Who is a grand-finale designer? Biggies mostly bag the opportunity. Why is it so? Experts opine that final shows are more about Bollywood presence and, therefore, celebrated names are roped in for the glamour clamour.
Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) and Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) are major events of the Indian fashion industry, estimated to be worth Rs.720 crore (about $120 million).
Young names like Kallol Datta and designer duo Pankaj and Nidhi were picked up for LFW winter-festive 2012's grand finale, but established designers mostly bring the curtain down at these two prestigious events.
Continuing the trend, B-town favourite Manish Malhotra has been named the grand finale designer for the forthcoming edition of LFW Winter/Festive 2014.
This is not the first time he has been chosen as a closing designer for a fashion gala.
Why can't new talent get the honour?
Internationally-acclaimed designer Falguni Peacock, who works with her husband Shane, says such decisions are taken because the events are "sponsored shows purely for fashion week hype and value for the sponsor".
"They rope in Bollywood actors for media coverage, which is why season after season fashion weeks are losing their main essence," Falguni, whose clientele includes international icons such as Latino star Jennifer Lopez and pop icon Lady Gaga, told IANS in an email interview from Mumbai.
Shane added that fashion weeks today are purely for "entertainment".
"Seriousness will come only when fashion is given importance," he added.
There are designers who're known to rope in Bollywood celebrities as showstoppers or as guests adding glamour to front row seats. Some of the regulars are Kareena Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor, Kajol, Arjun Rampal, Karan Johar and Sonam Kapoor.
In a situation where many allege that seniors overshadow budding talents, Malhotra's name didn't excite his colleagues, including National Award winning designer Wendell Rodricks, who feels "ideally, a fashion week finale designer should be someone known for creativity."
But he clarified that he has nothing personal against Malhotra.
"What I am alarmed about is this musical chairs at LFW between him (Malhotra), Sabyasachi Mukherjee and a FDCI (Fashion Design Council of India) designer. It goes around in a circle for opening off site and finale. This in turn sets a bad precedent of politics, which other designers detest," Rodricks told IANS.
"Fashion and the business of fashion is the core of a fashion week and it should stay focussed on the fashion industry," he added.
"There are many LFW designers, who have supported LFW for many years, but they are not acknowledged for their contribution. (As a result) talented junior designers have lost hope," he said.
The Goa-based designer feels it's high time "the LFW Board did some soul searching on the matter and not make it a Bollywood-centric event".
But Suneet Varma begs to differ.
The couturier, who worked as a finale designer 13 years ago, said these are like a "wedding" and a celebration to mark the end of the five-day event.
"Finales are not necessarily about the collection, but a celebration of the fashion extravaganza," he said.
Supporting LFW's decision, he added: "Fashion week has picked up Malhotra because he is the right choice to bring best attendees, celebrities, top journalists and top media houses. So he is bringing much more than just a collection."
He also feels that every designer should treat his or her shows as the grand finale and try to "present excellence without focussing on the kind of slots they are given and then a day will come when the concept of finale won't exist."
There may be mixed response to the grand finale designers, but LFW and WIFW do encourage new talent and have launched a young brigade of creative minds like Rahul Mishra, who recently won the International Woolmark Prize in Milan and Samant Chauhan, known for his Ahimsa Silk work.
Then, there are Kallol Datta and Masaba Gupta, the youngest face of the Satya Paul brand.
Taking a constructive view on the issue, Anju Modi, one of the founding members of the FDCI, said a finale designer should be someone who strikes a right balance between "expertise and experience".
"Creativity is key in our industry, so a newcomer who shows great promise and talent, should be encouraged at the fashion weeks. Having said that, creativity must be teamed with technical skills that are acquired through a longer time in the industry," Modi told IANS.
Talking about the presence of Bollywood, she said that it has become a "necessary evil", adding: "With so many designers vying for media attention, they turn to celebrities and Bollywood for that extra visibility compared to someone who may have exquisite clothes but not a celebrity on board."
(Nivedita can be contacted at [email protected])
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