By Zainab Koli

The culturally rich Indian cities of Mumbai and New Delhi have emerged as global fashion capitals and the world is taking notice. Paris, New York, London, and Milan are no longer the only only cities in the limelight of international fashion.

In an exhibition on The Global Fashion Capitals at The Museum at FIT, held earlier this month from November 2 to November 14, New Delhi and Mumbai were featured alongside the rest of the 16 new fashion cities identified by Ariele Elia, assistant curator of costume and textiles, and Elizabeth Way, curatorial assistant at The Museum. These cities were recognized for their “cultural identity and particular economic, political, and social circumstances” that “combine to elevate its designers to international attention,” according to the press release for the exhibition.

The past three decades have seen the growth of a fashion scene in the two Indian cities. Beginning in 1986, the establishment of New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology helped drive the city’s transformation from a manufacturing and exporting center to a center for creativity and design. Designers made use of the richness of Indian textiles, intricate embroidery, and lavish embellishments, forming a fashion identity for the country with the foundation of the Fashion Design Council of India in 1998. The young fashion city of New Delhi had its first India Fashion Week in 2000 and has, ever since, featured traditional styles and established designers. In such a large country, the nation couldn’t be satisfied with just one city attracting all the attention, so in 2006, Mumbai had its own rival fashion week, known for showcasing more modern fashion and emerging talent.

The Indian designers featured in the exhibition were some of the best! Manish Arora’s Spring 2006 design, consisting of a colorful skirt and top printed with covers of the Bollywood cinema magazine Cine Blitz, perfectly captured his eccentric use of color and theatricality. He has attracted international acclaim, showing first in New Delhi, then Hong Kong, London, and more recently in Paris.

Mumbai-based designer Rahul Mishra’s gray silk tunic and pants from his Spring 2016 Ferryman’s Tale collection brought attention to his high quality craftsmanship seen in the hand embroidered French knots on the tunic which depict a Japanese landscape filled with cherry blossoms. His designs beautifully combine modern elegance and sportiness. Just last year in 2014, Mishra became the first Indian designer to be awarded the the International Woolmark Prize.

Wendell Rodricks, based in the western Indian region of Goa is tied to both the fashion cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. His Spring 2015 design of a nylon net and satin red dress displayed his use of color and simple cuts, combined with an ancient Indian geometry. Rodricks has been a major contributor to the Indian fashion scene, helping to start Lakmé Fashion Week in Mumbai, and sitting on the board of the Fashion Design Council of India. He has been just as visible in global fashion, as the first Indian designer to be invited to IGEDO, the world’s largest garment fair, and the first Indian designer to open Dubai Fashion Week.

Gaining recognition as a global fashion capital is a great achievement for the Indian fashion scene. But will the increased talent and creativity emerging from Mumbai and New Delhi one day allow them to compete with the well established cities of Paris, New York, London and Milan? Only time will tell.

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