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Haute Web Sites

April 25, 2003 15:58 IST

Why are fashion designers in India moving out of their stores and on to the Internet?

Hollywood. Bollywood. Music. Arts. Jokes. Everything and everyone's online. Including, now, your favourite fashion designer.

This influx of designers' Web sites began a couple of years ago, when the Internet was still in its nascent stage in India. Among the first to catch the cyber bug was Arjun Khanna, whose Web site was launched almost four years ago. "I have always been fascinated with the Internet", says the designer. Anita Dongre, prêt and couture designer, went online three years ago, while others like Krishna Mehta and Payal Singhal did the same about a year ago.

Which raises a question. If their designs are doing well enough in stores, why do these designers need a presence online? "The Web site helps create an awareness of the designer," says Manuja, Marketing Executive for AND Designs
. Rekha Singhal, Director, LF Couture Ltd, designer Payal Singhal's company, adds,  "The aim is to educate not just business clients about the designer, but NRIs and the Internet savvy segment too."

Neelam, assistant to designer Krishna Mehta
, believes that people should know the work of the designer. "Besides," she adds, "it isn't possible to send catalogues to every prospective client, especially those overseas." Arjun Khanna agrees. "The idea was to put up a portfolio of my work that could be accessed anywhere, anytime."

Every designer's Web site has a profile of the designer along with a fair representation of his or her portfolio. The latter is usually classified into categories like menswear, womenswear or accessories, to facilitate easier browsing. Some designers, like Arjun Khanna, prefer to showcase a significant part of their collection online. In other cases, the displayed designs are usually decided by selecting the most popular creations.

Despite the low PC penetration and lack of Internet awareness in India, the response so far has been good. "Initially, we didn't get a good response. But we soon began getting so many hits and online inquiries that we needed to buy more Web space", says Rekha Singhal. According to Manuja, "It is not completely true that very few people are aware about the Internet. Everyone is becoming more savvy, including senior citizens and housewives." On a more positive note, Arjun Khanna says, "I don't think the number of PC or MAC users is low in India anymore. I faced a number of problems as the site has been totally designed by me, but a good team of people helped interpret what I wanted into HTML."

Creating a Web site is not a one-time process. "It is regularly updated," says Manuja. Singhal adds, "We frequently make a mention of new clothes and the latest shows or events." Some sites offer a lot more., for example, lets users order online. Though this isn't the same as shopping online, Rekha Singhal is satisfied. "We will consider enhancing the site if we get good suggestions," she says. Manuja adds, "Since the idea is to create increased awareness about the designer, we are constantly working towards improvement." Arjun Khanna has some plans too. "I hope to start selling online, but I need a good e-commerce company to handle this for me."

For the lovers of chic, this can only be good news.
Rohini Kapur