Fashion shows and its impact on consumers

For most of us living in Bangladesh, the idea that fashion and consumerism can fit into one topic may seem a little ludicrous. When we speak of fashion we usually think of a fun and frivolous world of beautiful people in exotic, often un-wearable, clothes and that's all. We view the world of fashion as entertainment. And you can take my word for it the fashion editor of most magazines is generally looked down upon by the rest of the editorial staff who pride themselves in their knowledge of more intellectual and profound subjects.

How then can I blend the supposed triviality of fashion with the gravity of consumerism?

And herein lies the root of the misconception about fashion shows in Bangladesh. Allow me to offer a simple definition of fashion shows in the global context. A fashion show is a presentation of designs. The designer creates a collection of styles that he/she envisions for the coming season and shows these outfits to an audience comprised mainly of buyers and fashion aficionados. And, presto! You have consumers seriously making notes of orders to place with their choice of designs. Fashion, then, is the compelling force that drives a thriving industry complete with creativity, consumerism and commerce.

In the local scene, we have fashion shows often followed by dinner and dance or a concert and we are “entertained” by the models parading on the runway. Very few of us even remember to notice the designs, which should really be the focus of a fashion show. In this context there is hardly a significant impact on consumers.

While we remain content with being entertained by fashion, India has already capitalised on this potentially powerful force. The Indian market, recognising the potential of fashion as a profitable trade, lost very little time in organising it into a commercial industry through which the country launched itself full tilt into the international market. Sri Lanka and Pakistan are doing much the same. We are being left behind.

But exactly how much interest do we have for the development of fashion?

So far I've come across two groups of people who are now working in the media - those, trying to make a quick buck and those who are capable, but not willing to teach what they know or share their own learning experiences.

With these tendencies dominant in the fashion scene, it's no wonder that we have not made any headway at all in the last 25 years or so.

Of course, if we have such a desire, a positive change in the scene should not be very hard to achieve. With a bit of organisation and coordination among ourselves, we can quite easily use the momentum from the recent interest in fashion and use it to develop the fashion industry. Why go on viewing fashion as only an accessory to our lifestyle when we can utilise its force to our own advantage? Why don't we use our local skills and experiences to create a platform for ourselves in the global market? And I don't mean to keep repeating myself, but once again, we could just look at how successfully Indian styles have blended and, in fact, enriched western fashion over the last decade. Gwen Stefani is just one example.

We could use the compelling force of fashion to drive a thriving industry of creativity, consumerism and commerce.

It's high time that fashion shows were held for people seriously interested in fashion and to showcase the work of designers rather than be just another form of entertainment.

Modelling- an insider's view

In February, towards the end of the metallic glam rock decade, I was half past 12 years of age and measured 5 feet 6 inches in height. For the fledgling fashion show scene of Dhaka, my height alone qualified me as a ramp model. And there was the designer, the first person to ever envision my gangly adolescent self as a model, literally pushing me onto the stage, where, under the harsh, unfriendly lights of the then not very professional standard, I was first overcome, and then mesmerised by the world of fashion.

Close to twenty years have passed since that fateful evening. Quite naturally, I learned quite a few tricks of the trade during the last two decades. And while I've marvelled at the leaps and dives the modelling industry has taken over this period, it was not till I sat down to write a thousand word piece on modelling as a profession, that I realised the full significance of my cumulative experiences.

I have seen a few generations of models enter and then leave the ramp scene, some stepping into the more attractive and definitely more lucrative fields of TV commercials and serials, others simply enjoying their moment in the sun and departing for more “serious” occupations or domesticity.

Modelling in Dhaka was not then and sadly is still not an occupation one can take as a full time profession. This is a fact that's very hard for me to admit but it is the cold truth.

Yes, things are looking up and yes, there has been a sudden and substantial growth in the fashion industry recently. But it won't do to dream of modelling as a career at least, not just yet.

But why such pessimism?

First of all there is no organised interest in fashion and modelling. As long as modelling remains purely a form of entertainment, the fashion industry will remain as it is - either a glamorous hobby for a specific group of people, or a short term business scheme for a different group of people. There can be no growth or development. There has, as yet, been no formal attempt, whether from the media or the government or industrialists even, to develop this field. So, naturally, fashion and modelling just flows aimlessly, with designers, models, choreographers, co-ordinators, trainers, all drifting in and eventually moving out on to some other, more “practical” occupation.

Yet strangely, the general interest in fashion and modelling keeps growing. More and more people are choosing fashion design as their profession and lots of young men and women are nowadays actively trying to become ramp models. Everyone is talking about a “boom” in the glamour industry, and wondering whether this is just a phase or something that is here to stay.

What we need now, is to take this to the next level-a unified structure for designers and models and organisers of fashion events. We must have formal guidelines that specify the characteristics a person must have to qualify in this industry, starting from an established range of height and weight acceptable for models, to rules for fashion designers to follow. Once there are specific standards to follow everything else related to the field will automatically come together and then we can all reap the benefits of our hard work in this still thankless medium.

We need modelling agencies, model training workshops, and a whole lot of organised support from the media.

Currently, a person wishing to become a model, goes to a popular photographer, takes some pictures, establishes a couple of contacts not all of them so reliable and runs from one advertising agency to another or from one designer to another hoping to land an assignment that may get himself/herself noticed by the movers and shakers of this industry. Not too many of these hopefuls get lucky.

An agent would ensure that the models are trained and groomed and then would go out to do the running around for the models thus justifying the agency commission once the model gets an assignment. The media should offer the kind of support they've given to our advertising agencies over the last 20 years or so and we could have ourselves a strong fashion scene just like in so many other developing countries.

I'm not sure how long it will take for our industry experts to take advantage of this wonderful force, but I hope I won't have to keep waiting too much longer. It's already been about 2 decades, and I think I'll hold on for a few more years. You see, this field is my addiction. I don't know when walking the ramp, showcasing designer wear grew from a fun and glamorous hobby to the devouring passion it is for me today, whether I am walking the ramp or standing behind the stage, nervously biting my nails. And, I have been searching through the years for one other who can sustain the pressures of this field professionally enough to slowly and steadily carve out a career path in fashion. I still haven't found that person, but as I write this I wonder if maybe you who are reading, could be the next one.

By Kawshiki Nasser
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

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