The first quarter of this year has given us some real good news. Two successful fashion weeks have just concluded. Designer and environmentalist Wendell Rodricks was awarded the Padma Shri. Rahul Mishra won the prestigious International Woolmark Prize award. But the big story revolves around the magic number of Rs 100 crore. This is all that fashion folks are obsessed with these days, and with good reason.
Ritu Kumar has just announced that Everstone, a leading South-East Asian private equity and real estate investor, has purchased a minority stake worth Rs 100 crore of her brand. This is opportune for any Indian designer taking his or her label to India’s growing ready-to-wear market. Kumar, a revivalist and trousseau connoisseur for over four decades, has now bequeathed her reins to her son Amrish, whose interest in retail expansion has yielded this investment by one of the most sound firms.
Anita Dongre, who already has General Atlantic as her investor, clocked in Rs 100 crore profit last year. This year, she touches Rs 350 crore. Dongre’s model is mass market too, where her bridal label (reportedly worth at under Rs 10 crore) supports the idea of haute fashion but is supported by her retail labels — AND and Global Desi — in almost 100 stores across India. Moreover, her brother is also her CEO.
Priyadarshini Rao has got Future Group to launch a mass-market label called Mineral that aims at multiple stores across India (they currently have two stores, 17 shop-in-shops and an outpost each in Finland and Luxembourg). Mineral, interestingly, uses natural fabrics in global styles, and is also the closest it can come to its modernist mother label. Rao’s husband Jaydeep Shetty is the CEO.
To get “designer” clothes priced between Rs 800 and Rs 5,000 is obviously a good thing. This is the reason why fashion weeks in India commenced — to get a small elite bunch of fashion designers to design clothes for a large ever-expanding middle-class consumer.
With these handful names, fashion finally gets an “industry” status. The high street model followed by European and American designers — where a watered down ready-to-wear label meets the demands of a large and insatiable consumer base — seems the most logical growth plan.
Of course, there are designers whose self-owned and self-promoted labels are so strong they could sell snow in Alaska. Sabyasachi Mukherjee has reported a Rs 100 crore turnover this year. This is also hugely commendable as he is a one-man show. His uber success is without the help of investors or mass market numbers: his numbers come from his bridal wear and independent ventures alone (he has his name on a TV show and has designed the avant Cinema Suite for Taj Hotels’ 51, Buckingham Gate property in London).
Manish Malhotra chimes Rs 108 crore turnover this year. Malhotra’s model is unique: his fashion is supported by the idea of Bollywood glamour, and he presents multiple trans-seasonal collections a year, hosting sometimes a fashion show a week. He runs his enterprise as a family-owned business, aided by his brother and sister-in-law. No, mass retail is not on his agenda as yet.
Tarun Tahiliani is also in the haute list as he inched toward the Rs 100 crore mark via all his ventures (designing hotels, for example). His priority is to keep it small and not compromise on the design and quality standards.
The fillip of this manna funding has been that the clothes are plain hideous. Most clothes are of poor quality and designed to promote the grotesque idea of “fusion wear” or “Indo-western”shmuck.
However, one still needs to view this as a step in the right direction. The creases will have to iron themselves out as the Indian consumer sinks his teeth deeper into the idea of good fashion versus just apparel.
It isn’t too far when designers will get in angel investors of Rs 100 crore for their high-end labels too. Or when haughty designers will agree to sell stakes of their self-owned labels to investors and control only creative rights. This is when we will really see fabulous fashion and fabulous prices.
Until then, 100 prayers at the very least.