The summer of 2022 will probably be known as the time of peak revenge travel. Soaring ticket prices be damned. Go to airports and you can witness how the staff is unable to cope with the traffic they are getting.
Travel and fashion have always had a special relationship, so much so that there is even a season dedicated to it—Cruise—with most luxury fashion houses having just finished holding their shows at some luxe resort destination. For many, travel is about adventure, escaping and joy—and fashion can, in many ways, bring the same emotions into our lives. Traditionally, at least for those who’ve lived in India, shopping was also a big part of travel. We travelled to shop.
Also read: Where is India's fashion archive?
Things have changed, with most major brands now present in the country. Walk down London’s coolest high street or Paris’ uber-chic shopping avenues and you find most of the same stores you can find in Delhi or Mumbai’s swankier malls.
There is, however, another good reason you do not need to shop for your holiday, especially when it comes to summer or monsoon travel. Our homegrown brands have really stepped up their game, something we all most probably realised in the past two years of on-and-off lockdowns.
As we began to appreciate all things available at our own doorstep, “vocal for local” became fashion’s new catchphrase, and how better to do that than wearing your India-proud garments and accessories while travelling?
It is a mantra I have always followed. I find that when I walk down London’s Westbourne Grove in my white chikan-embroidered biker jacket, or New York’s Soho in a mirror-work tunic top, or a hand-embroidered robe at a beach in Ibiza, I always get compliments on how original and beautiful the pieces are. All are investment buys, but they are so beautiful you want to repeat them on every trip, whether India or abroad. (Plus, have you seen the prices of cover-ups and kaftans from brands like Etro and Missoni?)
The good news is that it’s a dress code others seem to be following now too.
Says designer Dhruv Kapoor (who was just in Milan to present his collection at Men’s Fashion Week): “I am noticing a huge shift in people’s buying patterns. As travel bans were lifted, we noticed an increased number of direct appointments at our studio, and most of them were travel centric. I feel this started to grow during the pandemic, when all eyes were focused within domestic borders. Some clients are booking appointments to cover all their travel needs.”
With the pandemic making us take a more comfort-driven approach to dressing, resort-style clothes are no longer just about what we wear during a holiday. They have become about what we wear every day. The kaftan and the co-ord, for instance, are now part of our daily fashion vocabulary and also a de rigueur part of most contemporary Indian designers’ collections.
“We had to rework our supply chain to match the increasing demand for the product, especially for these travel months which were originally dead months both at our studio and multi-brand boutiques, and are now the best performing months,” Kapoor says.
What’s more, there has been a move towards fashion becoming more appreciative of other cultures, especially those of South Asia. With international designers now openly talking about their Indian inspirations, there has never been a better time to be “vocal for local” when you go globetrotting.
Where the gap lies
Of course, this does not mean you should not shop when you travel. It is, after all, part of the experience. It just means there is no longer an urgency to pick the first thing you see, and perhaps because of this you can be more conscious and discerning when you make your buying choices.
Buy what you know you really need and will use.
Fashion designer and style curator Amrita Thakur notes, “Travel is definitely the best time to shop local, wherever that might be. It’s also great in understanding the various influences in different countries and cultures, fashion wise.” She believes while the last two years have seen many local designers flourish, and that she does find more homegrown options, there are still some gaps in the market. (Designers, take note—there could be a business opportunity here).
“I struggle to find sexy evening wear that is not a red-carpet gown. I’d like to see beautifully cut, non-embellished pieces that one can wear to a dinner or to a night out with friends and just feel fabulous in.” She believes designers still could work on their finish, fabric quality and pricing.
The rush of shopping
Kapoor says he shops abroad more for the pleasure of it. “I do enjoy shopping while travelling, maybe more for the experience at certain stores where I enjoy their curation and their 360-degree approach that I personally resonate with.”
With niche concept stores seeing a comeback in many international fashion capitals, there is clearly a gap in this space in India. There is really nothing in India that can compare to London’s Dover Street Market or Milan’s 10 Corso Como.
But there is no longer that mad rush to shop when you travel. With many international luxury resort labels turning to India, thanks to our heritage of natural fabrics and craftsmanship, why not be an ambassador for Indian fashion while travelling?
Also read: Why we are now seeing more India-proud brands
Dress Sense is a monthly fashion column that takes a look at the clothes that we wear every day and what it means to us.
Sujata Assomull is a journalist, author and mindful fashion advocate.