Since it is fashion week time, fashion is on my mind. I was wondering women love fashion, so why aren’t there more female designers? I peeped back into history to see if fashion was ever a woman’s domain. Yes, in early 20th century, women designers like Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Jeanne Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli ruled the Paris fashion scene. But their reign ended with the end of World War II. Men like Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and Cristobal Balenciaga took over. In India, it has always been men’s domain, right from the likes of Rohit Khosla, Rohit Bal, Abraham & Thakore and Shahab Durazi. Ritu Kumar was the odd woman out then.
In 1990s, the creative directors of fashion houses were nearly all men. We had Michael Kors at Celine and Tom Ford at Gucci who are now succeeded by women—Ivana Omazic and Frida Giannini respectively. At home front too, we have many new talents like Rimzim Dadu, Nikasha Tawadey, Aneeth Arora, Asmita Marwah and Masaba Gupta. The established names like Ritu Kumar, Anamika Khanna, Rina Dhaka, Ranna Gill, Nandita Basu, Namrata Joshipura, Malini Ramani, Sanchita Ajjampur and Ashima-Leena have made their mark. Probably it has got something to do with women breaking the glass ceiling. We have a woman President, a woman Speaker and a woman as the leader of the ruling party.
When I shared my views with some women designers, they said: “Women make realistic clothes while men design conceptual clothes.” Donatella Versace said something similar—“In fashion, women are instinctively in tune with the female customer.” Could it be that women are actually better at designing clothes for women? And since the fashion world is becoming less focused on couture, women who design with ‘practical’ aspects in mind are more successful. But then couture is art, for which men are celebrated! In the billion-dollar global fashion industry, women have yet to ‘evolve’ enough to dominate. Till then even in India, a bride will die for a Tahiliani, Bal, Valaya or a Sabyasachi lehenga; a fashionista will vie for Manish Arora’s funky pieces; an actress will walk the red carpet in Durazi and Raakesh Aggarwal’s gowns; a socialite will party in Rohit-Rahul’s sexy cocktail numbers; and elegant ladies will wrap themselves in Suneet Varma and Abu-Sandeep’s gorgeous saris. Wonder when women will break this glass ceiling!