Unoriginal & Uninspiring: the sad reality of Indian fashion

It is difficult to understand why our fashion designers choose to copy or take inspiration from the West, given that closer home we have such a wide array of things that can be translated into design

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Ananya Sharma

The ideas of Swadeshi and Make in India are harped on loudly in our country but fashion sadly is untouched by these concepts. Our fashion industry seems to suffer from almost absolute disregard for our home-grown traditions and culture. There’s no debate in the industry over the fact that India boasts of some of the most diverse traditions, but our art of clothing is centred mainly around western attires, barring of course sari and salwar-kameez.

Our obsession with the west strongly reflects in the Indian fashion industry. Lately, it has become common to see copies of the western fashion scene on our local runways. From designers choosing to explore only European forms of clothing to magazines booking foreign models over Indian ones, it is hard to argue the fact that there are several pockets within the fashion industry trying to mimic the fashion in New York or Milan.

It is difficult to understand why designers choose to copy or take inspiration from the West, given that closer home we have such a wide array of things that can be translated into design. Part of the reason could be that no matter how much we try, many of us still feel a sense of supremacy indulging in all things western. We admire clothes by designers we can’t even pronounce, while being unaware of the attire of our home state. Another reason for this could be the literature and media we consume on a day to day basis.

Magazines these days mostly cover European fashion designers and newspapers constantly overemphasize trends that are not just alien, but also unfeasible, to the Indian demographic. We're bombarded by faces of models from the west and by campaigns of brands that are hardly available in India.

Nirav Modi recently featured European supermodels Rosie Huntington Whitely and Andrea Diaconou in his campaign, along with Lisa Haydon. Similarly, Vogue India featured American model, Kendall Jenner on the cover of its anniversary issue, an issue which should have been exclusively celebrating Indian fashion.

In addition to this, many Indian designers seem to be creating ad campaigns, which look awfully similar in both their styling and vibe, to some foreign design houses. Tarun Tahiliani's campaigns may remind one of the famous campaigns by Dolce and Gabbana, or the Label Life campaign featuring Kalki Koechelin, which matches the Gucci campaign in its styling and choice of gender-bending clothing.

The list doesn't just end here. Designers like Surily Goel and Manish Arora have been accused of stealing silhouettes and prints from other designers. This is not just a proof of lack of creativity in the Indian fashion industry, but also unfair to the designers who originally created the designs.

Many regular consumers of fashion have accused the fashion industry in India of losing its original panache. Several fashion goers have said that designers, like Gaurav Gupta, Gauri & Nainika etc., have been playing with the same silhouettes and designs for several seasons now. The audience seems bored.

Could a possible reason for this be that designers are trying too hard to match international standards, while completely disregarding inspiration that is present in India itself? Could exploring more and more traditional arts be a solution to the stagnation in the Indian fashion scene, while also giving patronage to the culture that we are rapidly losing? Maybe.

But designers can’t simply be pushed to do this. They can, however, be made aware of the options present. The problem is, institutions like National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), National Institute of Design (NID) etc. across the country don't emphasise enough on local arts and heritage.

As a result, many students take inspiration from foreign sources, and create clothes that look quite prosaic and uninspiring. If our own educational system doesn’t pay heed to local art and artisans, then who will?

But it would be unfair to blame ignorance of Indian consumers and designers entirely for the dearth of originality in Indian fashion. A major reason for the swift increase of westernisation on our local runways could also be the reason that across the globe, the standards of beauty are such that a person with European features is considered to be more attractive.

This is not a problem exclusive to India. Many other countries of the world also are the victim of the same problem. And it is a fact that Indians treat fair skin, blonde hair and western clothing as superior and hence more fashionable. That is perhaps why we tend to gravitate towards western clothing, western culture and even western faces.

It is not wrong to follow international trends, nor is it wrong to take inspiration from other countries. However, if it is at the expense of ignoring our local arts, losing creativity or copying the work of other creators, our fashion industry loses its identity and just becomes a shadow of a booming international industry.

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