June 14, 2024

Fashion Design

Fashion Designs that Enlighten the Soul.

BRICS+ Fashion Summit Attempts To Redraw The Fashion Map

6 min read

Fashion is just another synonym for change. As an industry and an art-form, fashion reflects and re-codifies the spirit of the times with creative pizzaz and scientific precision. There is nothing frivolous about the world’s fourth largest economic sector. The apparel, textile, footwear, beauty, and accessories manufacturing sustains many communities. The current fashion system, think fashion weeks, fashion media, retail groups, is centered around Paris, Milan, London, and New York. The last decade saw the rise of alternative fashion capitals and an updated global style matrix with Africa, Latin America, and MENA as its leading voices. As an early adopter industry, fashion thrives under pressure.

BRICS+ Fashion Summit is an effort to introduce a novel way of doing business. The event in Moscow, that took place between November 28 – December 2nd, 2023, drew 130 brands from the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – as well as other emerging markets. Is there room for fashion diplomacy amid wartime sanctions, historic geopolitical tensions, and growing concerns over AI and climate change? Here are some insights from the Summit’s participants.

What is the industry appeal of an event like this?

Up-and-coming designers like Arzu Kaprol from Turkey, David Tlale from South Africa or 陳宇 CHNNYU from China saw participation on a BRICS+ stage as a gateway to new customers outside their respective markets and a chance to raise their global profile.

So, is BRICS+ Fashion Summit a viable alternative to the industry status quo? “It’s premature to say as this is my first time at such an international level, but I wouldn’t say no,” reflects Aldrie Indrayana of the Indonesian brand AL•DRI•E. “I’ve managed to secure sales with buyers who would have never heard of us otherwise.”

The minimalist-yet-bold unisex aesthetic has attracted the attention of fashion lovers who value unique monochrome statement pieces. “I think this event acts as a disruptor, offering a differently inclusive platform. The collaborative BRICS+ spirit creates a competitive edge that can amplify our collective influence,” suggests Ethiopian designer Kunjina Tesfaye. The creator of the KUNJINA brand has had a busy season with industry showcases in Kenya, China, and South Africa. Global is the new local!

What is a key takeaway from the Summit?

When it comes to networking, Olivia Merquior, founder of Brazil Immersive Fashion Week, discovered more systemic similarities than unique challenges among the participants.

“I was networking with colleagues from Turkey, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Malaysia, so many different places. Many of our countries struggle with limited resources for developing new artists. In 2020, I launched #BRIFW to bring new technologies to the Brazilian fashion system and now I recognize just how many fashion entrepreneurs can benefit from such shared experiences. Harnessing local talent and embracing digital solutions, we can overcome any barriers and help build culturally rich brands that resonate globally.”

Designer Juan Hernandes Daels of the Paris-based Belgian-Argentinian label SADAELS shares the eye-opening sentiment. “Coming from Argentina, accessing key fashion world players would have been nearly impossible without a summit like this. The idea is unmistakably moving the global industry in the right direction.”

How Indian fashion wowed the summit audiences

Easily the most anticipated highlight of the Summit was a showcase by Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) featuring four emerging Indian brands: riteshkumar, Shruti Sancheti, KHANIJO, and Naushad Ali. Designer Ritesh Kumar was excited about the opportunity, because from his perspective, “novelty gives this experience a certain edge over the more established fashion destinations.” He also notes that “the role of fashion has always been to bring people closer to vibe on common grounds, on in-the-moment relevance. At the same time, fashion carries a sense of belonging to cultural roots. It keeps our history alive and ready to be shared with the world.”

Designer Shruti Sancheti fuses traditional craftsmanship with contemporary stylistic sensibilities. Her talent reached new audiences earlier this fall thanks to a special presentation during the G20 Summit in Delhi. Fashion diplomacy works! “The weather was ice cold [in Moscow], but the melting pot of creativity and hospitality was more than enough to keep everyone warm,” reminisces Sancheti.

A menswear success story at home, Gaurav Khanijo appreciated the chance to communicate his vision to international buyers without algorithms and digital gimmicks. “Fashion still needs to be seen, touched, felt in person to make a lasting impression. For me, being there is the organic way to reach consumers.”

How did Russian designers engage with the Summit?

When it comes to Russian fashion industry woes, the community has been weathering the fallout from the war in Ukraine which severed many business and cultural ties between Russia, the EU, and the US.

About eighty domestic brands were on display in the BRICS+ Showroom hoping to pivot their strategies towards new horizons. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one boutique owner noted that an uptick in domestic sales did not offset the loss of access to major international commerce channels. They are considering establishing a second business base in Georgia or Kazakhstan to be able to trade globally. Another designer who wished to remain incognito shared the stress of changing their entire production line to substitute Turkish textiles and Chinese manufacturing components for the now-unavailable parts from European and American producers.

However, BRICS+ fashion summit brought some new opportunities for Russian designers. Inna Honour, a creative director of the Flashin’ brand shares that “there was great interest in my brand from both the press and the buyers. Showrooms from India and China have started communication with us, this is a good opportunity for us to enter international markets.” Many designers are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place of keeping their small businesses afloat while navigating the increasingly hostile sociopolitical climate within the country.

Outside Moscow, the biggest Russian fashion headline was Kanye West’s announcement of Gosha Rubchinskiy as the new Head of Design at Yeezy. Neither media personality shies away from controversy which bodes well for social media traffic next season.

What are the long-term implications of the Summit?

Back at the BRICS+ Fashion Summit, designer Lucas Leão from Brazil expressed a hope that such events and experiences can move the participating countries to act together on easing the burden of high import-export taxes and similar restrictions that hinder business growths for apparel brands within the BRICS+ economic ecosystem. Meanwhile, Aristide Loua from Côte d’Ivoire affirmed that “as a global language, fashion can be a unifying force.”

How would the world benefit from creative convergence of design talent from APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation with 21 member states), OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries with 13 members), or NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization with 31 countries)? It remains to be seen if the Summit inspires other intergovernmental alliances to tap into the peacemaking potential of fashion diplomacy.


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