Designer Narendra Kumar says that fashion weeks must become more tech-savvy to reach out to a wider audience and get more business
Currently the Creative Director for Amazon Fashion, Kumar’s tryst with fashion began in 1990, after graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in New Delhi. He worked with Ensemble, Rohit Khosla and Tarun Tahiliani to begin with, before returning to NIFT as a faculty member, to mentor students in manufacturing techniques, fashion history, marketing and international trends. He launched his first eponymous collection back in 2000. Kumar has been invited to showcase his work across the world, including shows at Australia Fashion Week, Los Angeles Fashion Week and the CPD Fashion Fair.
The buzzing front row, green room hustle, the magnificent ramp. Models strutting in the next ‘IT’ trend. And then comes the coveted showstopper, under a full-shine spotlight. This remains the most cherished moment for every designer—debutant and veteran alike. After all, the canvas of innovation and design comes alive from the rack only onto the runway.
Fashion weeks, I believe, are here to stay—but what will matter most is how they evolve. The regular format comes off as slightly dusty, outdated, for the new-age tech-savvy generation. The concern for designers is the relevance of a fashion week in helping them achieve greater goals.
Over the years, the Indian runway has undergone a paradigm shift. The instigation of multiple fashion weeks, designers holding private viewings and overall digitalisation has impacted the narrative in various, significant ways. When fashion shows originated, the idea back then was to connect designers to buyers—who, in turn, acted as a bridge between the designers and the consumers. In this regard, the aim of the runway globally has been to generate business and visibility. The Indian runway is no different.
Now, however, things have changed. This generation demands that designers create engaging shows and develop content that is visually enterprising.
This year, Amazon India Fashion Week (AIFW), for its Spring Summer 18 (SS’18) edition, introduced a ‘See Now Buy Now’ concept, a first for the Indian runway. The onset of change began with the ‘Crafts of India’ presentation at the Amazon India Fashion Week, where 25 Indian designers were brought together for the first time on the Indian fashion runway. The finale celebrated the Indian fashion fraternity as one big family, commemorating each designer’s uniqueness and vivid diversity. The vision was gradually applied to the way
Indian consumers engage with fashion weeks.
Through the help of digital infrastructure and by launching an especially curated store, The Designer Boutique at Amazon. in, the Grand Finale introduced a shoppable runway. Customers from all over the country had instant access to collections by leading designers, available exclusively on the boutique, democratised for the country.
India, largely, has most designer outlets concentrated in select metro cities, leaving Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities with little or no access to the ongoing trend. Giving designers a distinct edge to cater to clients pan-India, Amazon.in, with its Designer Boutique, brought the expansion of prêt-a-porter business to customers’ doorsteps, aiming to give fashion week an entirely new meaning. The ‘See Now Buy Now’ phenomena was widely accepted by designers and consumers.
For a designer, generating business out of a fashion week will remain a key goal; and it’s imperative now to leverage technology and an avant-garde visual display. The Designer Boutique continues to thrive, adding tropical collections from various designers such as Rohit Bal, Pankaj and Nidhi, Rohit Gandhi Rahul Khanna, Rina Dhaka etc.
The extent to which a presentation can benefit a designer depends on how advanced and unique the format is. In a country, with various sensibilities, a designer has to keep up with changing times. The evolution of fast fashion, a strong community of bloggers and the social media razzmatazz can turn every novelty stale in a matter of days. And so, you must innovate and create a lasting impression in the minds of your consumer. The age-old formula of a show stopper needs to be married to the higher goal of engaging with the consumer or else it is bound to catch rust.
‘See Now Buy Now’ meant putting the customer in the limelight and working everything to their advantage. While everything comes with a learning, it also opens pathways to what could or could not happen next. It would be interesting to see if, like the west, the Indian runway is open to the possibility of an all-digital fashion week. Would that mean eliminating the front row and going a step ahead in democratising designer wear in India? You never know.