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1 - 15 April 2005  
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Home - Apparel Biz - Article

How important are design studios in garment export houses?

Every buying house in the west has a well-equipped design studio. But not many Indian textile and clothing exporters have invested in design studios. Reena Mital and Sapna Dogra find out if design studios are really important for the Indian industry.

Many in the industry believe that the Indian textile and clothing industry is only a jobworking hub for the international buyers, and so design capability is not really important. However, this outlook is undergoing a fast change in a severely competitive global market, and the industry is realising the importance of showcasing design capability, to secure high value orders.

Speaking to Express Textile, Mr Vijay Aggarwal, Creative Garments, said, “It is important to show the international buyers that we have not just the design capability, but are well equipped to develop samples, and fulfill orders as per their requirements. And for all this, a design studio manned by skilled and professionally trained designers, and equipped with IT applications is important. Fortunately, the industry has begun realising this, and a number of exporters have set up very good design studios.”

Says Mr Krishnakumar, CEO, Texport International, “It is very imperative that exporters have their design studios, where they can be innovative with designs. I don’t think we will ever reach a stage where our designs would be accepted completely by the westerners, as all fashion and developments happen there. However, exporters can at least show how innovative they can be with existing designs, how they can modify designs, add their signature to the designs, etc. Unfortunately, most of the times, we only end up copying designs completely. There is a change happening in the industry, but I believe that for another 6-7 years at least, things may continue to remain the same.”

According to him, another reason why exporters are unable to enter into this segment is because of the very rigid attitudes of the designers. “Designers refuse to blend with the requirements of the buyers and exporters. Where is the point in creating 500 designs, none of which would be accepted by the buyers. They do not want to understand the buyers’ vision.”

There are two types of design studios - the hardcore design studios that are attached to big houses like Benetton, Colourplus, Orient Craft, and those that work independently and companies get their work outsourced from them.

Says Mr Rahul Mehta, director, Creative Impex, “This could well be the future for our exporters. Design studios could become the main line of business for some exporters. The concept here is to lend the design studio facilities to the international designers, who could come down here to develop the design trends, etc, using the skills of the Indian designers. This way, design development becomes cost effective for the international buyers and brands, and the Indian exporters and designers also get exposure to international methods of styling, trend forecasting, etc. My company in Delhi is already doing something on this line.” It is learnt that Orient Craft and Gokuldas have also begun working on similar lines.

Ram International is also thinking of setting up a design studio. Says Ms Kavita Goyal of Ram International, “Today, we end up showing the same designs to our various customers. With a design studio, we can change the designs as per the needs of our customers. We will not have to share the designs with different buyers, and this way we will not have to reveal all our designs to all our buyers. Buyers too are looking for exclusivity. We hope to have this in place within the next six months.”

According to Ms Sandhya Raman, director apparels, Desmania Pvt Ltd, a design studio in New Delhi, “In today’s scenario design studios are a must for exporters because these are cost effective, innovative and huge time savers. Having an in-house design department is cumbersome and after a while the designs become repetitive and dreary. Design studios work with a number of companies, and offer design expertise to a company for a particular season, for a particular product. They are more creative because they are not bound by any limitation but do allied things. Companies can outsource the designs to design studios who know trends and can come up with alternative collections. It is convenient and hassle free.”

Desmania recently did a semi-formal and formal collection for the teen group for Weldon International for the European market. “It is very important to follow the ethics and keep designs confidential,” maintains Ms Sandhya.

According to Ms Preeti Khanna, designer with Modelama Exports, a leading export house that has its own design studio, “Design studios are very important today when we have to operate in one big global market. They breed creativity because the designers working here are well aware of the international trends, happenings and fashion and they give different treatment to the fabric so that buyers have a wide choice. They work on moodboards and keep themselves updated which is very important in today’s fiercely competitive market.” For instance, we should know what designs are in vogue by Versace or GAP, which will make our buyers confident in our capability, adds Ms Khanna.

Even as some exporters are seriously looking at setting up design studios, getting professionally trained manpower is a bit of a problem. Says Ms Goyal, “We need designers who will understand international trends, quality parameters, and who will design clothes that can be viably produced, are cost effective, and lend themselves to bulk production.” According to her, international buyers pick up concepts from all over the world, and especially Europe, modify the same, and market them. “Indian exporters can do the same,” she believes.

Says Mr Mehta, “Exporters should understand that we cannot compete with China in bulk production. So, we need to side-step China, by moving into value-additions, and designer products.”

However, he too points out the paucity of designers suited to the needs of export houses. “We have a strong fashion technology and design education base in the country, but unfortunately the various institutes churn out independent designers, who operate at boutique levels. There is a scarcity of designers who can operate successfully at export houses, and add the much-needed value to our textile and clothing exports.”


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