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The GenNext In Fashion

Are veteran designers losing their charm? Is the GenNext here to take over? We look at the future of fashion in India. By Arushi Sakhuja

Indian fashion is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and has been gaining global recognition for its creativity, diversity, and sustainability. As per reports, the Indian fashion market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11-12% to reach $115-125 billion by 2025. But that also means Indian fashion is competing with the Western world, with competition, changing consumer preferences, demographics and more, thus presenting veterans with a new challenge and allowing GenNext to push the boundaries. The generation next of designers are more than willing to play their role in making the Indian fashion industry boom by promoting the craftsmanship and textiles of the country. 

Fresh designs, an international outlook, western silhouettes, and avant-garde sartorial line-ups best describe the gen-next designers in fashion. With the youth comprising a large percentage of India's population, veteran fashion designers and gen-next designers are fast evolving to capture their attention. But what helps the gen-next labels stand out is that some of the key silhouettes are in tune with what the next generation of shoppers would lean towards. With the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week season held in the capital, New Delhi, it gave us a much-needed reality check – Are veteran designers becoming obsolete? Is there a lack of fresh perspective in the Indian fashion market? And are we simply experiencing a cyclical return of the same designs with subtle tweaks? While the veterans have a stronghold in the industry and their designs are everlasting – with some designs that will go down in history – but at the recent fashion weeks in India are we missing something new? I think the meaning of the term designer or designer label has significantly evolved over the years, shared Avni Aneja, Founder Six5Six Street, a collaborative sports and streetwear brand launched in 2018. “Earlier, fashion designers catered to clothes that were worn for an occasion or a special event and not something you’d choose to wear every day. What the next generation of designers, and some before us have done is to break that perception. As a generation, we don’t want to put away our designer pieces in boxes that come out once a year. We want to use, reuse, utilise and get the maximum wear out of everything we purchase.” 

Photo Courtesy: Six5Six

Indian designers and the top couturiers of the country are maestros, visionaries and inspirations to every generation that follows.  Prasoon Sharma founder of Triune holds a deep admiration for the veterans of the industry, and he says, their remarkable work has consistently inspired many. But he points out “In this era of rapid change and transformation, where the tides of time shift swiftly, adopting an approach cantered on adaptability and inclusivity becomes a vital bridge to connect the invaluable wisdom of our veterans with the evolving landscape of fashion.” Aneja aptly throws light on an imperative point stating that designer wear isn’t just expensive occasion wear, “it is an extension of your personal style and can very much be something you choose to wear on an everyday basis. I think people are also waking up to the fact that there are alternatives and much better alternatives to fast fashion brands with better product, design, originality and in some cases like SIX5SIX , better pricing as well.”

The GenNext 

In the recent past, the buzz around has been that some designer showcases are failing to entice the senses with something new and fulfilling on the runway. But the coming in of new-age millennial labels is bringing back what the Indian fashion scene might have been missing. Whether playful designs or statement-making accessories, there is a sharp focus on consciousness, affordability and individualism. Vibrant prints, western cuts, international outlooks and an innovative perspective on fashion, is what the new generation is seeking. Each designer showcase proves that the youth is moving towards a modernised way of thinking, and Indian couture isn't the only hot seller in India. The younger generation is looking for fresher designs and the Gen Next designers surely have a great grasp of the concept. 

The evolution of Indian wear has been a long time coming, given that, as of 2021, Gen Z and millennials make up 52 per cent of the country’s population compared to the global average of 47 per cent. Indian designers have been fast to act on roping in the next generation of shoppers. With heightened international exposure to fashion and fashion weeks, the courtesy of a more globalized and social media-connected universe, it's becoming easier to bring contemporary aesthetics and design elements into the Indian market. As more and more young brands cater to this growing demographic. The Style List attempts to understand how new-age fashion labels are transforming the stereotypical style of Indian fashion. But that isn't to say that Indian couture doesn't make up a big part of the industry, it does. The difference? Younger labels are also finding more exciting ways to modernise Indian wear in tandem with bringing newer Western silhouettes to the forefront. To give us industry insight, Aneja believes that the country is at an interesting junction concerning Indian fashion as of today. “While the world has finally woken up to and started acknowledging the incredulous variety, craftsmanship and textile ability in India (courtesy of the Dior show in Mumbai). Yet, there’s a slight hesitation in accepting anything away from the traditional within the country as well as outside it.” She goes on to say… “Nevertheless, the new lot of designers are relentless in their pursuit to make people understand that this is the new India and we have the capability to do so much more! I think sustainability and ethical practices are at the core of any new labels/brands and it is innate and not seen as a value addition.”

Photo Courtesy: Triune

The creative mind behind Triune, Prasoon Sharma, told The Style List "At Triune, I avoid outsourcing when it comes to traditional artisanal crafts and techniques, instead, we nurture a culture of in-house innovation and development. This approach breathes fresh life into our garments, offering a distinctive perspective." He further said that GenNext designers are adaptable and experimental.... "we are from a generation that wants to decast the old moulds and break barriers which transcend in our work. We are not tethered to one specific style or aesthetic. We are open to embracing a wide spectrum of influences, from various cultures and time periods and seamlessly blending them to create something entirely new. Our style is a reflection of our generation's desire to be unique and authentic. We value individuality and self-expression over conformity. This is why you'll often find us mixing vintage and modern pieces, high-end and thrift fashion, and combining unexpected elements to create outfits that are uniquely our own."

The Indian Craft

Having said that, while Western influences are rapidly flowing into the realm of Indian fashion, the craft and heritage of the country is one that no one does better than India’s veterans. Think working with artisans, intricate craftsmanship, detailing and embroidery or the rich colour palette that celebrates our nation, is a legacy that even the GenNext Designers would like to hold onto.  “The kind of creativity and innovation that India has to offer is beyond imagination. With a rich history, a lineage of craftsmanship, a wealth of age-old crafts, a blend of traditional and modern techniques, a fusion of diverse crafts, and more, the country is a treasure trove of creative expression. This legacy is ingrained in every corner of the country, and it has a profound impact on our design approach, both consciously and subconsciously,” says Sharma.  On the contrary, Aneja aptly says, one way for veterans to bring a fresh perspective to Indian fashion is the move away from the celebrity bubble. “A lot of young people are unable to relate to traditional/veteran brands because they haven’t evolved much, the visual identity has become mundane and the Bollywood glamourous cannot be the only driving force, instead it needs to be relatable. However, Aneja believes that it would be a delight to see veterans collaborating with younger brands and individuals to get a feel of what the current generation wants. This for her is a starting point for fresh designs. “Collaborations have been so powerful in the West with the coming together of different audiences. I also think traditional fashion houses do need to get new blood as creative directors into their teams. It would make a world of a difference according to me. Also fashion weeks! We need something to change drastically! It’s been 20 years of the same type of shows, runways and models.” And to be honest, we couldn’t be more in agreement, this is the creative boundary veterans need to push to bring a new take on runways, and the missing zeal. 

Photo Courtesy: GenNext Show Lakme Fashion Week (L) , 431-88 (middle), ReLan (R)

But that’s not to say that Indian Craft is not being employed by the younger generation. The GenNext designers do take pride in local Indian traditions, fabrics and craftsmanship, the only difference lies in the utilisation. At Triune, the brand philosophy revolves around the art of blending and reinventing existing techniques. They practice this by incorporating handloom fabrics in their collections. “We believe that the key lies in finding the perfect synergy, crafting and presenting our garments in a way that resonates with a global audience, bridging the gap between domestic and international appreciation,” further says Sharma.  “Keeping the craftsmanship impeccable, the traditions and fabrics have been upgraded to suit the new age ideas and designs. Having said that, I also feel like there was a need to introduce new fabrics/techniques to India and that is something The newer lot of designers have been doing pretty well as well,” Aneja told The Style List. 

Future of Fashion in the GenNext World

Indian fashion has always been a fusion of traditional and modern elements. With the next generation, you can expect to see even more innovative combinations. Further, there is a shift of conversation on sustainability and ethical fashion as well as inclusivity in Indian fashion. This could mean a more diverse representation of body types, genders, and ethnic backgrounds in fashion campaigns and on the runway. And with that comes gender-neutral and androgynous clothing that challenges traditional gender norms in clothing. “I think the fashion landscape in India today has started to become democratic, there is inclusivity, affordability and sustainability. There’s a wider reach, your customer base expanded, and the next generation of designers will take this forward and establish it further. They will expand the horizons of creativity, self-expression, and personal style for individuals from all walks of life, there will be a diverse representation celebrating cross-cultural and global diversity,” accurately identified Prasoon.

GenNext is slowly adapting to global trends and practices and the new-age designers are making a strong case to make India a global fashion hub. Think minimalistic designers, everyday wear, fuss-free silhouettes, cleaner pieces, a muted colour palette, embellished balance with solid, gender-fluid fashion and lightweight silhouettes. The success of Indian fashion, and its creative talent, comes at a time of rapid cultural change. GenNext designers are mixing traditional textiles and techniques with Western silhouettes and technologies to create clothes that have wide domestic appeal but also find a receptive international market. While some others are also experimenting with form and tradition.

“In the coming years, the fashion landscape is likely to see a proliferation of unique and individualized styles, their styles are likely to be a dynamic mix of various influences, such as retro, vintage, pop culture, punk, Y2K fashion and beyond. Amidst this sartorial kaleidoscope, we'll witness the emergence of artistic and avant-garde expressions, where fashion becomes a canvas for creative self-discovery. It's a celebration of personal identity and artistry, an ever-evolving journey of self-expression through clothing, where the boundaries of fashion are continuously redefined.” – Prasoon Sharma. 

Photo Courtesy: GenNext Show Lakme Fashion Week

But at the helm of the Gennext population is their fire to be different and stand out to express their individuality. A trait that is reflected in experimentation in fashion, The evolution of Indian fashion is a complex and dynamic process influenced by a variety of factors, including social, economic, and cultural changes. Gennext's preferences and values will certainly play a significant role in shaping the industry, but it's just one aspect of the overall fashion landscape in India. 


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