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Rival Indian fashion weeks jostle for attention

The first of two Indian fashion weeks kicked off in Mumbai on Tuesday, 28 th March 2006 after a spat between organisers of rival city shows threatened to overshadow the emergence of a new wave of designers.

The appearance of Bollywood stars on the catwalk and British model Elizabeth Hurley at a pre-show party added glamour to Mumbai's inaugural Lakme Fashion Week as it seeks to challenge an established festival in New Delhi.

Thirty designers are set to show off their ready-two-wear autumn-winter lines at the five-day event taking place just before the larger India Fashion Week in New Delhi.

Four days after the Mumbai event ends, 80 designers will display their creations at the seventh and biggest-ever India Fashion Week, run by the Fashion Design Council of India.

Lakme was associated with the New Delhi show until it pulled out after last year's event in a row over sponsorship money. Instead it teamed up with sports, leisure and lifestyle management company IMG to launch the rival Mumbai show.

The controversy comes as the nascent Indian designer wear industry is growing rapidly with clientele including the British prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, pop star Madonna and British actress Dame Judi Dench.

Sandeep Khosla, who with partner Abu Jani is one of India's best-known design teams based in Mumbai, called the row over the rival shows "silly" and said it could confuse buyers.

"There is only one Fashion Design Council of India and only one fashion week," said Khosla who will be showing at the event in New Delhi.

Some critics have labelled Indian haute couture a cottage industry driven by individuals with small turnovers. But a study by accounting group KPMG says the designer wear industry, which was worth 1.76 billion rupees (40 million dollars) three years ago, has been growing at 11 percent a year.

Organisers of the Lakme Fashion Week said the event was a showcase for a "refreshing gathering of fresh talent" and said it was happy with the designers it had managed to attract.

"If someone had given me this list when we announced the show ... I would have taken it," Ravi Krishnan, managing director of IMG South Asia, told AFP.

The Mumbai show brought out the city's biggest draws. One of Indian cinema's best-known actors, John Abraham, appeared on the catwalk for the finale of the show by designer Rocky S. Bollywood bad boy Salman Khan also took to the ramp for a later show. Actresses Preity Zinta and Twinkle Khanna watched on.

But New Delhi organisers trumpeted their success in retaining " India's biggest names" in fashion, with a line-up including designers Varun Bahl and Manish Arora.

India Fashion Week spokeswoman Kanika Shriram said: "There is a visibility of Indian fashion on the international market and lot of them belong to our camp. At the end of the day, the strong man wins."


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