The State of Indian Fashion – an Insider’s Perspective

Sujal Shah on the job

Models Nicole Faria, Surelee Joseph, and Liza Jane with Sujal Shah at LFW 2010

VP and Head of Fashion for IMG India, Sujal Shah, readies for his final fashion week (Lakme Fashion Week – LFW) just days away.  We tracked him down and between finalizing logistics and hanging with models, he gave us the inside scoop of the state of fashion in India. And he should know with this, his forth season running LFW.

RoB: What do you see coming out of India’s fashion world in 2011?

Sujal: Indian fashion has garnered increased attention on a global stage over the past few years.  As the internet and other new media bring enhanced exposure to the unique and prolific talent that resides in India, I think that 2011 will continue this global recognition of Indian fashion but show signs of exponential relevance in the global fashion scene.

RoB: Besides our 5 Designers we Love, who should we be watching?

Sujal: One should always be on the lookout for Little Shilpa (India’s answer to Phillip Tracy) and Kallol Datta, a unique and insightful designer – one of the best young Indian designers out there.

The Emerging category of LFW incubates many young designers in India.  From this category, two in particular have emerged and should be watched closely: 1) Shrivan and Narresh – a duo mixing European fabric training with youthful and Indian resortwear aesthetics that have quickly catapulted them into the limelight. This is a duo that I have personally supported since their application into the Gen Next platform, and it is gratifying to see their success as recognized by buyers, media, and industry veterans.  2) Amalraj Sengupta – Amalraj stands out as one of the frontrunners in the new wave of young Menswear designers that exist in India.

The Gen Next category of designers from Lakme Fashion Week are always amongst my favorite to watch.  They represent the amalgamation of youth, innovation, talent and Indian design.

RoB: LFW starts in a few days. How many designers are you expecting this year?

Sujal: Over 75

RoB: Are there ways people can experience Fashion Week without being at the show?

Sujal: Absolutely.  As mentioned, coming from abroad, that was one of my key initiatives over the past 4 seasons – to connect those not able to be physically present – from spectators to enthusiasts to buyers and media. Therefore, year round, we can be followed on facebook, twitter, youtube.  Our website is a great destination for all the information you could want on the event.  And last season we live streamed all shows on the Internet for the first time.  This season, we will continue to live stream all shows via our website www.lakmefashionweek.co.in and we will also provide more behind the scenes and access via our newly launched LFW TV which can be viewed during the event on www.lfwtv.in or our main website.

RoB: This is your last fashion week. What’s next for you?

Sujal: My background starts in science with Biology and traverses multiple industries/avatars of life – including consulting, entrepreneurship, Columbia MBA, financial services – all leading me to my most recent role as VP and Head of Fashion of IMG India.  I am fortunate enough to be able to engage new challenges and move into new areas, but somehow each previous endeavor has led nicely to my next venture.  My new venture takes me into the e-commerce space.   At LFW, one of my main legacies will be my contribution to bringing LFW into the digital age – from its web presence to social media programs to conceiving and creating an e-commerce partnership with Fashion and You, the first of its kind in Asia.  My new venture builds on this and my other experiences in India and in the space. I’m very excited.

RoB: Are you really seeing an increased appetite for Indian designers globally?

Sujal: Yes!  There are several very simple reasons:  1) “Access” – digital media and the increasing avenues of communication are allowing the rest of the world to see the talent in India, 2) “Proliferation”  Indians or people of Indian descent are in every corner of the world and increasingly rising to higher levels in different professions, geographies, and sensibilities. This increases exposure to the world of what it is to be Indian. The Republic of Brown is a perfect example of this Indian “Proliferation”,  3) “Innovation/Inspiration”  – As the retail markets of the West are more  mature, there is a need for innovation and new inspiration.  India provides that with its colors, fabrics, and unique designs.

RoB: Are Indian designers catering more to the Indian consumer or the global consumer or is there a difference anymore?

Sujal: There is definitely a difference.  An Indian designer’s business is still largely from India itself.  Indians are steeped in traditions, yet enjoy the modernities of the western ways.   So while there are many Indian designers that will design western wear, there are that many more who will design traditional Indian or Indo-western.  And let’s not forget how important weddings and festivals are to the Indian.  So designs for this market and ancillary markets is a big business which many Indian designers will never abandon.  However, you will see Indian influence and design in many more globally appealing items from kurtas in apparel, to shawls in accessories, to chappals in shoes, and intricate beading in jewelry.

RoB: Post fashion week what’s your favorite way to unwind?

Sujal: Goa, or at least away from Mumbai.  I prefer to be with a few friends and my girlfriend and waste away a few days with laughter and fun.

RoB: If you had to pack a suitcase for a week and could only take 10 things what would they be?

1.      Pair of Seven for All Mankind Jeans

2.      Calvin Klein basic V neck T-shirt

3.      Pair of Asics Onitsuka Tiger (Ultimate 81) trainers

4.      My Blackberry!

5.      James Perse lounge pants and sweatshirt

6.      Shisheido Hydrating Lotion for Men

7.      Mania from Armani – cologne

8.      Bose Ipod Dock and Ipod

9.      My custom made sports jacket or vest

10.  Prada loafers

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