The experience of HUEMN, the winner of Vogue Talents: Scouting for India, lends telling insight into India’s modern fashion industry.
“There are a lot of things that are not perfectly placed to be an entrepreneur in the fashion industry in India,” HUEMN co-founder and creator Shyma Shetty is quoted as saying. Entrepreneurs everywhere could no doubt voice the same issue, but Vogue Italia’s recent talent scouting trip to Mumbai placed a spotlight specifically on aspiring Indian designers and the unique challenges they face in making a name for themselves in their homeland and abroad.
As success stories go, HUEMN is an interesting one. Shetty and her co-founder Pranav Mishra started their label in 2010, in New Delhi. “One day, Pranav sat me down and said, ‘Listen, it’s now or never,'” explained Shetty. Her pragmatism, a product of her Bangalore upbringing, turned out to be a perfect fit with the artistic vision of Mishra, who grew up in middle class Lucknow.
The duo established themselves with a lineup that they describe as “sophisticated, easy wear clothing for the self-assured.” Recognition came through collaborations with Puma, Adidas, and more. But even as their success grew, so did the challenges they faced.
“First of all, my education in fashion did not stress upon the little things I wish they had taught me along with big things like how to cut fabric,” said Shetty. “I wish I had learned the legalities of the garment trade, a bit of accounts and branding strategy that I have had to learn the hard way over the last few years. There is also very little financial assistance in this field.”
An underlying problem is that options are limited for students wishing to study fashion in India. That’s a problem that Fashion and Arts International Academy Founder and Director Shivang Dhruva hopes to solve.
The first creative arts and fashion school in India to launch a standalone international foundation in art and design, FAD International launched in 2007 and now has campuses in Mumbai and Pune. Through them, Dhruva has been giving students a chance to study fashion in their home country. With a focus on forging links between the fashion industry in India and abroad, FAD furthermore allows its students to study with partner organizations in the UK and across Europe.
“One of the challenges we see always in India is we work in isolation, at least in the design fraternity, and I think it’s time for us to have a collective effort, build a global impact as a team,” said Dhruva.
A pivotal step in that direction is FAD’s collaboration with Vogue Italia. The world-respected title teamed with the International Academy to bring global attention to India’s top emerging fashion designers this June, calling the initiative #ScoutingForIndia. On the 22nd and 23rd, eleven Indian brands put their designs on display at Mumbai’s Palladium Mall for the chance to present with the Vogue Talents showcase at Milan Fashion Week this September.
“I think Scouting for India has been a tremendous kind of opportunity,” said Saaksha Bhat, one of the eleven selected designers. “It really gives Indian designers a global outreach. It’s a way to connect us to the world and not just stay within India.”
Archana Rao, another selectee, agrees. “I think India is at that point right now where we have so much talent. We’ve been looking to be encouraged and acknowledged for it so I think it’s just the right time for this,” she said.
Since its inception, Vogue Talents has traveled the world in search of the industry’s best and brightest. Deputy Editor in Chief of the magazine and Head of Vogue Talents Sara Maino has dedicated her career to giving style savants the breakthrough they need. “I always say that I don’t really discover designers but probably give them the right spotlight at the right moment,” Maino stated in Mumbai.
She and Dhruva joined Fashion Director of Vogue India Anaita Adajania on the jury to review the eleven contestants. The winning label: HUEMN.
Regulars at Mumbai’s Lakme Fashion Week, Shetty and Mishra have risen to the top of India’s style scene through a combination of hard work, passion, and a knack for seizing opportunities. If Vogue Talents and FAD have their way, it will only become easier for other aspiring Indian designers to do the same.
“I guess it’s not just about winning or losing this, I think it’s about building a relationship, working together,” said Dhruva during the event’s closing remarks. “I think we’ve got fabulous support with everyone over here. We’re going to work on a lot of initiatives, work together as an industry to build an ecosystem across education, retail, luxury, and have people come in and support talents from around the country.”