Earlier this week, director-choreographer Farah Khan said something that got social media muttering.
“Manish (Malhotra) ki party main Manish ne kapde diye the,” she told Bharti TV, explaining that one of the country’s top designers had loaned clothes to celebrity guests at his highly publicised Diwali house party. “Woh humne next day return kar diye (we returned them the day after)... It is almost like a fashion show with A-listers wearing his clothes... people are able to see his designs.”
While some were surprised to learn that celebrities often wear clothes loaned from designers to parties and red-carpet events, others raised concerns about whether designers go on to sell those garments as pre-worn or new?
Well, some keep these in their archives but many put garments worn—either for a night out or on the runway or red carpet—back in their stores and sell them as new. Designer Tarun Tahiliani, who keeps them in his archives, says there’s nothing wrong about putting them back in stores as long as you are transparent.
Indian fashion and Bollywood have long been dependent on each other to stay on top of the news. When a leading celebrity wears a garment created by a designer of note, the two don’t just gain each other’s social media followers but also showcase their position as “people who matter” in the glamour world. This grabs the attention of consumers who might turn into customers.
Designers across the world loan their clothes to popular people, including content creators, hoping it will get more eyeballs. “Dressing is part of the game because it helps in marketing,” says designer Rahul Mishra, who's dressed the likes of Gigi Hadid, Zendaya and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. “Of course, you want more people to see your work, otherwise how will you run the business? One bad season can kill a brand.”
Mishra, for instance, has over 1,000 pieces in his archive in the Noida, Uttar Pradesh, factory. “We keep pre-worn, loaned, borrowed—whatever you call them— clothes in the archives. In every collection, we make a maximum of three samples (each in a different size) for each garment that travel to the US, Europe or Asia, depending on the requirement. These ‘press clothes’ are used for the runway, magazine shoots, red carpet events. This is a standard practice among designers across the world.”
From Dior to Louis Vuitton, international designers dress celebrities and either gift the garment to the famous wearer or put it in their archives, says Tahiliani. “There are no clear-cut rules on the afterlife of worn clothes. It’s all dependent on the brand’s philosophy. Actually, anything and everything is fine if you inform the customer that the garment was worn before. In fact, there shouldn’t be any hesitation in claiming so, especially now when pre-loved fashion has become popular among consumers,” adds Tahiliani, who likes to keep names on the “clothes to be loaned” list to a minimum.
Emerging designers, however, say they can’t be choosy. They feel the pressure to dress as many celebrities as possible to grab the attention of a potential consumer who’s scrolling Instagram in the hope of buying what Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh or Kareena Kapoor Khan wore at the airport.
“What’s wrong is not telling the customer they are wearing clothes worn by someone before. How do you make a brand big? Bollywood. You can be selective when you have a choice,” says Amit Hansraj, who's been part of the fashion industry for over two decades, working as a merchandiser. He founded his own label Inca three years ago. “Celeb endorsements are honest and that’s why the biggest designers in the world continue to do it.”