STRONGER TOGETHER
Harper's Bazaar India|March 2021
For the first time in 15 years, two of the country’s most powerful fashion platforms—Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) in Delhi and Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai—joined forces to host one phygital, seasonless edition that was streamed across social media channels. A prudent decision, many stated; one lauded for the collaborative efforts to preserve an industry impacted by the global pandemic. In a special conversation with Bazaar, Sunil Sethi and Jaspreet Chandok share their views on the historic decision and the future of Indian fashion...

Sunil Sethi, Chairman, FDCI

Harper’s Bazaar: Tell us about the decision to showcase a combined fashion week this season.

Sunil Sethi: The FDCI and Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) have a relationship that goes back many years. We have always been institutions that believe in the potential of the Indian design fraternity, and have relentlessly worked towards nurturing and strengthening talent. Joining forces is an acknowledgment of the fact that over the past year, the design community has dealt with an unforeseeable impact on business. It was, therefore, imperative that we unite, for the greater good.

HB: Do you plan to continue this alliance in the future as well?

SS: This collaboration is a historic event, and we are evaluating the impact our partnership has had. One vision, however, remains—we will always work together to serve the best interest of the Indian fashion and design community.

HB: What was it like working with the Lakmé Fashion Week team?

SS: It has been such an enjoyable journey so far, one that was enriching for both teams. Our individual strengths, when put together, enabled us to provide a formidable and evolved experience.

HB: How has the past year impacted the Indian fashion fraternity?

SS: Fashion brands have learnt that value-for-money, versatility, and sustainability are crucial. Many have changed their ideology to include a wider base, by channelling diversity and inclusivity. There will now be a balance between aesthetics and practicality.

HB: What is the current, on-ground condition of the Indian craftspeople?

SS: The past year has been incredibly challenging for artisans across the country. As their offerings are nonessential, they are facing a severe cash crunch. They need, unlike never before, unique solutions and the united efforts of the government, craft organisations, and designers. With this intention, we initiated the Covid-19 Support Fund (CSF), which was supported by the FDCI board, our sponsors, and Lakmé Fashion Week. We urgently need an interface that can link the artisan with the market directly, without a middleman, so that the unsold inventory can find a buyer. With a ban on international travel, there has been a fall in demand for souvenirs... The demand for ‘Buy Local, Buy Indian’ needs to increase with design interventions and product development. We need to tell the story behind each craft so that the consumer understands its exclusivity. I believe that occasionwear can help recover losses.

HB: How do you visualise 2021 to pan out for the fraternity?

SS: The dynamics of clothing will change—not the ethos—from desire to need-based. The way brands communicate with buyers needs to be re-evaluated as well: Facebook reported to have 2.6 billion monthly active users, while Instagram is close to 1 billion, making digital expenditure key to driving profit. Direct sales through social media can be an important tool, and technology like ‘Try before you buy’ with augmented reality will be the future.

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