Fashion Council’s finances generates much heat after opting out of supermodels

first_imgClick here to EnlargeFew things, of late, have created greater schadenfreude than the run-up to the second Lakme India Fashion Week (LIFW).First, it was about some fashionistas like Ravi Bajaj and Pallavi Jaikishan having been ignored, and others like Raghavendra Rathore having dropped out.Now, it’s the turn of our desi,Click here to EnlargeFew things, of late, have created greater schadenfreude than the run-up to the second Lakme India Fashion Week (LIFW).First, it was about some fashionistas like Ravi Bajaj and Pallavi Jaikishan having been ignored, and others like Raghavendra Rathore having dropped out.Now, it’s the turn of our desi supermodels to do a bunk; alphababe Madhu Sapre will not be sashaying down the LIFW ramp along with the wiccan-eyed Noyonika Chatterjee and the Bollywood-struck Bipasha Basu.The kerfuffle is all about India’s self-styled apex fashion body – the Delhi-based Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), its response to LIFW 2001 and, of course, money. Three years ago, a handful of Delhi designers like peroxide blonde Rohit Bal, along with exporter and designer Gitanjali Kashyap’s husband Sumeet Nair set up the FDCI, with Nair as co-opted member.Click here to EnlargeClick here to EnlargeNow, the faux fur is flying. The fact that the board is self-appointed is a major grouse. “We needed to have it that way initially just to get things going,” protests Nair, who is now the executive director. “Now that the FDCI has many more members, we will hold elections for the board in September this year.”The promise might soothe some feathers at the Mumbai Fashion Week. Read 44 “insecure folks” – as Bajaj likes to put it – working with 48 equally temperamental clotheshorses, for 27 ramp shows.Predictably, spats are inviting more attention than the “business of fashion”, the original aim of the extended exercise. IMG, a global sports marketing and event management company, is responsible for all commercial aspects as well as event management at LIFW.advertisementIt may own the New York Fashion Week but in India its experience has been limited to sports so far. This unfamiliarity with handling fashion egos has created discontent, with discounting model fees surfacing as the major issue. Click here to EnlargeReported missing are top models like Dino Morea, John Abraham, Joey Mathew and Ayesha Prem. Sapre, perhaps the highest paid among the country’s female models, created a storm in Delhi over her unwillingness to take part in the show.She refused to give in to the 30 per cent discount demand, which would have put her in the Rs 17,500 per show LIFW category while her reported asking price is Rs 25,000.But Sapre is hurt by the furore. “I really had no intention of creating bad blood because of my refusal. All I can say is that I am not participating.”Models have five scales of payment and each was asked to give a 30 per cent discount; a ramp model earning Rs 10,000 would get Rs 7,000, post-discount.But since there is no Rs 7,000 category, the model gets Rs 6,000 instead, escalating the 30 per cent discount to 40 per cent. “By a similar calculation, some end up having to concede less than 30 per cent. No one is complaining about that,” retorts IMG’s Zubin Sarkare who is also LIFW 2001 event director.Points of feudLIFW responds to a flurry of allegations flung its wayGrouseWhy can’t the names of jury members who selected the LIFW participants be announced?Why do the registered members of the FDCI have to cough up a show registration fee?The 30 per cent discount being demanded from the models for the LIFW show is too steep.Why is Lakme holding a grand finale with the spotlight only on three designers?Lifw retortThe jury members have requested anonymity. And it’s never done by other international fashion bodies as well.In a way, the fee remains their own. It goes into the FDCI corpus fund to be used for market research or participation in global fairs.Giving discounts in bulk shows is a done thing. Where else will a model get 12 shows in seven days and this kind of a forum?Lakme is the title sponsor and the designers are chosen on the basis of who best suits its theme.Models claim they were promised at least 13 shows each but that it’s down to a minimum of seven now. So they end up making much less money after rebate.For the “been there, done that” beauties like Fleur Xavier, it just doesn’t make for sound economics. “I think FDCI being a much bigger organisation than the NIFD could have given the models a better deal rather than demanding high discounts. Instead they wanted to stick to last year’s deal.”Sarkare maintains that the spending on models is the single highest expense head (close to Rs 50 lakh) and that the buck has to stop somewhere while trying to control the spiralling costs.Sponsor Lakme’s dominant role has also turned many puce in the face. Lakme has already decided on who the three finalists are going to be at the “Sparkle, Shimmer, Shine” grand finale. The decision was based on “who would best suit the theme”, according to Bal, one of the finalists along with Rina Dhaka and Manish Malhotra.advertisementThough Lakme isn’t ready to divulge, Bal insists he will be doing the Shine sequence. The Gang of Three will endorse Lakme’s products, including lipsticks, nail enamel and make-up.Lakme has also roped in its own models for the finale – Lisa Ray, Yana Gupta and Indrani Das Gupta. Anil Chopra, business head, Lakme Lever, explains they watched global trends, spoke to an expert panel and “chose the designers who agreed with our views”.Lakme may have found a compliant lot eventually but many couturiers question LIFW’s efficacy in boosting the retail market. “No doubt it’s a good platform for designers but I think it’s premature,” says Jaikishan.SWAYING PASSIONS: Many top models are sore over the high discounts being demanded”India hasn’t reached the stage where retailers will readily order pret lines. Also, membership fees should not vary for each category.”Ritu Beri voices similar apprehensions. For all the spiel, she was a part of the event last year but after Paris Couture Week 2001, la Beri would rather focus on getting her October pret line for Paris ready.”Stores in India still don’t understand what ordering and merchandising is all about. Besides, a show in August is completely confusing as it falls neither in the summer nor the winter category,” she says.While Bajaj, a board member in 1998, resigned because.. er.. he “just didn’t have the time”, rumours have it that he is miffed with the board for ignoring him after his resignation and not sending him an invitation.”Such events don’t really generate business,” he says. Jaikishan, Beri and Bajaj may have a point. Organised retailing comprises only 2 per cent of the total, and for all the FICCI’s drumbeating about cashing in on the “Rs 40,000-crore domestic retail market”, it cannot work unless an infrastructure is formed to track and develop business even after the muchhyped Weeks end.Many FDCI members are irked by the covertness that surrounds the board and its decisions, be it the secrecy about jury members or accounting transparency. Designers from Delhi are unhappy over the high expenses which include travel costs for staff and hotel bills despite the proferred discounts.Click here to EnlargeAn FDCI fellowship and an associate membership comes for a one-time fee of Rs 50,000 and Rs 30,000 respectively, while registered members have to pay a single fee of Rs 10,000. In addition, there is an annual charge of Rs 3,500 across all categories. The participating cost for LIFW is Rs 1 lakh for a solo show with a stall, Rs 50,000 if two designers jointly put up a show, with a stall each, Rs 33,333 in case of a trio.A 20 per cent discount is offered to designers who don’t want a stall. So, with additional costs, each designer ends up spending a minimum of Rs 2 lakh if he or she is in the Rs 33,333 category, and up to Rs 3 lakh or more if he or she is in the Rs 1 lakh show category. Designer Aparna Chandra is abstaining from LIFW this year because it is too expensive to attend. So is Manish Arora.advertisement”Where does the huge sponsorship money go?” ask the members. The FDCI says that there are many event expenses, including choreographers, sets, stalls and venue hiring but the show registration fee is sacrosanct and goes only into the FDCI corpus fund for activities like research.In an industry as insecure or perhaps more than the Indian film industry, and infinitely smaller, these answers need to be conveyed more effectively and openly to the members.If the FDCI has audited its accounts, as it maintains, they should be widely circulated, not just among the board members. Despite the fact that it is a young body, the FDCI could do with a bit more revamping and streamlining.The lesson: being transparent isn’t enough. The idea is to also appear transparent. Much like the fabric its members use. The floodlights can be harsh. – with Anshul Avijitlast_img