Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Does Indian fashion really need celebrity showstoppers?
When designers Rohit Gandhi and Rahul Khanna were asked why they didn’t use any celebrity on the catwalk at the India Fashion Week, a nonchalant Khanna replied: “Our clothes are our showstoppers. It’s a business event, let’s keep it that!”
But in a world of glamour where media visibility is almost a prerequisite and most of ‘what’s hot’ and ‘what’s not’ is measured by the number of shutterbugs and roving video cameras present, does having a movie star or two sashay in front of a celebrity-hungry media really make bad business sense?
While a few other designers publicly seconded Khanna’s lines, many others at the fashion week were happily posing for the cameras, hand in hand with their celebrity showstoppers.
And the media is often just a means to a (business) end.
“Yes, he (buyer) does get helped by the publicity surrounding the designers. If there is a star wearing the clothes, it helps him sell the product (to customers). So in that term, yes, indirectly, they do help,” says Rina Dhaka, one of India’s most popular designers, at home and abroad.
And publicity is one thing that always tags along with celebrities, who are as talked about, if not more, than the actual designs on the runway.
Off the stage, if you happen to see a crowd in the corner, you can be sure that a Bollywood star or a beauty queen is at the centre of the melee, posing away in front of the flashbulbs.
The Indian fashion design industry’s overall production was just around 2.7 billion rupees in 2007, with the majority of customers being Indian.
And even though international buyers have increasingly been drawn to the industry by the handicraft and detailed embroidery, most of the foreign buyers I’ve spoken to say Indian designers need to be more market-savvy about promoting their products.
And the use of celebrities seems to be one such tried-and-tested method.
“If celebrities are walking, people identify the success of the designer with that,” says Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India.
So is it any surprise that the ongoing Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, which is usually chock-a-block with celebrities, receives more media coverage than the India Fashion Week and the Delhi Fashion Week in the Indian capital?
As Rina Dhaka points out: “They (celebrities) do make a difference, unfortunately!”
What do you think — are you interested in buying an outfit only if a Shilpa Shetty or John Abraham look good in it?