Friday 23, Oct 2020, Delhi (India)
"A tourist sees what he has come to see"- G.K Chesterton Tourism to promote indigenous culture, sustainable fashion and hand manufacturing is not a new concept, Vietnam has been leveraging on craft villages for years now, and it has proven to be a big hit to attract tourists to that country. India is a country of diverse cultures, indigenous fashion, crafts, and artisans. A unique Eastern world country such as India has many gems to recover gradually from losses. As each dig opens a new avenue to recover, so can the fashion and textile industries prove to contribute to this model. While many buyers have now started to explore other countries for supplies in fashion, they are reconsidering India and are looking out for human resources here to overlook their model and supply chains. But as the tour and travel industry is witnessing a major downfall due to the current COVID 19 situation, innovative ways to showcase the Indian fashion and textile industry can be focused upon at present.
Tourists who come to explore the indigenous fashion of India such as Benaras weavers, embroidery artisans, Bhagalpuri Silk weavers, block print, and batik artisans, Kanjiveram weavers, etc, can access fashion tourism exploration packages and plan their trip to India accordingly. Many might come and explore out of curiosity while others come to learn fashion and its roots. The reason for fashion tourism doesn't end here, business houses and fashion exporters, buying houses, etc who are looking to get orders manufactured may also be interested in fashion tourism if it attaches with it meetings with verified manufacturers, suppliers, and procurers.
India exported USD 54 billion worth textiles and apparels in the FY 2018-2019 and it was expected that it would increase to USD 82 billion by 2021. however, in lieu of the pandemic situation, the exports are definite to see a drop. Contributing to the country's 15% of export earnings, the Indian textile and fashion market can recover and widen their options through fashion tourism. India can prove to be a hotspot for fashion tourism as:
As the count of millennials is increasing, the perspective towards lifestyle is also changing. The millennial focus on experience, trust, and creation hence with a high disposable income and an urge to travel, explore, and have something of their own have been benefiting the tourism industry of India. This industry has become an integral part of the economy, it has been so flourishing that pre-COVID 19, according to IBEF, it was expected that the tourism industry by 2029 will reach USD 488 billion. Policy support of 2019-2020 drafted to develop 17 tourist sites into world-class destinations.
Apart from the above government campaigns such as Swadesh Darshan and the iconic Incredible India campaign were adding authenticity and value to the tourism industry's promotion. With time the Indian Tourism Industry has developed many branches focusing on specific areas/ services for tourists like Medical Tourism, Religious Tourism, Sports and Adventure Tourism etc. As the current situation has altered the focus of many from other countries as apparel and cloth manufacturers and procurers to India, it might be a great time to introduce fashion tourism to the list and have many sectors benefit from it:
Design is a booming sector in education in India, with a rise of approximately 70% in design schools since 2010, the education sector is sure to benefit from fashion tourism. whether it be about giving a firsthand experience to students or about harnessing their skills and taking them back to sustainable fashion to promote green fashion, fashion tourism in India can be a flourishing concept for the ones learning fashion across the world. Exchange programs during fashion weeks, a tour of how designers use sustainable methods to create collections, fashion weeks and show internships during travel, exploring nearby states to understand their clothing, hand creations and artistry skills, sustainable fashion and the reason for its longevity and many such concepts can be inculcated and integrated into courses through practical knowledge and fashion tourism.
The two most prestigious and recognized fashion events that take place in India are FDCI's LMIFW and Lakme Fashion Week. Both showcase the S/S and A/W collections of the Indian fashion designers. Sustainable fashion and indigenous fashion of India are well represented during these shows. Apart from this, trade shows such as India International Garment Fair, Garment Show of India, Garment Technology Expo, Gartex, India International Trade Fair are also organized throughout the year for the promotion of manufacturers and exporters of India. Through fashion tourism, all of these can be scheduled around each other giving a wider audience reach to events and trade shows, at the same time benefiting the fashion tourists to explore various options available in India in fashion.
The widespread disease COVID 19 has been bringing about changes in the economy of many strong countries. Fashion centers like Milan and London have had a major set back due to COVID 19 and it's after effects, In such a scenario a new fashion capital 'Tokyo' might emerge in the world. An eastern fashion capital can change the sensibilities and dynamics of the fashion industry. India is known for quality while China dumps quantity, European countries already have set bases in China, India, and Bangladesh, there might be a change in the outlook of fashion and quality will be given more preference, this opens a greater opportunity for Indian manufacturers and exporters.
Fashion tourism can organize meets and conferences involving buyers from various countries and manufacturers and exporters from India, keeping an open bid for orders and tours of factories involving buying house agents in between. This will make many businesses and capitalists interested to visit India and explore the fashion manufacturing processes here to finally place orders.
'All work no play makes Jack a dull boy' a famous phrase being read and used across the globe. India is rich in culture and heritage. A mile's walk and one might see the same saree being draped differently and the same language is spoken in a different dialect. Such is the vastness and diversity of this country. While most of the shows are organized during favorable seasons in the Fashion capital and industrial capital of India - Delhi, and Mumbai, exploring nearby states for fun and cultural experience will become a mandate in the tight and heavy schedule.
This might be a great concept on paper but to implement it practically would require overcoming many difficulties.
Most of the artisans and weavers work in interiors and rural areas, connecting and making to and fro trips from those areas might be a task. Hence, clusters that exist in comparatively easier accessible areas would have to be targeted first.
Many consider India as an unsafe and uncertain place to travel and this might be a reason for many to not explore India physically instead vouch for a virtual tour of the same.
The shows and events are organized by independent and private organizations, convincing them to organize it around each other for a larger and global footfall might be a time-taking and difficult task.
The scare of COVID 19 might not allow people to become mentally prepared to travel cross countries for a long time, hence even if implemented and initiated at present this form of tourism will reap benefits much later.
At present, the only solution to the fearful traveling and lockdown situation can be virtual fashion tours. As entrepreneurs are waiting for the lockdown to lift so they can start their work again, giving them a virtual tour of what is made where and how can be a great way to register the scope of fashion in India. People are exploring through online mediums to find alternatives to materials that they would buy and procure from China, a skype call or exchange of real-time videos along with area wise expertise might entice them to explore India keeping in mind the fashion aspect. Utilizing this time to connect with potential buyers through the internet and leaving profiles and presentations can open newer options for many of the fashion fraternity ultimately paving a way for fashion tourism.
Fashion tourism in India can save the dying art of sustainable and handmade fashion. While the west and other eastern countries explore the indigenous fashion of India, export houses and manufacturing processes, the scope for branching out fashion as a separate segment in tourism can be beneficial. With countries eyeing at India for procurement and garment manufacturing the slowing down economy might flourish and events, shows, and trade show being organized near to each other might bring a larger footfall of global audience. Education in fashion can benefit the most as exchange programs and within-country travel will provide students with practical experiences and an opportunity to explore the roots of fashion in India at the same time understanding the relevance of indigenous and sustainable fashion. A concept that has not been put into practical formation might attract many questions! Please feel free to add anything or further raise questions about it.