In a three-part ‘Future of Fashion’ webinar series, Liva with renowned designers across the country unravels the dramatic impact of the pandemic on the fashion industry.
Do you try out an outfit before purchasing from a store? Or if you bought it online, do you like the option of returning the outfit if it doesn’t fit you well? Going forward, you will neither be able to try the outfit before buying nor return it, at least in the near term. The fashion industry has seen a rapid change in a decade, but the current Covid-19 crisis has triggered the sector to rethink and innovate not just to grow but also to survive. But, like all dark clouds, the present health crisis has a silver lining. In the current scenario, while the industry rewires, sustainability and circular fashion are emerging as the key themes for a post-Covid world. Recently, in a three-part webinar series, ‘Future of Fashion’, Liva unravelled the dramatic shift fashion industry is witnessing with three renowned fashion designers—Sahil Kochhar, Luxury Fashion Designer and Consultant, Shalini James, Founder, CEO and Lead Designer at Mantra and Nachiket Barve, Leading Fashion and Costume Designer. In conversation with Nelson Jaffery, Head of Design, Birla Cellulose, all three designers put forward their views on the current impact on the fashion industry, challenges, and outlook on the way forward.
Fashion calendar to get tweaked
When India implemented the nationwide lockdown, the fashion industry, like the rest of the non-essential sectors, came to a standstill. Along with it, the new collection also took a hit. New Delhi-based Sahil Kochhar said that it is not going to be easy to get back to business as usual. “A completely new collection will not be viable. You will have to do a combination of the two seasons and roll out,” said Kochhar. Designers believe that the current fashion calendar is out of sync with today’s market. “I think for India, it is high time we let go of autumn, winter, spring, summer collections, which was set 150 years ago by somebody in Europe,” said Nachiket Barve, the mastermind behind the costumes in the period Bollywood drama Tanhaji.
Watch the Designer Session with Nachiket Barve on the #FutureOfFashion
Sustainable fashion is the need of the hour
In a post-Covid world, fashion designers see a shift toward sustainable fashion. “People are becoming more aware of sustainability, look for comfortable fabric and organic products. Liva fabric checks all those boxes,” said Kochhar. Fashion designers also like viscose due to its feel. “Our customers said that Liva fabric has a look of silk and feel of cotton. People have had a lot of time to introspect during the lockdown and rethink their choices,” said Shalini James. High-end consumers are well aware of their choices. “Almost everyone in luxury fashion is aware of the product. There is a big shift,” said Kochhar. Viscose fabric has the potential to meet sustainability demand. “The biggest benefit of viscose is that it is a natural fibre and sustainable. Viscose is very good with colours and has a large variety. If you want good drape, you will get in viscose compared with silk. It has a longer lifespan too,” said Kochhar.
Watch the Designer Session with Shalini James on the #FutureOfFashion
Going digital is no more an option
Before Covid-19, designers had the option to either use a physical platform, digital platform, or both. But not anymore. “Everything will now have to be virtual, including sampling. You can’t ignore it. People would prefer buying online and on social media,” said Kochhar. Fashion designers are planning to incorporate sales on social media platforms. “E-commerce was a minuscule part of our business. But now we can’t avoid the digital platform anymore. We don’t have a choice. I have used social media for branding. But now we have sold a lot of masks on social media. We will have to take sales to social media,” said James.
Watch the Designer Session with Sahil Kochhar on the #FutureOfFashion
No trials, no returns; but expect discounts
The focus on hygiene will also mean that shopping will go contactless. “Clients will not be allowed to try clothes. The best way would be to visualise it and avoid trying an outfit. More people trying outfits will be risky,” said Kochhar. Retailers will have no trial and no return policy in the near term. We can’t compromise in any way, added James. The fashion industry is adapting to the changing mindset. “We will have to rewire our brains in terms of hygiene. A lot of innovation in the physical world will be required to deal with the current crisis. We have to be more careful and make interaction as safe as possible,” said Barve. Most retailers will offer discounts in the near term as well due to the unsold inventories.
Masks are here to stay for now
Fashion designers are focusing not only on the design but also the fabric while producing masks. “We started providing masks by end of March to the Kerala police department free of cost. Later, the Kerala government got in touch with me to design masks to make it more appealing so that people could adapt to it faster,” said James. In terms of design, the mask has to cover three quarters of the face. “It has to have three layers of protection. If the weave is too loose, it doesn’t offer protection. We use handloom cotton and printed fashion so that the dyes and fabric are safe for the skin,” said James. Masks will have to be disinfected regularly too. “Mask is now non-negotiable. We will need to wear a mask before we step out. A mask can be worn for not more than 4-6 hours and needs to be disinfected regularly,” said Barve. Masks have already become a fashion statement.