Indian Fashion Formidable Soft Power


Indian crafts and textiles are as old as we remember but the organised fashion industry has only been around for 25 years. This makes the cause of Indian fashion more complex than colourful. The latest edition of Express Adda in Delhi, presented by Reid & Taylor in association with Olive Beach, debated the challenges for designers who have given the industry a strong impetus despite little or no support from the government. An informal and intense conversation between veteran designers Suneet Varma, Tarun Tahiliani, Madhu Jain and India's first supermodel Anna Bredemeyer, with Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Express Group, and Shefalee Vasudev, National Features Editor, The Indian Express, brought up issues that surround fashion in modern India. Rigorous interjections from an engaged audience that included important members of the fashion industry led to a multi-dimensional discussion


The Change

If I was parachuted down 150 years back into India, I could tell which part of the country I was in because people draped fabrics in different ways. We didn't have a tailoring tradition; it was lots of layering through fabric and beautiful crafts on textiles. We have gone from the drape tradition towards structure. Some of it we have taken from the West but also our lifestyles have changed and that demands it.


Craft is beautiful but it's very difficult to manage and maintain. As we moved towards making clothes, as opposed to just textiles, the government didn't support weaver centres to update technology and make modern, versatile fabrics. Look at how poorly khadi was projected. Also, why weren't the costumes of the Royal India exhibition, which went to New York and Tokyo, shown in India? When NIFT was set up, it took a western orientation; they didn't have an embroidery course for 15 years. They taught pattern-making, how to export little frocks for big departmental stores abroad; no one taught about our culture. But now, there's great scope for revival. We should shrug off our socialism and colonialism.

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