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FASHION VALUE CHAIN

Who could have been better to talk  about  the  future  of fashion than the  lady  who  has  been  an Insider  of the Fashion industry for decades and knows this industry Inside Out. Our first Femina Miss  India:  Ms.  Meher  Castelino needs no introduction, her valuable fashion critiques and articles are always in demand. There surely will be a lot for you to take back from this interesting interview.

Being a fashion critique, which budding designer do you think is the most promising?

It is difficult to select a particular designer since there are several categories in fashion like casual, formal, bridal, men’s, women’s, sportswear, fusion. Each category has designers who are doing interesting work so I cannot pick the most promising.

What is your perspective on fashion being inclusive?

Decades ago there was a certain amount of inclusiveness in fashion when women bought clothes from the men’s wear departments, though it was not so much vice versa but some men did buy clothes from the women’s sections and even wore saris. Now with an emphasis on inclusive fashion, the business has expanded and designers are catering to all kinds of buyers in different shapes, sizes, colours, genders as well as age groups. There are no rules now as far as fashion is concerned, which is good for the business as well as the buyers

The rise of social media has given a platform for influencers/instagram models, what is the impact of Social Media and Influencer marketing on the Fashion industry?

For me social media is important, as I do a lot on shopping for everything on Instagram and Facebook, but as far as influencers/Instagram models are concerned I don’t pay attention to anything that they promote nor am I impressed by the millions of followers they have, since followers can be bought. I prefer to test the product myself when I order it and not depend on an individual’s endorsement since they are being paid to do it. Many of the influencers are affluent persons with deep pockets and want to get into the limelight fast, so they have a team of PR persons promoting them to the media as well as brands.

How is the adaptation of technology in terms of AI and Metaverse shaping the Fashion Industry?

AI and Metaverse has changed the way business of fashion is conducted. Now there are AI influencers created by animation experts and everything can be computer generated so there is at times no need for the models, photographers, makeup/hair stylists or designers. This in turn may affect the professions of many in the fashion and beauty business.

People today are experimenting and creating their own personal style and are not blindly following the trends. How is the business of fashion pursuing this consumer mind shift?

Experimenting with fashion and creating one’s style is not a new concept. Women and men have been doing it for decades. But what has changed is that designers are no longer dictating fashion any more. Now, it is the buyers who are guiding the designers. Decades ago the length of the hemline was important and if one did not follow the designers’ directions one was considered out of fashion. Now thankfully anything goes and people have learnt to dress according to their personality, though there are still some celebrities who follow trends blindly even though they are unsuitable for their personality or body type.

Gen Z is surfing on the internet and connecting to multiple fashion and beauty cultures around the globe, what is your take on this evolution?

It’s wonderful how the internet has opened the world to the young designers as well as the buyers. Everything is available with the click of the mouse or on the cell phone and this is allowing the Gen Z to be more inspired as well as push their creativity to the ultimate level. But there is also the danger of plagiarism that has surfaced many times, since a collection at a show is available within seconds on social media.

As we are witnessing an immense rise in the thrifting industry in India, what do you think about this sustainable practice?

Sustainable practices are now the norm in fashion along with recycling, upcycling and reinventing. But clothes need to be bought with care and should have many uses of mix and match. Reinventing, upcycling, recycling clothes is a great concept now followed by many designers, which will help in preventing wastage in fabrics and also help the environment as well as decrease the landfills that are chocking the earth.

Being a fashion insider for several years, what are your expectations from the young aspirants of the fashion industry?

I have been on the jury for several fashion institutes’ graduation shows in the past decades and even this year, and I have noticed a great energy and creativity in the clothes. But there has to be control over creativity since designs have to sell and are not meant for the museum, which young fashion designers need to remember. Also the craze to design for the Red Carpet or the Met Gala is the latest path that many fresh graduates are taking but these will not turn into sales. Earlier it was a desire to create for the movie stars, or item numbers in films. Now these foreign fashion galas have turned into dreams for young designers. A good, intelligent, new designer must combine innovative construction with creativity as well as wearability and ensure that it is value for money. Designers must also at this stage ensure that they are giving importance to Indian textiles and craft at all times, because India is the only country in the world that has these riches and they have to be promoted and used at every step. Only then can our textile industry survive and grow and success will follow for designers and the artisans.

Which trend have you been loving on the runway?

There are several looks that seem to appear every season. Some succeed and some die on the ramp. Clothes which are stylish, comfortable and elegant are my favorites.

With the influence of multiple cultures and the adaptation of technology, what do you think the future of the Indian Fashion Industry looks like?

The future of the Indian Fashion Industry looks bright with thousands of graduates coming out of thousands of fashion institutes in the country. The use of technology for the business of fashion with creativity as the key word, is important, otherwise the business will stagnate. Fashion institutes and the faculty need to move with the times also and besides being tech savvy, they need to keep a firm grip on the marketing and sales of the clothes, which the students need to know about, since just designing a great garment is not enough. One has to sell it at the right price to the right customer profile, which is also important.

– Meher Castelino