Nasreen Khan

Kolkata has suddenly become the cynosure of fashion eye. Those who were lucky enough to get the invites were literally breathless with rushing from one venue to another. There was the sixth edition of the popular Blenders’ Pride fashion show and there was the first Kolkata Couture Week. Thankfully the other show, Indian Fashion Carnival, was postponed at the last minute.
Technically, the Kolkata Couture Week (KCW) was the first such show, but for most it was Kolkata Fashion Week (KFW) in its third edition, albeit with a new organiser. Given the response to the previous KFWs, Kolkata wasn’t really geared up for big business. And the Couture Week too didn’t bring in much for designers. What then is the purpose of such Fashion Weeks and why so many of them?
In terms of glamour, there was only Mugdha Godse and Diana Hayden besides Tollywood’s  Rituparna Sengupta as showstoppers. Among the known names from the fashion fraternity, none of the Kolkata biggies were there.  Agnimitra Paul pulled out and, if reports are to be believed, even Vikram Phadnis nearly backed out at the last minute. Allegations and counter allegations threaten to get murkier. But how does it tell on the city’s image?
“I would not want to say anything against the show since it will not speak well about my own city. All I can say is that the organisers suddenly changed my show date without even informing me. How do you expect me to be there when I was not even been sent an official invite till the last minute?” asks Agnimitra.
Others like Vikram Phadnis would rather brush off the glitches saying, “I wasn’t aware of the infrastructure in Kolkata. But I’m happy with my show and I’m looking forward to doing more shows in the city.” Some like designer Arjun Agarwal were happy with the KCW. “The show was fantastic and I got a lot of new clients as well as good publicity,” he said. He did concede that though it was good for local designers the KCW did not bring a lot of outstation business.
Another designer, Tejas Gandhi, who had showcased at the last KFW was vehement in his rejection of KCW. “I did not participate because I was not interested. It was such a letdown. There are no buyers and there is no business. What is the point in investing money in the collection when I won’t get any buyers?” he asks. It is a known fact that big names in the fashion fraternity get invited to the shows. So they simply showcase a collection for free. Lesser known designers have to shell out big money besides investing in terms of designing the collection as well as the models. So without buyers the whole thing is a waste of time and money. But, as Arjun points out, it is good publicity for the designers and they do manage to get new clients from among the audience if the collection is to their liking. Besides media coverage is the added incentive.
Designer Arnab Sengupta has showcased at various fashion weeks like the Dubai Fashion Week, the Wimbledon Fashion Week and Indian Premiere London Fashion Week recently but he is not willing to invest in the fashion week held in his own city.
“When the first fashion week happened a lot of designers came hoping to find new buyers. But as you can see even the city’s own top rung designers have kept away. It is clear that they do not take it seriously simply because it lacks quality,” he points out.
A well-known Delhi based designer did admit, off the record, that the various fashion weeks suddenly sprouting all over the country are more of con jobs where the organizers are making the money and the designers are merely happy getting the free publicity. It is the lesser known designers, who have to pay to showcase at the fashion weeks, who are losing out. “I’d rather do a good fashion shoot or a fashion show in a different city to get more clients than spend money over such a fashion week,” says Arnab.
“Most fashion weeks lack credibility. Going by the allegations and the mismanagements and waning of interest it is time the FDCI stepped in to curb the circus in the name of fashion,” said another well known designer on condition of anonymity. Nevertheless, the fashion fraternity is definitely providing a lot of fodder to those who can make the best out of it.
The man behind the first KFW, Yudhajit Dutta, brushes aside the allegation and says it is normal to have glitches but alleges that the recently held KCW was not what it could have been because the organizers did not spend the kind of money required for such events. Sayantan Bhattacharya of Idea Weaves, the organizers of the KCW, on his part puts the blame on the previous organizers. “Allegations of nonpayment and other mismanagement by the previous organizers made it difficult for us to get the right people on board. Also we did not get the support from our hospitality partner,” he complains. But he does admit to some issues that need attention and assures that the next KCW to be held in February will be a better organized affair.
Ace city designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee has always maintained that there should be only one Fashion Week in the country. “Having so many fashion weeks will open a Pandora’s box and we will soon have a Jhumritalaiya  Fashion Week, Ahmedabad Fashion week and so on,” he says. Designers like Agnimitra, Arnab and Tejas second him.
“Besides the Delhi and the Mumbai fashion weeks the others are all stunts and you will not have international buyers coming for 15 fashion weeks in the country,” says Tejas. But the various fashion weeks are in no hurry to shut shop.
Yudhajit Dutta is probably having the last laugh. He is now on to greener pasture. Look out for another first from his kitty in October this year. Though Kolkata is not the destination this time he does not give up the idea of the city being a good market for such ventures.