Poverty sparks debate in fashion world

New Delhi: After a Banglaore-based designer came under criticism for her recent spring fashion photo-shoot, showcasing a in a rural setting, those in the fashion world say designers should desist from showcasing poverty as a theme even as they exercise artistic freedom.

Deepika Govind had shot a wearing her new fashion line – a blue outfit- with two villagers squatting beside her in a rural backdrop. The designer, says in her over 15 year-long career in fashion industry she has been recognised for innovations in fabric and style using local traditions and her intention was not to portray poverty through the shoot.

"The very collection from which this visual is taken from is an ode to the weavers of the town of Ilkal in Karnataka, which continues to uphold and make alive a 1400-year-old craft. It uses traditional fabric from this very town in contemporary silhouettes and thus generates livelihoods for the said weavers of this town and many other such towns," says a spokesperson of Deepika.

While the vibrant colours and rich heritage of the country are often sources of inspiration for fashion houses and designers globally, several of them who have received flak in the past for juxtaposing poverty and fashion.

An Indian edition of an international fashion magazine had some time ago stirred up a debate when it showed villagers ling for a luxury house wearing its high-end clothes and accessories. Previously, a print advertisement displaying a pretty sitting among luggage and railway porters was at the receiving end globally for being in poor taste.

Abhisekh Dutta, a fellow fashion designer points out, "We have beautiful heritage sites, architecture and vintage buildings which could have been the backfor the shoot. Rural backdoes bring about a nostalgic feeling but it should not portray poverty per se. Indian graffiti is another trend that is in right now, and Bollywood designer Manish Malhotra had extensively used Indian street graffiti to shoot his line of apparel some time ago," says Dutta.

Poonam Bhagat, another designer has a different take on the subject, "This photo shoot is a paradox, it neither portrays poverty nor that of Indian culture or heritage. She is just trying to bring about an element of surprise in the shoot. She is just showcasing a contrast. A lot of international magazine do such shoots to bring about a contrast."

Deepika says she "does not want to belittle or put down any human being in any way" and "merely wanted to portray an artistic shot of India both traditional and contemporary. The shoot is not about poverty-stricken India. Instead, the motive was to try and connect with India`s young to show them the journey from the loom to the garment. All I wanted to do was to give textiles a contemporary spin and bring it on a larger platform," says the designer.

Agnimitra Paul, Deepika`s contemporary from the glamour world shares her point of view.  "Rural India is a fascinating part of the Indian culture true which intrigues people all across the world. Maybe the theme of her line up was based on rural India and its tradition so she may have portrayed just rural India, which many of us often do."

Even as domestic fashion business is expected to become Rs 750-crore industry this year, given the increased demand for designer clothes with investments being planned by companies, fashion designers to be a part of such a growing industry depend entirely on weavers who come from rural areas.

"Our weavers are our strength. If you asked me to do embroidery of a full length lehanga all by myself I would die. But these weavers do it for us. It is they who make our clothes and designs look beautiful. In fact if I was in place of Deepika I would dress these rural villagers in my `chic` clothes and do a photo shoot," Rakesh Agarwal a noted designer who was tasked with draping the contestants of Femina Miss India told PTI.

Meanwhile, Deepika says she plans to shoot inside a weaver`s house to depict the journey of a garment from the loom to the catwalk.