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As New Delhi gets ready to host the second fashion week of the season following the recently concluded Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai, many continue to question whether India needs two fashion weeks, especially held in cities of such close proximity. The reason for the separate events, however, dates back to the split within the Indian fashion industry precipitated by a clash of agendas. Since then, Mumbai and Delhi have made their peace and established their respective footholds in the industry. But it’s still up for debate if the divide has been good or bad for Indian fashion.
India’s first official fashion week took place in New Delhi in the year 2000 by the newly formed Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), event production firm IMG, and cosmetics brand Lakmé, which served as the event’s sponsor. The founding goals of the FDCI were to nurture the growth of the fashion industry in India, provide a platform to promote Indian fashion and create a cohesive body to best represent the interests of Indian designers. However, in 2005 amid disputes over show location and sponsorship costs, the FDCI and Lakmé parted ways, thus resulting in two fashion weeks. Lakmé and IMG came together to establish Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai and the FDCI launched India Fashion Week in New Delhi with new sponsor Wills Lifestyle. Many saw the split as destructive to the Indian fashion industry by forcing allegiances amongst its designers, creating unnecessary competition and confusing international buyers who would now have to deal with two back to back fashion weeks. Of primary concern was that the dissension would compromise the promotion of “Brand India” as a viable contender in the international fashion sphere. Others, however, saw potential for the two shows to flourish by providing additional opportunities for sponsors, models, show producers and up and coming designers.
Although, the Delhi-Mumbai divide hasn’t been without acrimony, the two cities seem to have carved out separate niches for themselves. Lakmé Fashion Week has shown itself to be a great platform for young, emerging talent while Delhi serves as the hub for more established designers. Furthermore, Lakmé Fashion Week’s decision to show Summer/ Resort collections this season rather than Autumn/ Winter per the international norm (and FDCI’s agenda) have delineated the fashion weeks further. Industry insiders, however, see this as more cause for concern stating that the lack of consensus in Indian fashion will further damage India’s international reputation. What is needed instead insiders note, is one fashion body, one fashion week, and unilateral decision making to establish India as a globally relevant fashion destination.