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Be more corporate, Indian fashion designers told

Become more professional, adopt corporate best practices and get over your cottage industry mindset if you want to go global, Indian fashion designers were told.

"I am very enthusiastic about India's potential but to succeed abroad, the designers need to be more professional and corporate," said Chantal Rousseau, fashion chain Bloomingdale's vice president for Europe.

She was participating in a panel discussion on "Indian Fashion And the Global Ramp" on the sidelines of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week.

"At fashion weeks, the (trade) stalls are more important than the (ramp) shows," she pointed out, noting that this aspect had been catered to at the ongoing event.

Rousseau then dropped another valuable hint. "It is important for buyers to attend shows to observe emerging trends. But it is equally important for designers to come to us to build up a lasting relationship and to establish a re-ordering chain," she said.

These two areas apart, designer Manish Arora felt the fraternity need to get out of its cottage industry mindset to make a mark abroad. "Some have come out of it but many more need to," he contended.

Rathi Vinay Jha, director general of the Fashion Design Council of India that has organised the fashion week, however disagreed.

"Our value-added cottage industry is what makes Indian fashion industry unique, it gives us that extra edge," she maintained, adding: "It's what's called the comparative advantage theory. It's time we woke up to this."

More than anything else, "the government has to take note of the fashion industry" if it is to go global.

"Because of the competing demands of the budget, the government tends to push the fashion industry to the back, saying it is elitist, that it's glamorous. They don't realise the hard work it entails.

"There is a market development assistance scheme and there's also the market access scheme (of the commerce ministry). I think they should open up their doors to fashion designers. The mindset needs to change," Jha maintained.

Patrick Hanly, group commercial director of Britain's Harvey Nichols chain of fashion stores, took an entirely different track: individual brilliance was fine but what was more important was a designer-buyer commercial partnership.

"If you want us to take serious risks and place larger orders, we would demand that the designer put together a marketing campaign that can run in partnership with the store."That partnership has to be there if you want to break through into the larger market," Hanly asserted.

"A buyer can risk 50,000 pounds on an emerging designer but this wouldn't ensure repeat orders. But if we (jointly) spend 250,000 pounds, it is spent on advertising, staffing and supporting the whole launch," he pointed.

Where would this kind of money come from?

Possibly from banks, hinted Commerce Secretary Ajay Dua. "The government can assist by creating the right climate. What the fashion industry needs to do is widen its base," he maintained.


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