A decade ago, pret-a-porter was a term neither understood nor interpreted correctly in India as fashion was all about couture. But it is now the biggest revenue generator in the garment industry. And interestingly, it is the international buyers who are strongly influencing a change in Indian prêt. There is a shift in the Indian consumers’ fashion preferences and this change is largely because of the social media, television and other tools readily available at their fingertips. This makes them tuned in to the latest fashion trends and discerning of comfort, durability and quality that prêt is all about. This change of preferences is happening worldwide and this is what international buyers are looking for from Indian designers.
“International buyers have taught us how to fuse elements. We take Western silhouette and use Indian embroidery on it. While the design is ours, they need a little tweaking to make it more structured to better suit the buyers. I once worked on a lehenga but the buyer asked me to make it into a jacket,” shares designer Siddartha Tytler, who gives credit to the international buyers for bringing in the concept of quality control. “Now our finishings are up to the mark of international standards.”
Design needs to keep step with time and changing tastes, and prêt is an interesting designscape to explore, say designers. “Indian prêt wear is largely influenced by Western and Eastern countries because everyone is going along the lines of globalisation. Thus, it is the need of the hour. With modern times people demand change and variety in all fields, it is imperative to create innovative designs inspired by current trends,” shares designer Adarsh Gill, whose recent autumn-winter collection showcased at the Amazon Fashion Week was an ode to the glamorous Fifties look, worn by the iconic Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Fiona Campbell.
Designer Payal Jain too feels that Indian pret is a medley of the East and West — a fusion in the true sense — and consequently remains strongly influenced by both. “The Indian consumer wants the best of the West, but with a slight Eastern twist to fit into their lifestyle, weather conditions and geography, specially created to enhance their body type, skin tones and ethnicity. This has led to the birth of the ‘Indian Pret’, which has taken the Indian market by storm,” shares Jain, adding, “I believe my designs have a Western body and an Indian soul.” This philosophy is evident in her work and has grown with time as her creations are subtle, minimalistic and Indian at heart, appealing to the global citizen while speaking a contemporary language.
However, designer Mandira Wirk differs, “Influence happens both ways. If you look at any good international designer, you’ll see the Indian influence too — be it in the process of tie and dye or the concept of traditional bangles, bindi. This works vice-versa, but it all depends on how you put it together and make it into a unique ensemble altogether.” What are the basic differences one sees among the international and domestic buyers in terms of their wants and specifications? Jain strongly believes that the lines and distinctions have blurred between the sensibilities of the two in the last few years. “Everyone wants the latest collections and Indian or Western wear is not the criteria any longer. I have always designed a western wear line in terms of silhouettes, but I always work with Indian textiles, crafts, print techniques and embroideries. Thus, creating a balance between the two. The international buyers pick up the collections without any changes. And sometimes, slight tweaking is needed for the Indian market. Lately, the domestic consumers have been demanding the outfits we showcase on the ramp and sell across the world, with no changes to make it more ‘Indian’ in any way.”
However, Gill is of the opinion that domestic buyers are more influenced by the Indian wedding and festive seasons. “They are always on the lookout for customization, whether in size, colour or silhouette whereas international buyers are keener to pick up the garment as it is.” Signing off, Wirk observes, “International buyers want to buy varied sizes, they go up to X sizes and are very specific with details and quality. But Indian buyers are also at par with them — they are also very organised, good with payments and wonderful to work with.”