The date was August 17,2000 and the venue,Taj Palace Convention Centre,New Delhi. With 28 designers presenting their creations over seven days,the first ever Lakme India Fashion Week (LIFW) as it was then called rolled out and was a huge success. Also because of the compelling curiosity it evoked. Fast forward to 2012 and Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) is currently in its sixth year (twelfth,if one counts the LIFW years). Starting on August 3,the Winter/Festive 2012 edition will see participation from 86 designers. Despite its highs and lows,LFW remains one of the stronger fashion platforms in India.
The first edition of LIFW was a hit; followed by the one in Mumbai. The property alternated between both the cities for six years until 2005, looks back Anil Chopra,former CEO,Lakme Lever. Thats when the love affair between the cosmetics giant and the organising body,the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI),went sour. FDCI tripled the sponsorship fee and insisted on moving the event to Delhi. They also didnt want the event to be bi-annual. It didnt make any business sense to stay on board, he recollects,adding that LFW brought an industry flavour to the boutique property. In 2006,two bi-annual fashion weeks emerged: LFW,organised by Lakme in association with event management company IMG (now IMG-Reliance),and the Wills India Fashion Week (WIFW) by the FDCI. Even as many Delhi-based senior designers sided with the latter,several Mumbai-based names and a brand new category Gen Next populated the LFW.
Today,as Gen Next completes seven successful years,designer Wendell Rodricks,who mentored the likes of Kallol Datta one of the grand finale designers this season says that LFW has always prided itself on giving the industry a fresh breath of air with young talent. Thanks to LFW,new designers can show their collections on the same platform as the established ones, he says. LFW has also come up with initiatives dedicated to menswear,accessories and Indian textiles.
The Indian Textile Day,which was introduced last season,acknowledges the relevance of Indian crafts through a combination of shows and workshops by leading names. After the overwhelming response last time,we have got Jaya Jaitly,President of Dastkari Haat Samiti,to lend her expertise, says Anjana Sharma,Head of Fashion,IMG-Reliance.
Shows in new formats such as off-site shows and talent box shows (mini-shows that end within 10-15 minutes and take place in a smaller area inside the Source) have broken the monotony of ramp shows in just the main show area. This apart,other milestones include Gen Next celebrating five years in September 2010 and the fashion extravaganza in September 2009,when the countrys leading designers such as Manish Malhotra,Suneet Varma,Sabyasachi Mukherjee,Rajesh Pratap Singh,Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani,together celebrated ten years of fashion. It was a historic moment because thats when the Delhi and Mumbai divide among the designers ceased to matter, says Chopra,adding that social messages have also played an important role; a case in point being the Mai Mumbai show in March 2009. With celebs walking the ramp and international labels such as Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana participating,this show raised money for the 26/11 terror attack victims and sent a message that Mumbai was back in business, he notes.
CHANGE IN STRATEGY
One of its boldest steps over the years was the big shift in its fashion cycle. Since March 2010,we have been hosting the Winter/Festive and Summer/Resort editions,both of which focus on the current season. This was done to address the requirements of domestic buyers and designers at LFW, says Sharma.
BUY AND LARGE
The buyers laud LFW for its courage to back new talent. Aparna Badlani of the Mumbai store Atosa,concedes that WIFW has seen more business. However,this is not to say that LFW hasnt fared well. In fact,LFW offers a more welcome environment to young designers, she adds. Pradeep Hirani of Kimaya points out that LFW offers its designers international exposure. Both Aneeth Arora and Kallol Datta showed at Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, he says. Lakmes journey reflects the evolution of Indian fashion even as it continues to groom the younger generation and thus,define the future of fashion in India, Chopra concludes.