Gautam Hari Singhania, chairman and managing director of Raymond Ltd, on Thursday lashed out against Lakme India Fashion Week, saying that even after seven years, the country's premier fashion event continued to be just a social event.
"I hardly see any buyers at the fashion shows. It's only the Page Three crowd all over the place. Fashion, despite all the glamour and glitz, is serious business after all," he said.
Raymond runs the country's largest high fashion retail chain, Be:, which has consistently been one of the largest buyers at India Fashion Week since its inception.
"Be: is a large buyer but still I haven't got an official invitation for the event. I got a pass made for myself a few days back. I'm here out of my personal interest to have a look at some of the latest trends in fashion," he added.
The Fashion Design Council of India, which organises the annual event, claimed nearly 60 international and 100 domestic buyers attended this year.
"Business is not transacted on the spot. Relationships are built over time, and at Lakme Fashion Week the dialogue starts. People have to understand that we are not selling apples off the shelves," argued Rathi Vinay Jha, director, FDCI.
According to FDCI officials, the Indian fashion industry was still very young and it would be unfair to expect it to reach the levels of a Milan or Paris Fashion Show overnight. The FDCI expects more than a 30 per cent increase in the amount of business resulting from the event this year.
"There are 36 shows and the audience profile of each show is different. Designers are given the freedom to invite the buyers. Fashion is definitely glamorous and if the media looks at it as a Page Three photo opportunity, it does not take away from the business platform that LIFW provides," Jha added.
On his part, Singhania said business had been relegated to the backseat. "Business doesn't get the kind of prominence it should. At fashion weeks elsewhere in the world, only the buyers and mediapersons are allowed. I received calls from international buyers who wanted to check out LIFW but I couldn't get them passes because all of them were taken up by the celebrities," he said.
According to him, if the business focus at the event was better, the volume of business transactions could be three to four times more."Raymond has a retail network comprising 325 franchisees, and most of them also run large multi-brand fashion apparel outlets. They are the backbone of this industry, yet I don't see a single one of them here," said Singhania.