Big Fashion Weeks fleece and rip off budding designers, says celebrated fashion designer Umair Zafar
Fashion Weeks in India have become a PR exercise for the large corporates and brands that sponsor such events. Such multi-national companies with gigantic advertisement and promotion budgets are least bothered about the participating small fashion designer who has to pay through his or her nose to participate in a fashion week. Slots are auctioned and the best slot goes to the highest bidder. Talent and expertise are over-ruled if the designer has deep pockets. Designers, particularly small designers are mere puppets in the great fashion tamasha, sponsored, remote-controlled and directed by choreographers and brand managers of the large multi-nationals.
Fashion Weeks are promoted and conceptualised as business-to-business (B2B) events with the promise of generating business and international contacts, but in reality, the opposite is true. A designer has to shell out anywhere from Rs 1.5 Lakh to Rs 5 Lakh (depending on the package) to participate in a Fashion Week. Very often talented designers are sidelined and relegated for those with hefty pockets. The designer collection to be showcased costs anywhere from Rs 3 to 5 lakh for a casual wear or prêt line and can go up to Rs 20 lakh for couture or bridal collections. These are the book value or the cost price to the designer. The MRP or label price is much more. This means a designer has to spend anywhere from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh to participate in a fashion week and showcase his or her work.
Fashion Weeks give preference to those designers who can rope in film actors and other A-category celebrities. The designer’s creativity, skill and expertise are discounted when it comes to big actors. Get a big A-category actor like Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif or Shah Rukh Khan or even Salman Khan as a showstopper and a lousy designer can get pride of place in a fashion week. An unspoken, unwritten pre-condition for participation at two of the premier fashion weeks in India is the ability of the designer to rope in Bollywood celebs. Some designers even use political clout to get a slot at a premier fashion week.
An additional expense for the budding designer is the requirement of a professional PR person to handle the designer’s personal PR. The PR firms hired by the fashion week organizers only cover Bollywood celebrities. The small designer is hardly covered and featured in press interviews. I have consciously avoided being part of a fashion week in spite of having the financial resources and the ability to rope in a Bollywood celebrity. I will continue to stay away from large corporate-controlled fashion weeks till the organizers focus on good design, creativity, skills and craftsmanship.