| PICTURE SPEAK |
|TURNING ITS BACK: Lakme and IMG have parted ways with FDCI |
The fashion fad for the coming season definitely seems to be combat. The colour palette signals cloudy grey skies, icy-cold exchanges and military green war fatigues. The battle-lines have been drawn; the crystals and sequins have been packed away and in a very public arm-wrestling contest, cosmetic giant Lakme with its close ally IMG has declared war against the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and its coterie.
Ladies and gentlemen, Lakme has walked out of the Lakme India Fashion Week. The country's premier fashion event, in its sixth year now, has been split into two factions. The week-long annual extravaganza, which was earlier the joint enterprise of the FDCI, its main title sponsor Lakme and event manager IMG, has seen an unexpected split that has prompted the satin gloves to come out in favour of boxing gloves.
Front row fashionistas will now have not one, but two big dates on their calendar, with Anil Chopra, vice-president, Lakme Lever, and Ravi Krishnan, senior vice-president IMG, declaring at a press conference on November 30 that they would host a parallel fashion event christened Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai from March 28 to April 1 next year. It will be exactly a week before India Fashion Week, which is scheduled to be held from April 5 to 9, 2006 in Delhi. Just as well the air fares have plummeted as the Delhi-Mumbai set juggles hot dates with their favourite designers.
Already several designers have made it clear which side of the seam they are on. While Wendell Rodricks, Priyadarshini Rao and Manish Malhotra have declared their support to Chopra and Krishnan, the fashion divas of Delhi have plumped for retired bureaucrat Rathi Vinay Jha, who now heads FDCI.
|THE REBEL |
"Our ties in the fashion world date back to 30 years. We will use them."
SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT, IMG
"We have 78 eligible members and have received 35 applications."
RATHI VINAY JHA
DIRECTOR-GENERAL, FDCI .
And they lost no time in showing it, with a high-power delegation including Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Gandhi and Ranna Gill, holding a press conference of their own. At stake is Lakme's claim that FDCI asked for thrice the existing sponsorship fee, with the event now moving from one seven-day event to two fashion weeks spread over 10 days. Jha responds: "Lakme-IMG made a pure mathematical equation and demanded the events be held in Mumbai and Delhi in turn." The parting seemed inevitable. While hushed whispers claim that FDCI demanded a gargantuan Rs 25 crore from Lakme, both parties are unwilling to reveal the sponsorship figures. The FDCI is still loathe to reveal the name of its title sponsor for the coming India Fashion Week but Chopra, Krishnan and company are busy wooing designers across the country. In true swashbuckling style, the suave Krishnan has pulled out all the stops, called upon his international resources and drawn up a battle plan that would have put Bonaparte to shame. Subsidised and guaranteed opportunities to show at various fashion weeks managed by IMG in New York, Los Angeles, Australia and Singapore, connections with worldwide retailers, exposure to international media and even a chance appearance by supermodel Gisele Bundchen are among the various incentives being offered to lure the designers.
Not all designers are biting the bait. "It's sad that IMG couldn't offer designers the same perks in the past six years when they were with the FDCI," says Rohit Gandhi, a member of the FDCI's board of directors. Designer Krishna Mehta also seconds his opinion. "It is obvious that both parties are doing this for different reasons. The FDCI is an apex, non-commercial organisation which nurtures fashion in the country. Lakme is only doing this to leverage their brand," Mehta says.
The FDCI on its part has lauded the advent of another fashion event and has sent out a circular "advising" member designers against taking part in the competing event. While Lakme and IMG contend that this ban goes against the law of the land, Jha clarifies FDCI's stand. "While we were with Lakme, they too had the pre-condition of a lock-in period where designers couldn't take part in a competing event prior to their event. It is most likely that one of our sponsors, title or associate, will be a cosmetic company and they would also impose a lock-in period. This is not a diktat issued by the FDCI," she clarifies. FDCI has also drastically slashed rates, extended the last date of entries for the India Fashion Week from December 5 to 10 and also announced that it will take the India Fashion Week (Spring-Summer) to Mumbai from next year.
However, designers like Rodricks are making no bones about their participation in Lakme Fashion Week. "From a creative image and practical point of view, going to Delhi for a show ends up being hugely expensive. And I'm not very pleased with FDCI's high-handed attitude," he says. Kolkata-based Anamika Khanna prefers to go with India Fashion Week since it is a more established entity while others like Manish Arora are still "undecided" about their participation.
Despite tags like "dictatorial" and "antiquated" that are usually bandied around with Jha and her team of loyalists, surprisingly a large part of the designer community is in approval of its for-the-industry-by-the-industry stance. Lakme and IMG clearly have a more businesslike intent and will need a cracker of a first show to prove their fashion credentials. From cutting edge to undercutting, this is a clash that has transformed the country's premier fashion event into a battle of barbs, a face-off of egos and a cacophony of claims and counter claims. And you thought fashion was fun?