Indian couture Asia-bound, but eyeing West

Mon Mar 29, 2010 12:05pm EDT
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By David Lalmalsawma

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Demand for Indian couture has surged in the Middle East and East Asia in the last five years but the West remains out of bounds due to lack of exposure, designers and buyers said at India's largest fashion event.

Most Indian designers focus on a burgeoning market at home, where a rapidly growing middle class is consuming high fashion like never before, but a significant number are expanding abroad.

"Buyers from Japan, Arab countries are growing by leaps and bounds," designer Kavita Bhartia told Reuters at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, where 130 designers are vying for the attention of 150 domestic and international buyers.

Bhartia, whose skirts and tunics are major sellers in the Middle East and warmer regions such Ibiza, said foreign clients look for something unusual but modern, and Indian designers can address all these issues.

Vineet Bahl, whose overseas clients account for 90 percent of his sales, agrees.

"Four years ago, you had to hunt them (buyers) down, but now they hunt you down."

High fashion in India, which emerged after the country's liberalization in the early 90s, is still comparatively small accounting for barely 0.3 percent of the international industry's net worth, according to a 2008 estimate by industry body the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India

(ASSOCHAM).   Continued...

<p>A model showcases a creation by Indian designer Suneet Varma during the grand finale of Lakme India fashion week in Mumbai March 9, 2010. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe</p>