Flair & Square: Insta Success

The 15th year of the Lakme Fashion Week begins today, expectedly amid much fanfare. Billboards are plastered across the city, newspapers have begun their daily teasers and social media is filled with peekaboo previews. The scene will soon shift to Delhi, where the newly monikered Amazon India Fashion Week is setting up stage for its upcoming edition.

I doubt any country celebrates fashion or fashion shows with as much brio as we do. This does surprise, as the Indian design world is a small, rarefied space. It is a small business really, straddling between its cottage-industry image and its bridalwear grandstanding. But mostly because India is yet to be known as a country of well-dressed people.

We may have a confused if contrarian relationship with style but the chatter around fashion weeks is deafening. You would be forgiven for thinking these are events of national interest — for instance, in France where the government allows you to present collections in public gardens or famous museums, or in Italy where the prime minister regularly gives awards to clothes-makers.

But India has become the land of generating news. We are the land of paid news and easy publicity.

All the things we loathed about fashion shows are its biggest drivers today. Not too long ago, fashion shows were presented to a small group of people. This was a group divided between a bunch of high-society ladies who were actual customers, merchandisers from boutiques and the fashion press. Anyone else was a mere gawker.

Today, fashion belongs to everyone with a cell phone and a propensity to chat about peplum and prints. The outlier is the Instagrammer. And nothing spells success of a show like reposts and retweets.

With instant news, fashion seasons became redundant. No one had the time or the memory to wait for a collection to be made available six months after it was presented. In-between seasons took form — pre-collections, pre-Fall and resort — but all of them saying the same thing. This is a see-now, buy-now world.

It has also deemed the fashion critic as obsolete. We may have style decoders and cultural mappers, but who wants to read a long superfluous sentence when the pictures are so dazzling? Anyone with a smartphone and a few followers is a critic. And just as well, let’s spread the word.

Amazon taking over Delhi’s fashion shows from Wills Lifestyle retail stores is no mere coincidence. The online world’s contribution to shopping is immeasurable. E-commerce sites such as Amazon, Jabong and others are trying very hard to convert the mass customers into classy shoppers. There would soon be little need to set up a rack at a physical store for anyone.

There is much noise and a little bit of anarchy in fashion today. But this is also a sign of evolution and growth. If there’s anything the fashion world promotes, it is change.