What We Expect From Fashion Week

What We Expect From Fashion Week

Why an order of relevance, raising the bar for participation and sponsorship, better curation of shows and a checklist of what’s new matters

Tonight, the first (after 16 years) collaboratively organised fashion week between Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) will open with a show by Kolkata-based designer Anamika Khanna. The multiple press releases term it a phygital fashion week—these include virtual showcases and six drive-in, on-ground shows in Mumbai. In the press notes, the event is described as “history-making” as it brings two (fashion) powerhouses together. For that collaborative spirit, yes, we have a standing applause.

However, after all the drum rolls and high fives that have gone around in the industry, the show schedule reveals that some of the most important designer names have chosen to sit out on the fence. Tarun Tahiliani, Amit Aggarwal and Gaurav Gupta for instance, recorded congratulatory videos that have been rolling on the Instagram handles of FDCI and LFW, but none is showing at the event. Each had their own digitally livestreamed new collections recently, strategically off the fashion week calendar and right before. Others who would be seen at fashion weeks but are missing this time are Anju Modi, Anita Dongre, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham & Thakore, Aneeth Arora for péro, Rina Singh for Eka, Rohit Bal, Rohit and Rahul Gandhi, Suket Dhir, Gaurang, Anavila Misra, Karishma Shahani Khan, Payal Khandwala and Rahul Mishra to name a few. While none of them are on record, it appears many have decided to show just once a year at a fashion week and for the rest carry on with campaigns, communication strategies and consumer outreach in individual ways.


It is smarter, economical and linear as similar international shifts suggest.

Some of the world’s biggest fashion and luxury brands have, after all, taken a flight out of traditional fashion weeks (New York, London, Milan Paris), leading fashion publication The Business of Fashion to call it “an exodus”. If Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors were missing from New York Fashion Week, and Burberry showed only menswear in London, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta among others did not show in Milan or Paris.

Across the world, more brands see private digital showcases, non-seasonal offerings, small capsules, online marketing and a flexible disassociation with fashion weeks as a workable model.

A Re-Styled Fashion Week

Once regarded as high voltage platforms to attract media, buyers, sponsors, consumer attention and eyeballs at the same time, fashion weeks would bundle designer shows with a feed of smaller events, parties and peppered talk shows to become a cultural festival. A trendy, bubbling networking hub. Now such theatre is best created for and consumed on Instagram.


Bollywood actor Sara Ali Khan in a still from ‘Nooraniyat’, designer Manish Malhotra’s new collection to be showcased at FDCI x Lakmé Fashion Week.

That’s why it is crucial for a fashion week platform to restate its purpose, raise the bar for sponsored and non-sponsored shows, curate and select shows that mix legacy brands with well-positioned young and emerging designers who are imaginative and mirror the zeitgeist of the country instead of repeat ideas spinning on the fashion week carousel for a decade. Institute awards and recognition, not just for sustainable, circular initiatives but for innovative use of technology, distinctive fashion show spectacles, new fabric development, for busting tired stereotypes in design, honour the most inclusive brands, who are actually taking Indian fashion into uncharted territories.

To shift away from the tried and tested—show after show—formula, virtual or physical.

Here is what we expect from a fashion week body and from designers showing there especially in this post-Covid recovery phase.

Snap The Royalty Trap: Level with consumers, not through starry, storytelling narratives of princesses and knights in shining armour ensconced in beautiful palaces but by mirroring our lives as ordinary people keen on fashion. Create exciting campaigns around consumers who use clothes and accessories to express themselves in changing environments. Where is a post-Covid adaptive narrative that is real, glamorous and uplifting and has not been shot in a palatial building or a five star hotel in Rajasthan?

Clean and Green? Just as GenNext designers and debutants receive mentoring and industry advice from experts, training sessions are needed for designers to effectively communicate what they stand for in terms of their socio-political beliefs, what all they must disclose and declare if they claim to be a green and responsible company. At the moment, it is all a complex jumble—the sustainability bandwagon is too ambiguous and easy to dance on.


Designer Masaba Gupta posing with a limited-edition boAT designed by her, during Lakmé Fashion Week 2020. Gupta will showcase a collaborative collection with boAT this season.


Raise The Bar for Sustainable Fashion Day:
To help consumers become co-activists and restore the people and planet balance, fashion weeks can play a unique role by greatly raising the bar for shows given space on the Sustainable Fashion Day. The pandemic has clarified the idea of what sustainability means today. All claims must be put through a credible, fact-checking, verification process that ensures transparency. Consumers and the media should be offered a view of that process. That will make it easy for consumers to relate and choose who to buy.

What Sponsors Want: In this phase of economic recovery where everything is still very uncertain, what are sponsors really looking for in designers whose shows they financially support? Can fashion week bodies tell us if the criteria for sponsorships have changed as the industry rebuilds itself? Or are we still stuck with pretty clothes, one (or two) Bollywood showstoppers and an Instagram handle with half a million followers?

Stockroom for Design, not Discount: Fashion Week stockrooms and showrooms need to be protected from designers dumping their sales on the platform. Last season, it was expected of fashion weeks to enable designers to sell piled up inventory given the lockdown but now it is time for regeneration. So designer stockrooms need to prioritise business and innovative, path-breaking design. Fashion media often finds it hard to track down orders and the actual amount of business conducted in a fashion week—that could definitely change.

Fashion Forecasting India Lab: Season-fluid, gender-fluid, inclusive, diverse, sustainable, bio-degradable, circular. These words that primarily define fashion today have also proven to be the biggest challenges to the traditional trend forecasting matrix that was earlier dependent on season, gender, colour, material, availability, cyclical notions of in and out. India’s fashion week bodies might want to initiate a Fashion Forecasting of India Laboratory that incubates new forecasting theories and offer themes and trends. Interpretations of artisanal Indian weaves and crafts must be a part of this forecasting bible.


Campaign-Retail Sync: Designers need to clearly tell their consumers what all is available from all that they show in their campaigns and shows—promotional communication and retail must be joined at the hip. Often, we get pulled towards a certain story or series of garments but seldom find the retail of that designer speaking the same language.

Fashion Week Plus: Missing a fashion week today is no real loss of business. There is very little business anyway and showing at fashion week does not necessarily change that equation. Then why are you here? Show us something that reveals your investment in AR technology, how you use Gen Z influence, what are the working conditions in your factory for workers and in your design studios, what is your cultural contribution to a fashion week in India?

What’s New: Finally, since fashion weeks bundle designers and brands to tell a composite story, it may be an opportunity to define what is new. Is the garment new in the way it looks or is its manufacturing process new and radical compared to how it was formerly produced? Are backend processes new? Which new fibres, materials, yarns, have been used? Can a ready-to-refer directory with rationalised pricing, Indian sizing, fabric development, the kind of craft used, sourcing disclaimers, packaging materials, names of who made our clothes, where to order, how to maximise the utility and where to recycle be created?


Banner: A still of Malai, winners of the Circular Design Challenge hosted during Lakme fashion Week Summer/Resort 2020.