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Fashion, where the old need the young


YOUNG BLOOD: Aashti (above right) doesn't have any fashion training but her business degree is being put to good use at Ogaan (extreme right); Nishka Lulla's (left) young designs have rubbed off on her mother Neeta Lulla's work too

Many of India’s top fashion houses have been around for two decades. It is now time for the next generation to take charge and revitalise these businesses with fresh ideas

Youth and fashion have always had a very strong, yet strained, relationship. The industry is forever chasing new talent and trends. But at the same time, heritage is an integral part of fashion. Watch how fashion houses boast about their pedigree, and their archives.

The fashion industry in India is only about three decades old and senior designers like Tarun Tahilani, Rohit Bal, JJ Valaya, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and Suneet Varma still rule the roost. But the fact is that the industry also needs new talent.

In fact, Gen-Next shows are always among the most attended at the Lakme Fashion Week, and Wills Fashion Week traditionally opens with new talent. This year it opens with Masaba Gupta for Satya Paul. This means those who are neither new nor established have to work doubly hard to woo the market. Even established designers need to think of out-of-the-box to stay relevant. It has to be about being experienced yet fresh. And one way of doing this is to bring in your own Gen-Next line. Ogaan, Neeta Lulla and Ashima Leena have all done this but in three very different ways.

Ogaan has been one of the pioneering multibrand stores. It started in 1989 in Hauz Khas village. Known for young talent and a boho take on style, this 6, 000 square foot store soon became the Capital's most sought after fashion address. Founded by Kavita Bhartia, the Ogaan store became a curator of ethnic-cool. It grew and now has four stores across two cities. Among the first stores to do individual designer promotions, advertising campaigns and also work on visual merchandise, it can be credited with helping fashion grow into an industry. It has managed to maintain its position among top Indian stores despite the new entrants in the market. But in the last two years, Ogaan has stepped up its efforts, and has a better recall value than most other multi-brand stores. The credit for this goes to Kavita's daughter Aashti, who has managed to quietly re-energise the brand. Says Aashti, Ogaan's managing director: "The DNA of the brand is new talent. " She has made sure Ogaan has stayed true to this policy.

The first multi brand to take on Sabyasachi by Sabyasachi (the designer's fusion line) and Rahul Misra's Indian line, and give Pankaj and Nidhi's fashion show line floor space, Ogaan has a new buzz around it. Perhaps the fact that Aashti is not trained in fashion but in business has helped bring in an outsider's perspective. Having seen the brand grow she also has an innate understanding of Ogaan.

Ashima and Leena have been in the industry for over two decades and are known for their love of ethnic embellishments. They lacked fashion buzz, but despite that their label has steadily grown. During the last Delhi Couture Week they received encouraging reviews. Leena's daughter Rhea has now taken over as director of strategy.

A graduate from NIFT Delhi she had her own design studio for a while where she worked on interiors as well as fashion. She has already started making some changes to the line and like Aashti seems to be taking the brand back to its original DNA. "It is about going back to the basics, " she says. For Ashima and Leena, that is couture. This is why the Ashima-Leena store has now moved to Emporio, the address for Indian couture.
The store has an ethnic eclectic interior, which have been designer by Rhea. She is also working on developing a special gota technique for Ashima-Leena which will be trademarked and unveiled at the next fashion week. She is also scouting for suitable place for a flagship store in Mumbai.

At 27, Nishka Lulla is the youngest of designer daughters to enter the industry but she has already managed to carve a niche for herslf. She has been running her own label, Nisshk, for three years now. It is available at mother Neeta's flagship store in Mumbai. Neeta is one of Bollywood's favourite designers -- she has won the Nation Film Award multiple times. Thanks to her work in Lamhe, Chandni and Devdas, she is known for her saris. Nishka's latest collection - which has a very Boho and Indian gypsy feel to it - has received good reviews. It concentrates on print, textile and shape more than embellishment. Much younger and more pret than her mother's label, Nishka's entry into fashion has had a rub-off factor on Neeta's designs and life. And it will prepare her to one day enter her mom's flourishing bridal business.

In Italy, many cult brands like Fendi, Missoni and Hermes are family run and this ensures that the brand's uniqueness is maintained. Now that many Indian fashion brands have reached the two decade mark we are bound to see more youngsters take charge. Ritu Kumar's son Amrish was probably the first in line - five years ago he launched Ritu Kumar's Label. This pret line helped create a new segment for Ritu Kumar, one of Indian's oldest and most respected names in fashion. With others following, our fashion houses can now work with the perfect combination of youth and experience.

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