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Aisha Rao's designs Image Credit: Supplied

The world of fashion is an ever-evolving tapestry, with trends emerging from every corner of the globe. In recent years, Indian fashion designs have woven their way into the wardrobes of fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Vibrant colours, intricate craftsmanship and elegance have made Indian fashion a force to reckon with in the global market.

Indian fashion’s influence is evident at prestigious events such as Paris couture and New York Fashion Week. Indian designers have also established stores in prominent fashion capitals like London, Dubai and New York. From traditional ethnic wear to contemporary fusion creations, relatively new Indian designers such as Arpita Mehta, Aisha Rao and Vani Vats have successfully blended their rich cultural heritage with modern aesthetics.

“Indian craftsmanship, particularly hand embroidery, can be seen worldwide,” says Mehta, a young designer who has dressed Bollywood A-listers such as Priyanka Chopra and Kiara Advani. “This year saw renowned luxury brand Dior conduct a grand fashion presentation in India. This reflects the acceptance and respect for Indian culture.”

Rao adds: ““With renewed appreciation for traditional artistry and textiles, it’s heartening to witness Indian fashion’s impact beyond borders as a symbol of diversity and creativity, capturing the essence of our nation’s vibrant identity.”

Aisha Rao
Aisha Rao Image Credit: Supplied

Vats echoes the sentiment saying, “people all over the world are fond of Indian fashion, and even the greatest of fashion celebrities are making their statements with looks sourced from Indian fashion. Also, we have Indian fashion represented in Bollywood movies and OTT.”

Mehta launched her brand when social media wasn’t as prevalent, so her success relied heavily on word of mouth. As more people started wearing her clothes, the label connected with the right people. “Global recognition has also come about because people have loved our collections and recommended them to others in various cities such as Dubai, London, Jakarta, New York, and LA,” says Mehta. “Celebrities have enjoyed the experience of wearing our garments and have felt confident and stylish in them, leading to more opportunities to dress them in the future.”

Rao’s global presence has been established through her eclectic design language, purposeful luxury, bold colours and indigenous techniques. “Our coherent story telling via powerful imagery on our social media has resonated with global audiences,” says Rao. “The concepts spoke to the audiences and across geographies. These collections were well received as fresh and unique.”

Vats specialises in India’s rich traditional handwork combined with silhouettes and aesthetics. “This very quality and consistency of providing the market with the best quality helped us make our place in the global arena,” she says.

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Arpita Mehta's design Image Credit: Supplied

Change in approach

With the increasing influence of globalisation and the digital age, Indian designers are embracing a more contemporary mindset. Traditionally, Indian designs are rooted in cultural heritage and craftsmanship, which continue to be valued, but are now being combined with innovative techniques and global design sensibilities. Indian designers are incorporating elements of minimalism, functionality and sustainability. They are also leveraging technology and digital platforms to reach a wider audience and establish a global presence.

“Our approach to creating and catering to a global audience involves understanding the specific requirements,” says Mehta. “It is crucial to recognise that the way Indians in India wear their traditional clothing differs from how Indians in other countries dress. With this in mind, we design and recommend looks and pieces from our collection that align with the desired mood.”

Arpita Mehta
Arpita Mehta Image Credit: Supplied

While Rao remains true to her core design philosophy, she says catering to a global audience necessitates a more nuanced approach. “Our designs resonate across diverse consumers while retaining our signature identity,” she says. “Our Trinxet gown has seen purchases from Russia, Spain and the US. Our pantsuits too garner much attention in international markets.”

However, the Vani Vats label stays true to Indian tradition and has no intentions steering away from the tried and tested. “We are known for our rich Indian handicrafts, and people love our brand for this,” says Vats. “We believe in providing the best quality and top-notch finishing.”

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Vani Vats' designs Image Credit: Supplied

Bollywood influence

With its larger-than-life productions and glamorous stars, Bollywood has become a powerful medium for showcasing Indian couture. Celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have become global fashion icons, gracing international red carpets in stunning Indian ensembles.

“The fashion choices of Bollywood actresses hold great significance, as they shape trends and inspire individuals, both within India and beyond,” says Mehta. “Given Bollywood’s prominence as a major industry in India, the attention paid to actresses’ off-screen fashion further strengthens the connection between Bollywood and Indian fashion.”

Vani Vats
Vani Vats Image Credit: Supplied

The stars’ iconic on-screen ensembles, red carpet appearances and style statements have inspired and guided fashion choices for multiple generations. “Internationally, Bollywood’s glamorous aura has intrigued many, serving as an entry point to Indian aesthetics and culture, fostering a cross-cultural appreciation for Indian fashion,” says Rao.

Vats adds, “The looks of Bollywood celebs create a wave of trends that follow right from the top of fashion to the bottom. So it impacts people’s choices.”

Challenges of going global

While going global offers immense opportunities for Indian fashion designers, it also presents several challenges. Adapting designs, navigating legal complexities, facing competition, managing supply chains, and considering cultural sensitivities require careful planning, strategic partnerships, and a deep understanding of global markets.

“When expanding globally, one of the major obstacles is identifying the appropriate channel and contact that will guide you towards your desired path,” explains Mehta. “This aspect holds significant importance, especially for newcomers in unfamiliar territories. Therefore, I believe that finding the right contact remains a significant issue for many designers in India.”

For Rao, catering to diverse consumer preferences was a challenge, besides building brand awareness in new markets, servicing customers across various time zones and navigating foreign remittance and custom duty policies. “Yet, we see these challenges as opportunities to innovate, refine our offerings, and strengthen our brand’s presence, enabling us to contribute to the ever-evolving global fashion narrative,” says Rao.

Vats sums it up with, “the only challenge is to keep yourself up-to-date and create newness every day.”