A Digital Fashion Fiesta - Archana Rao, Meenakshi Pamnani, Jobanpreet Singh Batth, Jobanpreet Singh Batth and Sunayana Vb

The coronavirus outbreak has made us adapt to the virtual medium for almost everything, be it work meetings, fitness sessions, workshops or even dating. And the fashion industry is no different.

In the past few months, we have seen Fashion weeks going digital and live streaming the entire event. The digitisation has unleashed the possibility of experiencing a unique insight into designers’ creativity while we sit on our couch with a glass of wine.

Indian fashion industry’s most awaited Lakmé Fashion Week was no exception. The event featured season-fluid collections from extremely creative designers on an exclusive digital platform. The

five-day event took a digital avatar with new features that aimed to benefit the designers, buyers and businesses. Expressive fashion films, catchy music and gorgeous ensembles kept the audience hooked to their screens.

The event started with the debut of the winners of the GenNext programme, namely, Dhātu Design Studio by Anmol Sharma, MISHÉ by Bhumika and Minakshi Ahluwalia and THE LOOM ART by Aarushi Kilawat. Their collections were fully sustainable as LFW aims to encourage sustainable fashion.

Renowned designers like Manish Malhotra, Kunal  Rawal, Amit Aggarwal, Aneeth Arora for PÉRO, Sukriti and Aakriti and many more showcased their much-awaited collections through

mind-boggling fashion films.

Designer labels like Satya Paul by Rajesh Pratap Singh, Anavila, Abraham and Thakore, Suket Dhir, Urvashi Kaur and Payal Khandwala promoted the crafts of India by showcasing their collections featuring ikat, jamdani, block prints, brocade, shibori, khatwa and more such techniques.

We loved watching celebrities like Athiya Shetty, Kartik Aryan, Radhika Madan, Aparshakti Khurana, Diana Penty, Ishaan Khatter, and Sonakshi Sinha walk the virtual runway as showstoppers for various designers.

To connect the buyers with the designers, the ‘See now, Buy now’ feature was launched within a virtual showroom. This enabled them to purchase the outfits showcased by the designers, right after the event.

Other highlights included the behind-the-scenes, webinars, podcasts and makeup masterclasses. There were numerous options for the audience to be engaged and to enjoy the new experience of the first-ever digital edition of LFW, sitting at home.

We interviewed city-based people related to the fashion industry and asked them for their opinion on the digitisation of fashion weeks and much more.          – Aakanksha Verma

ARCHANA RAO
Hyderabad-based designer, Archana has previously showcased her exquisite pieces at various events. Her designs have also been donned by celebrities like Anushka Sharma and Rashmika Mandana.

She shares her personal experience being a part of virtual fashion events, “After months of slowing the pace, it felt good to get back to doing what I love the most. We showcased our SS’21 Collection, ‘Do you suppose she’s a wildflower?’ at Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week this season, and while I definitely missed the physical show on the ramp, it was creatively challenging to work on a fashion film for the first time.” She further added, “The process before the fashion show has more or less been the same. Our inspiration for this collection was on spiritual and personal growth, and the looks have been designed to showcase that growth. This is also what we have tried to portray with our fashion film. We wanted our film to convey a feeling of acceptance, of being at peace with who you are. The biggest change for me was the lack of backstage madness before the show, I think this is the first time I watched my show at my studio with my team, friends and family and that experience is definitely something I will cherish.”

What are the pros and cons of digital fashion weeks?
Digital is not only an increasingly important sales channel; it can fuel innovative ways of customer acquisition, and create a system that enables transparency. I do miss the physical show and the endless emotions it brings with it. The entire process of a Fashion Week; from meeting the LMIFW team in person to model fitting sessions, meeting buyers, stylists and editors and walking them through our collection, greeting our clients personally and the feeling of being present in the moment are priceless. The exhilaration we feel after watching the beautiful shows and meeting all the other designers, seeing all the amazing clothes they’ve created is something I’ll miss the most. But now, the health and safety of customers and employees remain the absolute priority. The digital medium has helped launch genuine, purpose-driven communications. I believe that it’s the right time to strengthen the business for an omnichannel, digital centred next normal.

Do you believe that the virtual medium has allowed creative directors to be more expressive of their work?
I don’t think that the medium impacts creative expression. At the end of the day, it’s about creating designs that you believe in because when you put your heart and soul into anything, the result will always be satisfying. Creative fulfilment in my work leads to some great designs, which invariably appeal to the customers.

Could digital fashion events replace the physical ones, in the coming years?
Digital is the way forward, and it was about time that we adapt to virtual fashion events since it is the best way to reach audiences across the globe. With that being said, I do hope things get better, and we can do physical fashion weeks as I always love meeting my fellow designers, buyers, customers and the Fashion Week team.

A new designer with admirable work...
I’ve loved Aisha Rao’s work. Her designs are a breath of fresh air. It’s great to see all the talent that we have in Hyderabad.

Any changes that you would want to see in virtual fashion events in future?
I love the idea of making fashion films to tell the story of my collection. I prefer fashion films over mock runways, which was the second template for virtual fashion shows. Making a fashion film was challenging; it’s a window to a designer’s thought process. I loved watching all the fashion films showcased this season. It really allowed us the freedom of expression, and I would love to do more of that in the future.


MEENAKSHI PAMNANI
Goes by the name ‘theshimmergirl’ on Instagram, Meenakshi is a famous fashion influencer from the city. Her content is relatable and would be admired by any fashion enthusiast. She shares how she felt about the first-ever virtual Lakmé Fashion Week, “I would’ve loved to be there but given the current circumstances, happy enough to be able to get the virtual experience of it.”

A factor went missing in the experience of attending a fashion event online, as compared to offline?
Dressing up to attend it, the fun pop-ups at the venue by different brands and getting a first-hand experience of it all.

Do you believe that the virtual medium has allowed creative directors to be more expressive of their work?
Definitely, it has given them an even bigger way to do it with a wider audience. Also, in terms of themes, they could be as creative as possible.

LFW dedicated two days of the event to Indian crafts. Do you feel this is beneficial for the Vocal For Local initiative as well as promotes a sustainable approach towards fashion?
Absolutely! With all of us supporting vocal for local, and sustainability in fashion, this was a brilliant way to remind people of where it all started, the type of making each garment is.

Favourite designers from the LFW lineup?
Anushree Reddy and DishaPatil.

Do you think that digital fashion events could replace the physical ones in the future?
Given the current situation, the digital world is going to see a lot of development, making it easy to connect to a lot more people globally as well. Digital fashion events are definitely the future of this.

What changes would you want to be made in the next virtual LFW?
They did a fab job for their first virtual experience, and surely it would get better now that they are looking at it long term.


JOBANPREET SINGH BATTH
An engineer-turned-model, Jobanpreet follows fashion trends closely. He finds the experience of the virtual fashion week very different from the physical one. He adds, “I had mixed feelings for it, amongst the pandemic when everything around was negative, the virtual fashion weeks brought a refreshing and positive feeling. However, I missed the feeling of dressing up and attending the events in person.”

What factors do you believe go missing in the experience of attending a fashion event online, as compared to offline?
The feel of the cloth and a closer look of the silhouette can’t be achieved in a virtual event. On the good side, everyone can attend the event from anywhere in the world. You don’t have to travel to be present there, and it is more convenient, in my opinion.

Do you believe that the virtual medium has allowed creative directors to be more expressive of their work?
I believe whatever is happening during this pandemic is unlocking the next level of creativity in every field. The constraints force us to think out of the box and to come up with more creative and convenient solutions.

LFW dedicated two days of the event to Indian crafts. Do you feel this is beneficial for the Vocal For Local initiative as well as promotes a sustainable approach towards fashion?
India has always been very rich in culture and craft, and in my opinion, Indian crafts are very underrated as compared to other countries. So the two days dedicated to Indian crafts are beneficial for our artisans. This would definitely contribute to the Vocal For Local movement as India has a variety of craft clusters making intricate masterpieces, but they lack awareness and recognition. This would help in changing the mindset of people about Indian craft and culture.

A favourite designer from the LFW lineup?
I loved Gaurang Shah’s collection. He brings light on the handloom sector of various parts of India. The handwoven textiles never fail to impress.

What changes would you want to see in the next virtual LFW?
I wish there would be a possibility of making the show reach the weavers from small villages. Since it is purely digital, they could enjoy the fashion event and be more mindful of the latest trends that various designers are adopting.


SUNAYANA VB
After gaining experience in the fashion retail sector, Sunayana joined NIFT, Hyderabad to inculcate more knowledge about the fashion industry. The fashion lover shares her views on the digital Lakmé Fashion Week, “As a fashion student, I strongly believe virtual fashion shows are the future of runway presentations. I had the most brilliant experience of watching the event completely different from its traditional ways.”

What factors do you believe go missing in the experience of attending a fashion event online, as compared to offline?
An online show is much quieter; the live-action, the media buzz and an overexcited audience are all definitely a missing part when compared to an offline show.

Do you believe that the virtual medium has allowed creative directors to be more expressive of their work?
Yes, a virtual show has given the creative directors more time and numerous retakes to make the show look perfectly on point.

LFW dedicated two days of the event to Indian crafts. Do you feel this is beneficial for the Vocal For Local initiative as well as promotes a sustainable approach towards fashion?
Promoting sustainable and scalable growth that will help local artisans and businesses flourish and help create more opportunities at a grassroots level is important. It is high time we came together in support of our heritage, culture and craft communities.

A favourite designer from the LFW lineup?
My favourite designer from LFW line up was Jajaabor by Kanika and Neelanjan. The collection was everything, the flowy fabrics, the quirky prints, the printed oxfords, the trench coats and kimonos and the layering done to perfection. The uneven silhouette and textiles used were a treat to the eyes.

What changes would you want to be made in the next virtual LFW?
I liked the ‘See now, Buy now’ feature. The digital medium can offer endless possibilities, use of augmented reality (AR) being one.