As the world stands united to battle the pandemic of coronavirus, we all need to acknowledge the fact that the outbreak has impacted each of us in a unique way. While these times are hard we are all going to come out stronger. Due to the result of responses to combat the health crisis many consumer industries have been impacted. The impact on travel, entertainment and hospitality are highlighted and widely known but other lifestyle industries like fashion have been affected as well.
The virus has escalated in the midst of the fall 2020 fashion month, causing brands and design houses to delay events. Fashion events and runway shows have been postponed, and retail outlets have shut their doors across the globe. Major events, including the Met Gala and the CFDA Awards, have also been postponed.
In India brands are experiencing severe repercussions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing many retailers to shut their doors and shut manufacturing facilities directly impacting sales. Keeping in mind the situation in India, The Fashion Design Council Of India has also decided to postpone the fashion week until the situation improves.
We got some of India's leading designers to weigh in on the impact of coronavirus on the Indian fashion industry.
Everyone has been grappling with a lot for the last 2 weeks, speaking to Hemant Sagar, Co-Founder, Genes Lecoanet Hemant he said: "The last fortnight under the looming Coronavirus pandemic has been an extraordinary exercise of growing concern- in the beginning, it was a sudden the decline of sales which in our case became a concern of how to maintain production - which now is closed- and will now grow into a concern of staying in touch with colleagues by organising video meetings just to be in touch as a Tribe."
The decline in sales is omnipresent and inevitable in the Indian fashion industry. Saaksha & Kinni, Co-Founders, Label Saaksha & Kinni add, "There will be a huge impact on the fashion industry - store walk-in will be drastically reduced which will impact sales, in terms of online sales - many are worried about courier companies and delivery boys handling packages and are therefore reluctant to place orders. All in all, sales will be directly impacted, many will lose jobs, and unfortunately, some labels will go out of business."
"Coronavirus has shaken us all", adds Palak Shah, CEO, Ekaya Banaras. "Businesses have come to a complete halt at this point in time. As sales have stopped, people are banking on e-commerce, but it’s almost foolish to expect people to buy the way they used to because everyone is out of their comfort zone. All families are in a very hand to mouth situation at this point in time. I'm working on honing my skills and planning for the future as and when the market does open and stabilise. The next couple of months are going to be dull. We have to be mentally prepared for what’s to come," she further states.
From shopping malls to market places, the shutters are down everywhere. With the luxury shopping arcades coming to a standstill Narresh Kukreja, Creative Director, SHIVAN & NARRESH weighs in on the impact of coronavirus in the luxury sphere - “With major public places like malls and retail outlets shutting, there has been a direct impact on the business. We have observed a number of eleventh-hour cancellations on orders for international travels, destination weddings and celebrations. However, the client base has shifted to online shopping as it has seen a major upsurge in the indulgence factor there. Timelines have shifted, holidays and celebrations have shifted, but with more time in hand, the customer is swiping more online. This is both, for our national and international clientele. Luxury is profusely dependent on physical experience - a solid digital business model and work from home system can help it to survive and emerge stronger from this.”
"The year 2020 looks gloomy & tuff for the fashion industry as a whole," says Ruchi Sally, Managing Director, Melissa Shoes India. "Almost the entire world is either on partial or complete lockdown. COVID-19 is increasingly having a negative impact on the fashion industry specifically, causing brands, business and fashion houses not only shut their doors but the upcoming runway shows are also postponed indefinitely. Major events, including the Met Gala, have also been postponed indefinitely. Store and production houses are closed across the world."
There's no denying that the pandemic has taken us all back a few steps. But looking at the larger picture, post the lockdown the fashion industry needs to re-think how it does business in light of the impact pf COVID - 19.
Is Up-cycling The Future of Fashion Post Covid-19?
Do brands and fashion consumers need to adopt fashion sustainability? Can we say that up-cycling is what the future looks like?
Here's what Hemant Sagar has to say - "I strongly believe upcycling is the way forward and it is in that spirit that we create Genes, to be an active part of your wardrobe for many years whatever trends might come. It’s more about personal style."
Saaksha & Kinni are of the opinion that upcycling is quintessential - "With economies plummeting, it will be important to use all waste materials and fabrics to limit the amount we are spending on new materials. Upcycling will definitely be the way forward. It gives all designers a chance to really utilise each part of the fabric or material in a smarter way to enhance production and limit waste."
"Reusing and Upcycling is one additional way to be more sustainable and create value. One man’s discarded product can be another man’s treasure. While the world finds it easy to accept, I have seen resistance in India for reusing fashion products. India needs to uplift its learning curve for Upcycling" - Ruchi Sally
Palak Shah rightly points out that the future is uncertain and upcycling is the trend till the market opens up, "The future is very uncertain. A lot of the buying patterns will be reinvented and even the way people splurge will change. Upcycling is going to be a trend, till the market stabilises."
The Fashion Consumer Post Covid-19
Reusing and up-cycling will all go to waste until we try to understand what the fashion consumer will look like post-COVID-19?
The luxury sector will be one of the worst-hit sectors. Palak Shah tells us the impact on Ekaya, "Everyone is bleeding, and hence they will try to cut down on their expenses of unnecessary items. There will be a pause on unnecessary items being bought. And whether we like it or not, we fall under unnecessary items. Luxury is unnecessary. - it’s not something you require. An Ekaya saree is something that is required for a wedding, but a lot of people are also going to cut down their budgets on weddings. That has been a big impact for us. Money is on a crunch. Economies are bleeding."
Duo Saaksha & Kinni weigh-in, "The consumer will start making smart purchases - garments they need for specific occasions rather than whimsical buying. With a plummeting economy, the consumer will be much more cash conscious and fast fashion will definitely be on the decline"
On the brighter side of things, COVID-19 has seen a positive impact on the environment - low carbon emissions, animals back to their natural habitat and a clear blue sky. Keeping this in mind the fashion consumer must make it a priority to invest in long-lasting clothing and slow fashion. "Consumers should be sensible enough to see how the world is changing. Buying more long-lasting, sustainable and recyclable products should be in the basics of consumer behaviour. The world must know that using products made from killing animals is not a sustainable way. To make one leather bag or shoe, gallons of water & heaps of electricity is used. We keep on talking about how single-use plastic should not be used, but consumers should go beyond to understand that long-lasting plastic is better than a leather product. It saves water, electricity and is cruelty-free. Natural resources are limited and we need to start thinking to save them before they become an emergency. Demand feeds the supply of the product. If consumers buy thoughtfully, the world can be more sustainable. We don’t have Planet B, so better save the natural resources" adds Ruchi.
While the problem areas have been pointed out, it's now time to turn to the solutions. What is it that we can do collectively? "Limiting collections to twice a year for an example will help the situation. Many designers churn out new collection four to five times a year - this just increases in house waste encourages fast fashion and results in huge numbers of garments being discarded into landfill sites", is a great idea proposed by Saaksha & Kinni.
Mahima Gujral, Founder, SUI and brand head, Sue Mue is of the opinion that "The one beautiful thing that’s stood out in these current times is the sense of community – and the fact that after a long time coming a lot of people, businesses, brands have put people before profit. I hope that once the storm passes, our industry to balances the act of profit with people and our planet. It has been long time coming. I believe we will see a rise in small business, in value beyond the price of the product and also a push from bigger companies to take steps they’ve never taken before. The fashion consumer should educate themselves about the impact of fashion and thereafter think before they make their purchases. Consumers should be aware of the values they hold and in turn support companies which resonate with the same. Now more than ever it is important to find a connection with the things we own and purchase. Upcycling would be on the ways forward, but I think the two factors which should stand out for brands and customers alike is circularity & humanity in fashion. Brands applying the model of circularity throughout their design, production and marketing process and are they respecting all those who are a part of the value chain while at the same time are consumers willing to looking beyond the product, learn more about its process before taking a sound decision. I don’t have a solution, neither are there any answers as yet – but I hope we see these changes come to life."
In the near future, the money crunch is going to affect spending patterns, so it's quintessential to ensure everyone product is seen as an investment. "The way forward is to market your product in a way which shows that buying the product is an investment. Just trying to sell your consumer a fancy, trendy item I think is going to be much more difficult. One really needs to put out the value and benefit of every product, and how it can be passed on from generation to generation and the reusability will help in the conversion of the product," feels Palak Shah.
We live in a digital age and it's time to take advantage of that. A focus on online platforms and e-commerce is essential until the offline market recovers. Retailers are shutting their doors around the world, encouraging their customers to shop online instead. Yet let's face reality, many of us are financially burdened, and the desire to buy new clothes feels like a distant dream. Shop wisely and think before you spend during this period. Now is the time to adopt slow fashion and say no to overconsumption. Longevity is the new IT thing.