Saturday, April 30, 2011

Has the East really met the West?


As an English girl with an Indian heritage, I have been exposed to two extreme fashion cultures. But growing up, it was always one or the other, English or Indian; never a blend of both. Recently Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, the continent's biggest business of fashion event, introduced the world to some of the country's greatest Indo-West fusionwear. But, can we find them in England?


Ritu Kumar, an award-winning pioneer of Indian fashion, has been creating some of the nation's most exquisite garments since the 1960s. Her style is famous for the distinctive use of colours, intricate embroideries and a 'gloriously rich India' aesthetic. Having introduced India to the boutique culture back in 1966, within a few years she had collections in Harrods and Liberty of London. Ritu Kumar is widely accredited for putting her designs and India's talent on the world map. In 2002, the design house took the step of introducing LABEL by Ritu Kumar, a fashion forward sub brand, whilst still being faithful to Ritu Kumar. But how is it that such established brands and other Indian high fashion designers have not yet become household names in the UK?

The use of technology in expanding worldwide is extremely valuable. It is sometimes the only way the designers can reach out to the international clientele. Following simple Western marketing trends like creating Facebook, Twitter and blog pages would immediately promote brands like LABEL; what are they waiting for? It's free!


The Indian style and aesthetic is extremely representative of cultural background. Consequently, seasonal trends in the East are often dissimilar to those in the West. This may just be the grounding reason for the lack of Western expansion. The Ritu Kumar line shown at Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week took us on a journey through time, with its spiritual and colourful visuals. In contrast, the top trends at London Fashion Week included leather, (still a big 'no' in India), pleats and feathers. However, even though the LABEL by Ritu Kumar line was cotton based and very marketable to the young Indian woman, the garments were perceived as 'beachwear' and presented a more casual appeal to the English. This 'by chance' crossover market appeal is a huge sales potential for the great Indian designers, and it seems that the English are just waiting for someone to reach out.


However, do Indian high fashion brands even want to expand into the UK market? The UK fashion designers are the most influential players of all. Our country is not big enough to sustain a designer brand without expansion; India however, is. Why try to expand when business is booming, but then again, why settle for less when you have potential to meet global demand? Ritu Kumar collections have therefore aimed to strike a balance between both. Selling collections online via the elite website www.Exclusively.in, the brand have enabled themselves to expand at the smallest cost whilst meeting the demand of the niche international customers. Perhaps this tentative step in the right direction will lead to a more significant growth in sales over time.

Pictures taken from www.ritukumar.com