Indian fashion's copycat year (YEARENDER)

New Delhi, Dec 25 (IANS) When the clock chimes in the end of what has surely been Indian fashion's copycat and most raunchy year, there'll be lots of new things ahead.

A brand new fashion week for the winter collection, taking the industry to global standards for seasonal showings, fresh copyright laws and, of course, a new return-of-the-prodigal Ritu Beri.

Next year will have two fashion weeks, probably at Delhi's sprawling trade fairgrounds of Pragati Maidan, though many consider it too downmarket for the increasingly swank and swagger event.

The industry that accounts for just a little more than Rs.2 billion in the country's ready-to-wear market of Rs.670 billion has long tried to shed its overtly shenanigan image and acquire a serious business look.

"We still pay entertainment tax at every fashion week, can you beat that?" said Vinod Kaul, executive director of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI).

"Hopefully that will change next year."

With it's an innovative set of copyright rules, Kaul also hopes this year's dress-stealing fiasco at the Mumbai fashion week will never be repeated.

At the fashion week, news of designers Shantanu-Nikhil accusing veteran couturier Krishna Mehta caused a veritable uproar after one of the duo's creations was spotted in Mehta's show.

More recently, ace stylist Tarun Tahiliani snubbed fellow designers J.J. Valaya and Ritu Kumar for stealing his jewelled T-shirts, cheap imitations of which by this time were available at every street corner devoid, of course, of jewels.

"These things do nothing, nothing for the industry," Kaul said, shaking his head. "We are surging forward and they pull us back," he added.

The year 2003 will also be remembered for its sartorial sojourns. Virtually unknown designer Varun Bahl won the Milan Fashion Week's Inside White Award, forcing pundits to sit up, and drowning Tarun Tahiliani's accolades for showing at Milan.

"I don't demand attention, I know that I've just started but I hope I've started right," said Bahl.

With a blueprint of opening 100 stores in a year, looking gorgeous though sounding bitter, Ritu Beri made a fresh start at the place where it all began - Delhi.

After snubbing Indian fashion and the fashion week for several years at the height of her Paris success, Beri, dogged by rumours of elegant rejection at top Parisian circles, came home with a novelty -- the business plan launch-cum-fashion show-cum-retrospective.

In one mega show, Beri displayed childhood pictures, played Frank Sinatra, went misty-eyed and pumped in grandiose business plans. As lambasted as ever, she also declared that she was "a loner" and no one liked her because she was "horrible".

The couture casualty of the year was, certainly, Aishwarya Rai's ghastly outfits at Cannes. Seven days of sartorial sadness where the most beautiful face in the world donned the most "shudder, shudder" examples of Bollywood kitsch.

Next year, the forecasts are far from any kitsch.

Design trends are deep tones like dark brown, khaki, black, with sharp contrast accents in orange or red. Very subtle, almost invisible designs, next to outspoken artistic flowers or bold stripes and very technical fabrics; shiny or matt, fluid or stiff, like double face linens and high twisted cottons next to soft, shiny viscose with a silky touch.

An explosion of all bright colours with mostly flower prints but also multi-colour stripes, dots, block prints and outspoken artworks. Fresh cottons, crispy linens, voiles, viscose mixtures, knitted stretch cottons coupled with the revival of sport colours like off-white, black, orange, red, navy and dark green.

A lot of zippers, press buttons, soft rubber buttons, cords, contrast tapes, piping and stitches.

Various flower prints, mostly three-toned, very subtle and romantic mini-flowers, printed or jacquard.

Indian fashion also revealed its naughty side this year as women models smooched on stage, g-strings got stringier and models jigged on the runway.

"It's all quite harmless," laughed Kaul. "Throughout the world, fashion is the most glamorous and the most decadent," smiled industry expert Kanika Gahlaut.