Individuals with an eye for talent, commercial acumen, and risk-taking ability have emerged within the fashion industry which has high potential for growth in the new quotas-free textiles global market
With Indian textiles and designs beginning to make an impact in the fashion capitals of the world and a steady stream of fashion designers pouring out of vocational institutes such as National Institute of Design (NID) and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), a new genre of business-minded professionals — fashion entrepreneurs — with a keen eye for talent, commercial acumen, and risk-taking ability have emerged within the fashion industry which has high potential for growth in the new quotas-free textiles global market.
Fashion entrepreneurship is essentially about starting new fashion and textile ventures — boutiques, labels, production houses or even multi-brand retail outlets. Fashion entrepreneurs dont necessarily design garments. They could stock other designers labels, but their distinguishing characteristic is their flair for design and fashion and considerable experience of its ancillary industries.
To start off as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry — design, brand creation, or retailing — a degree or diploma in fashion technology while not mandatory is helpful, as it equips aspiring entrepreneurs with appreciation of style, cutting and manufacturing technology, fashion coordination, merchandising, fabrics, forecasting, and marketing.
The premier institute for professional training in the fast-track fashion and related industries is the NIFT in Delhi. An autonomous organisation promoted by the Union ministry of textiles, with affiliated institutes in the major metros, NIFT offers a three-year full-time diploma course in fashion technology. Other reputable institutes offering similar study programmes are:
SNDT Womens University, Mumbai
Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai
Sophia College Polytechnic, Mumbai
International Polytechnic, New Delhi
South Polytechnic for Women, New Delhi
Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi
Bangalore Institute of Fashion Technology
Minimum eligibility for the study programmes of these institutes is Plus Two or equivalent.
After completing a general diploma course in fashion technology, students have the option of enrolling for a fourth year of training in a specialised area, which is followed by internship with a local fashion house. Depending on the specialisation, a student could intern in designing, merchandising, coordination, sampling etc.
Armed with an enabling diploma, the best option is to work in a small firm where one can acquire multi-department experience. A few years down, a switch to a larger organisation offering a higher designation and remuneration would equip you to start your own venture for which a minimum work experience of five years is advisable.
Several entrepreneurial firms like Ensemble, Ritus, Be, Melange, Satya Paul et al have established a strong countrywide presence. In addition, a number of international fashion firms are also streaming into India. Among them, Aftershock, a UK-based womens smart wear brand started in London in 1992 by the husband-wife team of Hiro and Radhika Harjani, originally from Mumbai. Currently, Aftershock owns 42 stores worldwide with an annual sales turnover of $50 million (Rs.225 crore). In November 2004 Aftershock inaugurated its first retail store in Mumbai. In September 2005, it opened a second retail outlet in Bangalore and then another one in New Delhi. Claiming their couture clothing is affordable glamour”, Aftershock caters to the 18–45 age group.
I believe fashion is an industry beyond mere commerce as it involves quality, design, customisation, and clothing our clients with wearable and quality fashion to create loyal customers. Fashion entrepreneurship has grown as a vocation, but it requires informed risk-taking capability because of the huge outlays involved in design, production, brand building, and promotion,” says Samira Singh, former manager of Aftershock, Mumbai, who has been closely involved in the textile, fashion design and related businesses ever since she graduated in commerce from Mumbais Sydenham College in 1981.
While Hiro concentrates on purchasing properties in malls and prime locations and handles commercial aspects, Radhika with her team of designers procures garments and accessories from the Far East, Turkey etc. In India, we fine-tuned our operations to suit Indian preferences and styles because designs have to be wearable and affordable. Young entrepreneurs in this industry should keep this in the forefront of their minds,” says Singh, proposing that if you can sell, dress well and dress others as well, fashion entrepreneurship may be the vocation for you”.