India: The Glamour of Haute Couture and Beyond

Walter Raymond

India has become an important international player in the world of fashion and haute couture. Cities like New Delhi and Mumbai are the epicenters of new trends and boast great venues for Asia's most prestigious workshops and design studios.

Twice a year, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI)—a state-sponsored organization that promotes fashion— presents a series of high-design events such as the recent India Fashion Week, India Couture Week or Wills Lifestyle India Fashion, where the country’s best designers introduce their latest collections. National designers such as Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Arora, Rina Dhaka, Ritu Kumar, Ritu Beri, JJ Valaya, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla are already enjoying great success on European catwalks, and their names are associated with traditional French labels.
IndiaSuch breakthroughs in the fashion market are the result of an auspicious international panorama and a booming local production. Indian inspiration draws on its cultural traditions, exotic fabrics of innovative textures, the incorporation of vibrant colors, embroidery, and production methods that cater to modern global tastes.

Indian textiles

In the world economic context, China is the leading textile manufacturer. India, the second-largest producer in the world, enjoys an excellent comparative advantage thanks to an arrangement that applies to the entire supply chain. The production covers many different textiles— from cotton and diverse natural materials to the most delicate last generation synthetic fibers—including the manufacture of knits and yarns available to the consumers.

India’s textile production is the country’s fourth-largest industry after agriculture, services, and biochemistry. The sector contributes 5% of GDP and employs more than 35 million people directly. It is estimated 55 million more are indirectly involved in jobs related to textiles.

The country’s authorities recognize the urgent need to overcome the severe obstacles in the development of this activity that start with a poor infrastructure, energy supply difficulties and the complex legal and bureaucratic framework that hinders and discourages investment. Another delicate pending issue is the persistence of slave and child labor, a theme that generates rejection, loss of investment, and significant worldwide controversy.

Asian competition

Despite the remarkable development of India’s textile industry, its domestic market has shown a high and meaningful development. But exports barely reach 11% of the total production, which means $17 billion, which account for only 3.7% of the world market. Its direct Asian competitors like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam formidable obstacles —not to mention the surprising success of Bangladesh, which exports twice as much as India.

The government recently announced a plan to create 10 million jobs and increase textile exports to $30 billion over the next three years. The target for 2025 is to generate 80 million new jobs to follow the growth rate of its population. These objectives will not be easy to achieve, as there are certain aspects in the country that still affect its development: the low productivity of the Indian workers due to the insufficient incorporation of technology, the extensive and accentuated informal economy and particular adverse events that have damaged its reputation, as the loss of a $90 million business for labeling lower quality sheets as top-level Egyptian cotton.  ■

© | 2019