as party hostess, fashion editors have her on speed dial.

Also: She has been on Best Dressed lists in India consistently.

Finally: Her marketing strategies are aggressive and persistent. Under her, Dior garments were featured on 20 magazine covers in 2010.

Dress Code: When not in Dior, she wears dhakai saris, often as lungis with short tops. and then: She can eat steaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Known to : Advise Hrithik Roshan on why and how to wear Dior.


Why: It was his boutique Ensemble that he opened with his sister Tina in 1987 which heralded the fashion movement of India. For the last 24 years, Tahiliani has been symbolic of the most beautiful drapes, patterns and craftsmanship in Indian

Fashion. He has a monopoly on wedding bling. His couture lures sheikhas as well as rich Sindhis from all over the world. If the fashion royalty wants his chiffony drapes, nervous fashion interns also queue up for a passing glance from him.

Also: The production resources and training facilities at the TT design studio in Gurgaon, a 45,000 sq ft structure designed by architect Stephane Paumier, are as good if not better than at a fashion college.

Finally: He finds more sponsors for his shows than many other designers find customers for their clothes.

Dress Code: Impeccably tailored trousers and shirts or T-shirts, all black or all white, mostly linen, and fine bandhgalas for formal occasions.

Oh Really factor: A Sindhi feast made by a senior family cook who fed TT as a young boy.

Known to: Frame questions for himself while doing an interview and then answer them.


Why: He markets and distributes powerful global luxury labels like Canali, Just Cavalli, Paul Smith, Etro, Bottega Veneta and Jimmy Choo, and has recently entered a joint venture with Burberry to form Burberry India. He has acquired Satya Paul, one of the oldest fashion labels of India; he launched Samsaara, a multi-designer store, and then Bwitch, India’s premium lingerie brand.

Also: Genesis Luxury Fashion has 125 stand-alone stores in the country, and he plans to bring in high-end prestige brands.

Finally: He is a shrewd entrepreneur with a credible and liberal fashion voice.

Dress Code: Canali suits, followed by Etro and Ralph Lauren.

Hot Wheels: Loves cars, says BMW rocks.

Known To: Take off for a run in the middle of a working day.

The Lotus Eater

Rohit Bal, 43, Designer

Why: Owning a Rohit Bal ensemble is like an Indian fashion pilgrimage, all real devotees must pay their respects to it. He brought spectacle, sexuality and sizzle to the Indian ramp, giving verve and vim to fashion show staging.

Also: He says that liberalised India needed a symbol like him — with his talent, an open admission of his homosexuality, his quirks, his personal style, his rebellion and his unflinching commitment to Kashmiri craft as art. Gudda is Indian fashion, there is just no other way to define him.

Finally: When he had a heart attack last year, everyone in the fashion fraternity prayed fervently for him, his friends yes, his foes too. It was front-page news on all Indian newspapers.

Loves, loves, loves: The lotus for its humility.

Known to: Be an avid reader. His home brims with books on textile, photography, fashion and couture (philosophy and travel too).

Kingdom of Kimaya


Why: He is one of the most moneyed and influential buyers of Indian fashion. Kimaya has a chain of 16 successful stores in India and Dubai, which stocks 150 Indian labels with a clientele that spans NRIs to rich Indians and Bollywood celebrities.

Also: He was the first among fashion retailers to strategise customised merchandise for niche buyer segments by creating sub-brands inside Kimaya.

Finally: He has expanded the lifestyle segment of his fashion brand and recently launched Kimaya wines with Kimaya Kafe and Spa. A Kimaya e-commerce site is in the offing.

Oh Really factor: A dinner with Giorgio Armani

Known to: Smile till his jaws ache.

It Girl

SONAM KAPOOR, 25, actor

Why: She is one actress in Bollywood who understands fashion and is naturally stylish. In Chanel, Dior or Alexander McQueen, in Jimmy Choos, Christian Louboutins or Prada, she is a girl who knows her mind as much as her dresses, who can mix and match with elan, without the intervening attention of a stylist. With her height (5 feet 10 inches) and gazelle-like grace, she is the “model actor” that designers have been in search of. When she walks the ramp, everyone stops and stares.

Also: She was on more fashion magazine covers than in movies in the last two years and, each time, still managed to look better than the last.

Finally: Her film Aisha was so much about fashion and luxury brands, that it changed her profile to a full-time fashionista from an ambitious actor.

Also loves to wear: Her mother Sunita Kapoor’s personal collection of traditional and precious Indian jewellery.

Known to be: A big, serious buyer of international luxury and fashion.

Come Kitsch Me

MANISH ARORA, 38, Designer

Why: He isn’t just a designer, he is a hydra-headed creator. He has been associated with Reebok, Swatch, Absolut Vodka, Good Earth, M.A.C Cosmetics, Nivea, Pommery Champagne, Swarovski Elements, Mercedes Benz and Nespresso among others. He has recently been appointed the creative director of French fashion brand Paco Rabanne.

Also: His idea of fashion combines the reflections of a philosopher, the madness of an artist, the lyricism of a poet, the whimsies of a tourist guide, the detailing of a craftsperson and the futuristic vision of a scientist. Manish Arora Fish Fry isn’t just a label, it is a school of thought.

Finally: Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Kate Moss, Rihanna and Lady Gaga are only some of his clients. He stocks at 75 stores worldwide including Maria Luisa of Paris.

Dress Code: Either full-black with gold sneakers or shirts made from his own quirky prints: balloons, concentric circles, wild life, space age, film posters….

Known To: Not colour his hair.

Chiffon Reign


Why: Bollywood’s favourite designer ever since he gave Karisma Kapoor a makeover for Raja Hindustani (1996). In the Karan Johar school of romanticism, if filmi love is about family, commitment and sacrifice, it is also – thanks to Malhotra – about sequinned blouses, sexy halters and see-through saris.

Also: Despite being a full-time Bollywood designer, he continues to show a signature glamorous-blingy collection every season where the show is eclipsed by the galaxy of stars who grace his front row.

Finally: Wealthy NRIs make special trips to India to buy Manish Malhotra saris and lehngas.

Dress Code: Louis Vuitton is his favourite brand. He also likes Tom Ford, Prada and Armani. His well-fitted jeans and superbly tailored white shirts stand out on the ramp.

The K factor: MM is very very friendly with KKK — Kajol, Kareena, Karisma.

Known to: Be a control freak at work

Devil May Care


Why: Little Shilpa is the one of the most original labels in Indian fashion today. Hair pieces from broken slate, brooches from military medals, neckpieces from discarded Swarovski shavings — she has turned accessory design into an art form. She is the only qualified milliner of the industry. Whacky, rebellious, talented, she wields the power of unbridled experimentation and makes creative schizophrenia a wanted fashion neurosis.

Also: The daughter of a Road Traffic Officer became a Channel V stylist and went on to train and work under noted British milliner Philip Treacy.

Finally: Every designer admires her. She has made accessories for most of them. She is hot in London and showed at the G-20 summit in Korea last year.

Dress Code: Uncombed hair with a fibre-glass sudarshan chakra in it, green nail polish, dizzying stilettos, a shirt half-tucked into harem pants. Hard to copy, easy to love.

Oh Really factor: Labelled by choreographer Hemant Trivedi as Little Shilpa.

Known to: Take weeks or months to create an accessory.

Glitter Merchant


Why: Ever he since he established Swarovski Elements, a B2B business for Swarovski India Pvt Ltd, in 2001, crystals became the shining symbols of Indian fashion. The sale of the glittery stones recorded more growth in the recession years than ever before. He opened up Swarovski supply chains across market extremes — from Kanjeevaram weavers to bridal couture designers, luxury saddlers to bathroom tile manufacturers, sports trophies to Radha-Krishna idols made in Vrindavan, making Swarovski a metaphor for everything that glitters and the brand one of the most commercially successful imports to India.

Also: He Indianised international properties like Swarovski Runway Rocks (jewels for the Catwalk) and Unbridaled (a European wedding that morphed into an Indian one), bringing home the message that shine also means substance.

Finally: He has made Swarovski Elements one of the most bankable sponsors of Indian fashion events.

Dress Code: Designer jeans with tailored jackets and rimless glasses. No Swarovskis on his lapels, thank you.

Known To: Be a competitive golfer and skier.

Will to Sell


Why: As head of marketing of Wills Lifestyle (later John Players as well), he saw business sense in associating with the FDCI produced fashion week in 2005. His tie-up led to the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, now the biggest fashion property in India.

Also: He created the largest corporate-designer association and encouraged the idea of affordable, premium designer wear by stocking specially created designs by some of the country’s top designers in Wills Lifestyle stores all over the country.

Finally: He brought big sponsorship money to what could have remained “designer” events. He decides which designer gets the title sponsor show at the fashion week.

Dress Code: Jeans and designer shirts with jackets.

Known to: Get away for adventure sports. Prefers a morning of snorkelling or river rafting to a wine-and-caviar brunch.

Fashion’s Left Wing

SABYASACHI, 37, Designer

Why: His debut in 2002, with models wearing spectacles and carrying books, marked a change in Indian fashion. Handwoven textiles and intricately hand-embroidered garments and saris in the most unusual combinations would enter wardrobe wish-lists. He revived the sari as an aspirational fashion garment styling it with conservative chutzpah.

Also: He usurped the supremacy of Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani, Suneet Varma and JJ Valaya as bridal couture designers to become the most wanted and highest selling wedding designer. A master strategist, he excels in marketing his brand.

Finally: Scores of women queue up outside his stores when a new collection arrives. A Sabyasachi line is usually sold out in the first few hours after sales open.

Dress Code: Comfort dressing. Gap or Banana Republic.

Known to: Be put off by overt sexuality or “sexy” revealing clothes.