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Challenges of Going Global: The Indian Fashion Industry

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By Simi Afroza Mira

The Indian fashion industry relies heavily on India’s beautiful, authentic, and poignant history and rich, diverse culture, to make its beautiful, unique, and radiant clothing. India is proud of their heritage and culture, and that is reflected in the clothing they wear. The rising popularity of the Indian fashion industry, which hinges on its cultural and its billion dollar industry of the “Bollywood” style and movement, has many of us wondering just when and if the Indian fashion industry is going to go international. There are some disputes, though, that the Indian fashion industry would not be popular in the main-stream fashion world. Here are a few reasons why:

Indian Fashion Doesn’t Conform

While in some instances, India’s unique fashion and designs are celebrated and lauded internationally, (think “Bollywood,”) many of India’s fashion designers do not yield to what is hip and trendy in our pop culture, and what is immediately sellable. The background, culture, and style of Indian fashion is breathtakingly unique, with its deep, rich colors in abundance, and its well spun, beautifully soft fabrics. Seeing a piece of Indian fashion is like seeing an exquisite and enchanting piece of art. India’s top and most revered fashion designers most often design clothing that is very traditional, and usually reflects India’s unique history and diverse, poignant, and honored culture. And while it is beautiful, and that is what makes Indian fashion so unique and breathtaking, it is not typically the type of fashionable clothing you see in the very popular fashion markets like New York, Paris, and Milan.

Sales are Mainly Domestic

It is well-known that the sales of Indian fashion in an international market are not of any real significance at all, and at Lakme Fashion Week, which is India’s premiere and most prestigious fashion gathering, it is estimated that 95% of the sales generated as a result of their fashion week were domestic, leaving only a paltry 5% of sales given internationally.

International Markets are Much Different than the Domestic Market

There is a rising number of Indian fashion designers who want to go international, especially among the young, new and rising stars of Indian fashion. However, they are facing significant challenges of competing in an international market because of the shorter deadlines and higher demands for a higher quantity of clothing. The Indian fashion industry is well-known and revered for its extremely high-quality pieces. However, this high quality often comes with a price – a slower output of clothing made, and international markets demand more clothes, more quickly. It is not known if Indian fashion designers will be able to conform to the international fashion industry’s standards of high quality clothing made very quickly.

Just the Beginning

The Indian fashion industry is still in its infancy; with Lakme Fashion Week having run for thirteen consecutive years, respectively. In markets such as New York, Paris, and Milan, the fashion industry has well been established for many, many decades. The Indian fashion industry can certainly still grow and extend its popularity, but while it is still so young, it may take longer to establish itself and its roots both domestically and internationally.

There is no question that the clothing made by India’s elite fashion designers are not only beautiful, but unique, exquisite, and one-of-a-kind. India’s fashion world has captivated our hearts and minds with their “Bollywood” movement, and it remains to be seen what’s next on the horizon for the Indian fashion market. Will they remain mostly domestic, or will they eventually break that international barrier? Only time, (and some really beautiful clothing) can tell.

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