Many International designers like Hermes, MacQueen, Dior and Armani took a cue from Indian textures and motifs for design inspiration in the past. However, the growing Indian fashion industry witnessed another big trend- the participation of foreign models on Indian runways.
The country's two prominent fashion weeks – Lakme Fashion Week (LFW) that takes place in Mumbai and India Fashion Week (IFW) organised by the country's apex fashion body, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), saw the participation of many models from the West in the past. The trend has, however, slowed according to many notable names in the Indian fashion industry.
"We work in two modules; for Couture week, a very much talked about event in the country, 90 per cent of the models are Indian, because of the clothes (the majority of them are lehengas, saris, and other traditional Indian garments) unless it is a gown-specific show which focuses on formal gowns.
However, in the prêt a porter (ready- to wear) module, in which we launched our all-inclusive approach last year, to include short, tall, thin, dark and fair models, we are getting people from the Indian industry and newcomers.
"However, there are some clothes which designers feel Western models can better demonstrate, and then it does not make a difference. We will still have a smattering of foreign faces, but a smaller percentage, while the Indian models will take centre stage. Actually, in the all-inclusive module, it doesn't matter where you are from, because it also means giving a chance and opportunity to people from outside the country. So, there is no hard and fast rule. It depends on attitude, walk, personality, these are the main criterion," Sunil Sethi, President of FDCI, told Sputnik.
He agrees that foreign models in India do cost less than established Indian models, but for him, the "cost difference is not the main thing".
Even Indian designer Samant Chauhan, who has clients that live in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and some European countries, also believes that "well-known Indian models are a little costly."
"Foreign models come at a lesser price compared to the established names here. Also, I think, the whole idea is to show new things to customers. The trend right now is to experiment, and one of them also includes introducing a lot of black models, so the whole idea of beauty is changing- I think inclusion is encouraging and welcoming," Chauhan told Sputnik.
According to an estimate, an established Indian model costs around Rs.1 lakh ($ 1,396.09) for one show, however, a new face from foreign shores can do the same work in between Rs.10,000-15,000 ( $ 140.02 to $ 210.02).
Model Sapna Kumar, who has been in the fashion industry for very long and has walked for the stalwarts in the Indian fashion business like Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Bal and many more, feels otherwise.
She says "there is no dominance of international models" but yes "If they are good it's only fair that they should get the job".
"Yes some jobs are taken over by international models, but I think there is enough work for Indian models as well. I don't think they are taking away our jobs. If anything, it makes for healthy competition," she told Sputnik.
Another senior model Lakshmi Rana, a mother of one, but still giving a tough fight to all the young guns in the fashion business, corrects her by saying that if "we talk about major fashion weeks like LFW, India Fashion Week, Blenders Pride Fashion Tour or major designers' solo shows, there are hardly any international models walking."
"There would be about two or maximum three, in the line of 36 models," she told Sputnik.
However, for her, "the influx of foreign models is not on the Indian runway, but in the Indian commercial print arena where a company like Amazon, Myntra or various people who do frequent shoots- these girls are working there, and the reason is they are good models with economical price brackets".
"Their per-day rate is extremely low, and hence it is a very viable business option for people to take them. The other reason is such options work well for those who sell in bulk, for instance, some lehenga shop in Karol Bagh (Delhi's famous market) or designers who are looking to sell their clothes without wanting to spend too much on their campaigns; there are a lot of foreign models in that department.
"They are taking up a lot of the market in commercial print modelling at an amount which an Indian girl won't take. They get very good models at that price," Rana told Sputnik.
Rana also says that an Indian face can best show an "Indian Lehanga Choli, but there is some kind of fair skin-fixation that Indians have had since the Britishers left India. So, to overcome that, it will take time, but I see a lot of has already been achieved."
Nikita Sahay, another Indian model who is now a model with Paris-based Martine's Women Agency, feels that the trend of international models on the Indian runway is a phase and it will pass.
"These models don't stay here permanently. They come and go, and no one remembers them because of that. They generally come from economically backward families, so that results in them charging lower fees as compared to the Indian models, and are also always accommodating for fear of losing out on work.
"The Indian models have homes here, and so they are not really scared of losing out on work. The focus is more on excelling in the field. And when you want to excel in your field, you say no to a lot of worthless jobs and set a standard. This does not go down well with the fashion industry. Hence, it is a conscious choice by them, to use more foreign models.
"The industry tries to justify this by saying that we Indians love white skin. But that's force-fed information created by the media. The reality is everyone wants to work with good Indian faces, but they don't want to shell out the money that the talent deserves. And so the good Indian models are becoming a concept of the past," she told Sputnik.
She also feels that more than taking away the jobs of Indian models, she looks at it "as a very low and deteriorating phase of the fashion industry".
"Year after year, the quality of models and fashion weeks are losing their charm. I feel that the industry is on edge right now and rather than being a hub of real fashion people, it's becoming more of a wholesale market. It's not a high-quality fashion industry anymore," said Sahay.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.