Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dior Vs. Darzi

Been to GK market in Delhi lately? Forget the stores, the crazy traffic, heat and dust, and focus on the strange melee of people. It certainly is a curious mix, some to see, some to be seen and a small handful to actually shop and eat out! You can’t miss the yuppie-puppy Punjabi aunties stuffed into ten sizes too small corset blouses and saris straight off the sets of Kyonki..with their Gucci Boston bags and Ferragamo shades. Or the finely sculpted, straight off the ramp, almost perfect goddesses in their Moschino Tees, Seven jeans and Louis Vuitton bags, stopping at the coffee shop at the Ravi Bajaj store for a quick coffee and smoke before continuing to shop again. And then there are the other sub sets of people, some who shop local Indian designers, others more the FabIndia kind, people who do the retail circuit, you know Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, and then the people who scout the gallis of Sarojini Nagar. And a growing percentage of people who are a mix of everything mentioned before. Oh and I almost forgot the cheery breed who sport cheesy fakes, the world where Prada is Pradaa, Armani is Armanie and Chanel is Channel. Yes, they wear it, with no apology.

Like holes in Swiss (cheese), there are designers trying to make inroads everywhere. Suddenly we have Fashion Weeks, fashion shows and intimate showings (of the high fashion kind). Every product launch or event has a fashion show to go with it, and designers are dime a dozen. NIFT used to be the only one before and now there are design colleges everywhere. Along with boutiques all over the place selling “designer wear” (one of the most abused words in the Indian fashion scene). Even retailers have decided to get a share of this couture conscious new middle class so now you have Buzz in Shopper’s stop which retails many prêt collections, Westside retails Wendell Rodrick’s prêt line and Raymonds has its own retail chain called Be: nationwide. Every socialite suddenly wants to own her own label and a special mention is warranted to those Marwari and Gujarati aunties setting up Sari stalls at every exhibition.

Indian designers are tripping over themselves trying to “make it” abroad..some like Ritu Beri, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani have managed, while others are on the brink or trying very hard. It is also interesting to see the amount of International biggies that are filtering in, there’s Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Moschino, Morgan De Toi etc. Even retail chains like Esprit, Guess, Marks and Spencer, Mango, Nine West, Gant are setting up shop! Just goes on to show how fashion ready India has become. Who shops at these places, now that’s a whole different piece of pie.

So now everyone knows that disposable incomes are on the rise, as is a general global awareness, along with a steep increase in fashion quotient. But let me draw your attention to a slight quirk that is unique to Indian middle class, it is not a matter of “affordability” as much as “value for money” that has a stronger hold. At the risk of repeating myself, while increasing, it is still a small number of people who can really afford couture in Dior or for that matter even in Ritu Kumar. There is a small group of people who would actually spend the moolah at Chanel and then there is another group that would retain the exclusivity but still get away with spending lesser money (relatively of course) at a Ritu Kumar store. And there are others who shop local Indian designers prêt or haunt the various retail outlets. Finally, a combination of all of the above.

What I haven’t included in this list of course is the infamous “Darzi” (Tailor/Seamstress). Who hasn’t rushed to their local faithful Darzi with some material, a clipped magazine picture and pleas of “copy this exactly”. Meet the underdog and veiled super power of the Indian fashion scene. Every neighborhood has at least one tailor and almost every city has that one major tailor that those on the “in” know of, the guy who can make almost anything and everything for you. And no matter how wealthy or socially prominent, we can’t somehow wipe off our relationship with our Darzi. Admit it or not, almost everyone gets something “tailored” and come on, how many times have we heard that refrain, “you sure you want to buy that? Its so much easier/cheaper to get it stitched!!” and sure enough, a light bulb goes on!

Until I can afford Dior, its Darzi for me (hint hint). Ladies and Gentlemen, fashion scene is sure heating up, but in the battle of Dior Vs. Darzi, Round one goes to the Darzi! Sound the gong!

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