Indulge Hyderabad 6th anniversary: Tracking fashion industry as they step into the new world
The fashion industry has always kept up with trends. During the pandemic, it adapted to change and was quick to embrace the new reality, say experts
The role of fashion in the global economy is immense — high-end designers, clothing retailers,
department stores, and cosmetics outlets employ thousands of people and generate hundreds of billions in annual revenue. But in the past two years, like any other industry, fashion was not immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed brands to engage and experiment. Some of the fashion labels even went for technology-induced solutions like virtual clothing trials, digital catwalks, and online showrooms.
Understanding consumer mindset
According to Narresh Kukreja, Creative Director, Shivan & Narresh, “Undoubtedly, the pandemic has had an irreversible impact on the global fashion industry over the last two years, both literally and figuratively. However, there is also a sense of irony in this situation. From last year to now, the respite that our consumers experienced between the first and the second wave, actually led to an exceptional demand for swim and resort wear as a category. This made us realise how strong an influence travel holds over the minds of the people, especially in the current time. There is a huge underlying sentiment of escapism in people and therein lies the euphoria of exploration and experience. In fact, revenge dressing is going to be the true underlying emotion for a few years now.”
During the pandemic even launched their collection ‘Fluid’ which focuses on relaxed silhouettes for lounge and holiday wear. “This was just another incredible sign for us to understand what our customers really want — which is to escape and make an imperative statement about celebrating life and the spirit of being alive through the language of fashion. Our most recent showcase, IconoScape Series, too celebrates this spirit of freedom through five distinct prints, representing the five Iconodots in the SHIVAN & NARRESH lifestyle. Reminiscing our personal homebound and travel memoirs during the pandemic, we wanted to build a renewed holiday culture that embraces the maximalist dogma through eccentric prints, patterns, colours and textures for the new world. Right from the storyboard, the constant thought driving our vision was to explore all possible holiday lifestyles that one could eventually indulge in,” says Narresh, adding, “Additionally, the pandemic has further instilled in people the need to support conversations of sustainability on a much more conscious level to build a stronger eco-fashion legacy for the upcoming generations. It compelled us to introspect our own social responsibility as designers towards the kind of fashion we make and work on diminishing excessive wastage at the grass-roots level through optimised production and regenerative fashion. We, thus, decided to shift our entire swimwear category to a sustainable path, with almost 90 per cent of the material being made from recycled ocean waste.”
Fashion is used to follow and anticipate different phases of a social roller coaster, feels designer Vaishali S. “The shift in the fashion industry has been radical and powerful, but again has only accelerated what was already happening, though at a much slower pace — shift of part of the business online, more attention to sustainability issues and more power to online influencers or channels and less to traditional media,” says the first Indian woman designer to partake in Paris Haute Couture Week.
“For this reason, some managed to just accelerate a process that was already digested, others had a tougher time. The big shift was the “digestion” of real values, a shift that several brands made, with the readdressing of the whole focus of their business. For sure, while everyone green-washed their image and even created full collections with recycled plastic or something similar, some really made a huge effort towards sustainability and circularity. I must say that I was already on that path, since the inception of my brand 20 years ago. So, the big change was that suddenly I was mainstream! Which even for me was a bit destabilising since now I was saying (and in my case doing) what everybody was saying. So, I shifted my story telling away from sustainability, more towards design and workmanship, that in a way are higher forms of sustainability — design used to create circular shoes, and garments more focused on being mis-matched and reused separately (even for the bridal line), workmanship towards creating even better and more long-lasting weaves, and detailing that would allow multiple and longer use. I really hope this will somehow become a standard and not just slowly fade away,” shares Vaishali.
Less is more
The fashion industry is reporting less wastage now and has become more efficient. Even the collections by designers have become sharper and tighter, making sure every piece counts, explains Pankaj Ahuja of Pankaj & Nidhi label. “As a brand we are also focusing on ‘now’. In the initial few months of the pandemic and also during the second lockdown, there was a complete blackout period in terms of buying because the priority has been saving lives, getting on health back on track, getting vaccinations. So, the mood was sombre where you have to save yourself first and clothes become secondary. So, a lot of luxury buying and impulsive buying took a back seat,” says Pankaj. According to him, as the pandemic is receding, the impulse to buy has returned. “Smaller events are back, so are weddings and holidays all with social distancing. For me, the new reality is trying to make do with the current situation as we still have a bit of uncertainty around us. But I have a deeper sense of hope that things will become normal again. When I say normal, I don't mean going back to pre-pandemic days, for it would be so sad for us if we didn’t learn anything. We need to create a new reality where we progress with lessons learned,” says Pankaj.
Invest in good clothes
The pandemic has not affected fashion in India but has globally, opines designer Nachiket Barve. “With everything closed, there were very few events for which people needed to shop. But having said that, what we saw was that people wanted to invest in their clothes and not just buy for the sake of it. We noticed that people wanted things that were special and beautiful, custom made and unique. Also, as the weddings have shrunken, the budgets for wedding ensembles have increased,” he says.
Be the changemaker
Now people prefer more softness in their clothes, shares Nachiket. “With so much despair and sorrow around, I personally feel that a lot of people are looking for joy, hope and happiness. A sense of joy in the clothes they wear. So, a lot of pastel colours are really in, even beautiful bright ones are really in. People want things that are lightweight and dreamy but not extravagant or vulgar. Also, a lot of people are looking at clothes which they can wear long term, and use over multiple occasions which is the essence of sustainable fashion has always been and should be. It was never about disposable clothes, but about revisiting your clothes in the wardrobe season after season. As a designer, it is important to keep this in mind while creating collections that are slow fashion, sustainable and ethically made. I am launching a new collection soon keeping in mind all the lessons learned, catering to the market of a younger audience who is very eco-conscious, style savvy and globally
connected,” concludes Nachiket.