IN DEPTH: Indian Garment Export Industry
Tribal women from Rajasthan, India, in traditional attire.
If your books about India tell you that India is one of the largest exporters of tea, jute and tobacco, and that's it... get yourself a real education: India also happens to be one of the biggest players in the international fashion arena, in fabric sourcing for fashion wear.
Urban girl dressed in designer Banarasi Saree.
The borrowing of traditional Indian concepts does not end
here, what with vests made of kantha and mirror-work,
appliques, screen prints and sequin-work evening wear being hot
buys this coming fashion season.
As for the market for fabrics, the variety available in India can leave the buyer impressed but confused. A key determining factor in the selection of fabrics is the current "fashion movement" in the international market. For instance, the recent "eco-friendly", politically correct "natural" wave saw fabrics like pure cottons, linens and silks from India being lapped up by fashion trendsetters the world over.
Much of the manufacturing activity for this takes place in parts of the world you would never even have heard of, like the small town of Chapa, in the eastern state of Bihar, where fabric production is a family industry. The variety and quality of raw silks churned out here belie the crude production methods and equipment used - tussars, matka silks, phaswas, you name it, they can make it.
Surat, in the state of Gujarat, far to the west, is the source for an amazing array of jaquards, moss crepes and georgette sheers - all fabrics used to create those dazzling silhouettes seen on the ramps of the hottest fashion shows the world over.
Another Indian fabric design that has practically made fashion history is the "madras check" - originally used for the ubiquitous "lungi", a simple lower body wrap worn in southern India, this pattern has now made its way on to bandannas, blouses, bags, home furnishings, and practically anything else you can think of!
Of late, designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier have been increasingly using Indian fabrics, designs and cuts to enhance their western wear fashion collections. The Paris-based designer duo, Didier Lecoanet and Hemant Sagar, have used a lot of Benares Brocade in their Spring/Summer Collection recently unveiled in New Delhi for a select audience. There is a trend in the making here...
Forget Louis Feraud or Paul Smith, ethnic Indian design is in, and not just in India - whether it be a batik cravat, a tie-and-dye T-shirt, or a vegetable dye block-print skirt. So don't blink if you see a Donna Karan creation in a Madras check, or spot Naomi Campbell in a brocade jacket with a Kantha skirt to match... Talk about making a fashion statement!
Meeta Choprais working on her Masters degree in International Business at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, after working with a documentary film maker and one of India's top 3 advertising agencies. She is an expert commentrator on international trade trends in the fashion and garment industries.