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Feb 24, 2023
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Fashion designer Rocky Star talks fashion evolution, corporate funding, sustainability and more

Feb 24, 2023

Rocky Star is a Mumbai-based retail and fashion entrepreneur. Over his three decades as a designer, he has made a mark on both the fashion world and Bollywood culture by creating looks for over 300 films.

He's hosted countless runway shows, showcased his designs across the world, and dressed some of the biggest celebrities like Beyonce, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Carrie Underwood, Danielle Campbell, Kangana Ranaut, Nora Fatehi, among many others.

FashionNetwork.com spoke to Rocky Star ahead of his Milan Fashion Week show about what makes him click, digital revolution, stake sale, corporate funding, expansion, and driving circularity forward.

Fashion designer Rocky Star talks fashion evolution, corporate funding, sustainability and more - Rocky Star

FashionNetwork.com: You have been in the industry for almost three decades and managed to stay relevant throughout. Talk us through your evolution and how the Indian fashion industry has evolved over the years?

Rocky Star: Being in the industry for almost three decades my journey had its ups and downs, but it has always included new experiences. Throughout my career, I have faced numerous challenges, but each one has taught me valuable lessons and helped me advance as a designer. At the start, I focused on honing my technical skills and learning about the industry. I've worked on multiple projects while experimenting with various approaches, gaining new perspectives and valuable lessons from each challenge. I've learned time management, effective concept communication, and the importance of maintaining one's own distinct voice and vision. Through it all, I gained a deep understanding of fashion and the creative process, as well as the ability and confidence to create designs with real impact.

FNW: India is now rated as one of the fastest-growing markets in global luxury and we see many global fashion players entering the Indian market for growth. However, very few homegrown brands/designers have managed to make deeper inroads into the international markets. What is your take on this trend?

RS: Although India's luxury market has expanded rapidly, attracting global fashion players, it is true only a few homegrown brands and designers have established a significant presence in international markets.  I believe this could be attributed to a lack of resources and infrastructure, as well as a focus on the domestic market. Furthermore, there is still a negative perception of Indian luxury brands and designers as a source of cheap labor and mass-produced goods. However, the mindset has been changing over the years and the Designers have used their distinct Indian aesthetic and heritage to create products that appeal to global audiences, demonstrating that with the right resources and a strategic approach, Indian brands can succeed on the global stage.

FNW: The fashion industry embraced the digital world due to the Covid-19 disruptions and we saw many brands/designers go online during this period. Industry experts feel that the future of luxury business is online, not in bricks and mortar stores. Do you agree and how have you reinvented the wheel for online growth?

RS: The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in many industries, including fashion. A lot of indigenous brands have been forced to go online to reach customers who are increasingly shopping from home. Even though it’s true that the future of the luxury business is likely to have a significant online component, it's also important to note that physical stores are still essential for providing a complete brand experience and engaging with customers in person as it’s where the soul of the brand exists.

We have focused on several strategies for our online growth, including developing a strong online presence through a user-friendly website, engaging social media content with multiple collaborations, and emphasizing sustainability and ethical practices to take care of the environment allowing us the opportunity to increase our customer base as well.

Rocky Star with actor Sonakshi Sinha

FNW: With the global economy expected to slow down, many designers are launching affordable lines for survival. What is your take on the trend, and will we see Rocky S launch lower-priced brands to its portfolio?

RS: Introducing an affordable line during a global economic downturn can be a wise business decision for fashion designers, as it will attract new customers and increase brand awareness. Designers, on the other hand, must carefully consider the impact on their brand's perceived value and image, as well as potential trade-offs in quality and production costs. An affordable line should not be viewed as a quick fix for survival, but rather as a well-planned and executed strategic addition to a designer's business. Our company previously collaborated with Shopper Stop on a pret-line collection, but we now offer our own pret-line at a reasonable price. This modification enables us to expand our customer base while maintaining high-quality standards and greater control over the design and manufacturing processes.

FNW: Some of the big players in the luxury market like Reliance Brands Limited (RBL), and Aditya Birla Group have invested and acquired stakes in homegrown luxury brands. How important is corporate funding for the stability and growth of the business? Also, have you been approached for a stake sale, and will you be open to it if some of the big names come calling?

RS: Corporate funding can be critical to a company's stability and growth in the luxury market. Investments and acquisitions from well-established corporate entities provide access to the capital, expertise, and resources needed to scale up operations, expand market reach, and innovate product offerings. Corporate funding also brings valuable knowledge and networks to the luxury industry, which can help in navigating the complex and dynamic market environment. However, even though it benefits from the resources and expertise of corporate entities, the luxury brand must maintain its distinct identity, values, and creative vision. Luxury brands can achieve long-term growth and success in a highly competitive market by striking the right balance between corporate funding and creative independence. As the owner of a luxury brand, I am open and interested in exploring the possibility of a stake sale if there are corporate entities that share my vision and design and can help me to achieve my business goals.

Yes, we have been approached by a few, but we are still looking for the right partnership. I am open to exploring the possibility of a stake sale if there are corporate entities that share my vision and design that could assist me in achieving my business objectives. A strategic partnership with a company that understands and values my brand's identity and creative vision can provide the resources and support I need to propel my company forward.

Rocky Star

FNW: Do you have any plans of diversifying your portfolio by entering new segments for growth? Also, what is the expansion (offline/online tie-ups, etc) plan for the brand?

RS: We've been expanding our brand by creating new collections of festive wear and the response has been great. Since we have a lot of international clients who are interested in what we're offering, we are reaching out to several international multi-designer stores for easier access. It's been a great way to get our brand in front of more people and establish ourselves in the fashion industry.

FNW: Sustainability is a growing concern for global industry players. Many businesses are lagging in their sustainability journey and not recognizing the need to dive deep into eco and ethical positivity. How much of priority environmental issues are for the brand and do you feel the fashion industry is doing enough to address the issue amidst criticism?

RS: There has been an increase in environmental issues which are becoming a priority for brands, but the level of priority varies depending on the brand. In the fashion industry, there has been growing criticism of the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion while some fashion brands have taken steps to address sustainability, many are still lagging. The fashion industry needs to do more to address sustainability concerns, and adopt a circular economy approach to production, which involves reducing waste and designing products for longevity and recyclability. While there are some encouraging developments, more needs to be done and the industry must recognize the urgency of the situation and take action to address the issue.

FNW: Finally, what shall we expect from your Milan Fashion Week 2023 show this season?

RS: Our new collection is Inspired by the magic of nocturnal blooms, this collection explores the beauty of the unknown, the fleeting, and the wild. My team and I have drawn upon the grandurance and allure of florals, capturing their essence in a stunning range of clothing. From the use of refined velvets, delicate tulles, organic muls each piece in the collection is handcrafted with keen attention to detail. The color palette, influenced by the hues of nature, features deep reds, luminous pinks and modish taupes. Skillfully crafted by artisans, the garments have intricated lifelike embroideries along with our signature print creating an ultra-contemporary collection.

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