Too many fashion weeks localising industry: Suneet Varma (Interview)

By Shilpa Raina, IANS
Monday, October 4, 2010

NEW DELHI - Suneet Varma, a pioneering Indian designer, is not happy with the slew of fashion weeks in the country as he believes they not only affect business but also localise the industry instead of integrating it.

“Ideally, there shouldn’t be more than two fashion weeks in any country and this is the trend followed in Western countries like the US where you have two prominent fashion weeks and one couture exhibition,” Varma told IANS in an interview.

“Such events are not at all integrating designers and are localising the industry as well. Today, you have Jaipur fashion week, Kolkata fashion week, Bangalore fashion week - there is too much of it,” he added.

Varma, who has been in the industry for over two decades, feels frequent fashion weeks are also affecting business.

“You won’t believe it: when fashion weeks started in India, we used to get buyers from all over the country and sometimes from places we haven’t even heard of,” said Varma.

“But now things are different. A buyer in Hyderabad won’t come to attend the fashion week in the capital because he has a fashion week in his city. Hence these fashion weeks are doing more harm than good.”

Varma has been one of the pioneers of the fashion industry along with big names like Ritu Kumar, JJ Valaya, Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal and Ravi Bajaj.

He feels the need of the hour is to give structure to this growing industry and the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), India’s apex fashion body, should do something about it.

“I personally feel that FDCI should bring all these fashion shows together and then have a category of designers like 30 best couturiers, 30 best generation next designers and 60 pret designers - the classification will help the industry in structure,” said Varma.

“FDCI should also move beyond various fashion weeks and help younger designers get loans for machines or set up their own business because we are not recognised by the government and hence it gets difficult when we (designers) have to apply for loans,” he added.

A formal recognition by the government will help the industry by leaps and bounds, he says.

“The government refuses to give us credit and recognise us. It is the need of the hour. Look at Italy, why do they have the best brands and the best of fashion? Because their government recognises the industry and supports them,” said Varma.

“There is a small city called Como in Italy where you get the best prints, the name is well-known among all fashion brands in the industry because the government promotes the print makers there; such things are lacking in India,” he added.

In 1986, when the fashion industry was at its nascent stage, Varma realised designing clothes was his real calling and joined the London College of Fashion.

Recollecting how his parents were very supportive of his decision, he said: “I come from a family of bankers and I couldn’t even add two plus two. I was very much into paintings and drawings and my dad always encouraged me to do something I liked doing.

“My father had once told me, ‘If you sculpt fabric, they become garments’. So finally I started sculpting garments,” said Varma, a big name in the industry and one of the finest couturiers as well.

He has also tied up as a designer with Judith Leiber, the international luxury accessories brand, and recently entered the Limca Book of Records 2011 edition for designing the world’s longest embroidered sari.

But he doesn’t take part in fashion weeks frequently and often wonders how various designers manage to do that.

“I am not into pret, so I stay away from regular fashion shows. I have showcased at the two editions of HDIL India Couture week in Mumbai and recently at the Delhi Couture Week, but I wonder how some designers are able to participate in almost every second fashion week,” said Varma.

“Fashion designing is not a cut and paste job. It requires inspiration to truly craft a line. We don’t have to think about clothes only; we have to think in terms of ramp, accessories, music, everything. Even hand-draping requires a lot of effort,” he added.

Varma, who designed Hrithik Roshan’s look in “Kites”, is tight-lipped about his next Bollywood production. “I will reveal it at the right time,” he said.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at

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