The Covid-19 pan­demic has hit the fash­ion in­dus­try hard. With re­tail­ers and cloth­ing units shut­ting shop, and mil­lions of work­ers scram­bling to make ends meet, no­body frankly knows the fu­ture of fash­ion. Ex­perts say need­based sus­tain­able fash­ion will rule

The Asian Age - - The Age - NEIL PATE

The Coro­n­avirus cri­sis has crum­pled the so­cial fab­ric of our lives and the fash­ion in­dus­try. Be it the way we ad­dress our fi­nan­cial goals or the way we dress. Even as fash­ion ti­tans like Louis Vuit­ton, Prada, Gucci and some In­dian de­sign­ers are cast­ing their bread upon the wa­ters to cre­ate safe and sus­tain­able cloth­ing (in­clud­ing PPE), the most that we can do is wait. And watch!

Fash­ion his­to­ri­ans point out that peo­ple changed their dress­ing style af­ter the 1918 Flu Pan­demic, the Great De­pres­sion and World War II. The 2020 Covid-19 pan­demic is no ex­cep­tion. With re­tail­ers and cloth­ing units shut­ting shop, and mil­lions of work­ers scram­bling to make ends meet, no­body frankly knows the fu­ture of fash­ion or the new ‘quar­antrends’.


Some de­sign­ers say dressier days are on the hori­zon as peo­ple would want to spread cheer and pos­i­tive vibes. Some opine dull and somber at­tire goes with the cur­rent mood. Yet, a few oth­ers are op­ti­mistic of the easy-on-the-eye­and-pocket flo­rals. The on­line mar­ket of sec­ond hand and recy­cled clothes, shoes and ac­ces­sories has already seen a spike. You may nod and naff in equal mea­sure, but it looks like Back to Ba­sics! Ritu Ku­mar, the doyenne of In­dian fash­ion in­dus­try, who be­gan her ca­reer in 1969 with just four hand block print­ers and two ta­bles in a small vil­lage near Calcutta (now Kolkata), says that there were re­ces­sion­ary trends in the fash­ion in­dus­try even be­fore the pan­demic.

“Busi­ness had slowed down af­ter de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Now, there will be a trend of need-based buy­ing. I won’t be sur­prised if we are pushed back by an­other 20 years,” says Ku­mar, whose un­der­stand­ing of an­cient In­dian de­signs, tra­di­tional crafts and In­dian fash­ion mar­ket is un­matched.

She adds that you can­not com­pare the In­dian fash­ion in­dus­try to the in­ter­na­tional ones. “The fash­ion in­dus­try in the west­ern world has been there for over 100150 years. The In­dian fash­ion in­dus­try has been around for only 30-40 years.” How­ever,

Ku­mar feels the sa­ree, kurta and

kur­tis will make a come­back to beat the corona blues. “A sa­ree suits all oc­ca­sions. It is low on main­te­nance too. Men usu­ally spend on branded shirts and trousers. But now peo­ple will move to­wards eth­nic wear. The

kurta will be the much-favoured choice for men and women,” she says.


In­dia has an es­ti­mated 16 mil­lion crafts-peo­ple work­ing in the tex­tile in­dus­try.

The lock­down has hit busi­ness. We are all sad­dled with un­sold mer­chan­dise. Peo­ple are buy­ing clothes on­line. They pre­fer af­ford­able free-spir­ited clothes — JUGNU GOS­RANI, de­signer I plan to move back with crafts, wo­vens and sus­tain­able mod­els of fash­ion. I will also sim­plify cou­ture — maybe more as sin­gles or sep­a­rates to make the spend­ing eas­ier. — Rina Dhaka, de­signer There will be a trend of need­based buy­ing. Fast fash­ion will be out. The sa­ree, kurta and kur­tis will make a come­back. A sa­ree suits all oc­ca­sions. It is low on main­te­nance too — Ritu Ku­mar, ace de­signer

A ma­jor­ity of them in ru­ral ar­eas and are in­volved in the most in­tri­cate work like weav­ing, em­broi­dery and cre­ation of em­bel­lish­ments etc. These crafts­men have mas­tered their craft over cen­turies and passed it on from one gen­er­a­tion to the other. The pan­demic has brought about an “un­prece­dented” cri­sis. To­day, thou­sands of crafts­men are with­out work. Cus­tomers are still hes­i­tant to en­ter malls and shops to buy clothes although there has been a spike in on­line shop­ping.

Jugnu Gos­rani, a Mum­bai-based de­signer, who cre­ates free-spir­ited clothes, says all her sales are on­line. “We are all sad­dled with un­sold mer­chan­dise. This month, I man­aged to sell kur­tis, dresses and skirts on­line in my hous­ing so­ci­ety it­self. Cus­tomers or­der on­line. I leave the out­fit out­side their door in a sealed plas­tic bag,” ex­plains Jugnu. She is cer­tain that peo­ple will stick to af­ford­able and sus­tain­able clothes.

The only ‘In thing’ right now are pro­tec­tive masks. Jeans, jog­gers and leg­gings are also in demand. Whether you step out to run er­rands or go for a jog. The mask is here to stay for a long time. “I’m mak­ing kalamkari masks from the left­over fab­rics,” Jugnu adds.


De­signer Rina Dhaka feels it is im­pos­si­ble to quan­tify the losses since it is in­ter­linked from re­tail gi­ants to ex­porters to the mi­grant work­ers. “Work is a strug­gle and one is try­ing to get up again,” she says. Af­ter the pan­demic, Rina plans to move back to crafts, wo­vens and sus­tain­able mod­els of fash­ion. “I will also sim­plify the cou­ture. Maybe more as sin­gles or sep­a­rates to make the spend­ing eas­ier,” she says.

Grapevine from the fash­ion cir­cuit tells us that nearly four de­sign­ers and their loved ones have had a close brush with the virus. Ear­lier, de­sign­ers had to run the gaunt­let of TV cam­eras and fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phers. Now, it will take plenty of pluck to re­fash­ion one’s busi­ness model and pull through the mess. The Fash­ion De­sign Coun­cil of In­dia has already an­nounced a COVID-19 Sup­port Fund for small busi­nesses and young de­sign­ers in need.

Ku­mar is cer­tain that fast fash­ion will be out. “In In­dia, peo­ple pur­chase clothes for func­tions and fes­ti­vals (Di­wali, Eid, Christ­mas, Baisakhi) un­like the west where the fash­ion ramp is dic­tated by chang­ing sea­sons and colours.” Ku­mar is op­ti­mistic that peo­ple will bounce back. “We will have to fo­cus on ‘Make in In­dia’ to pull through this cri­sis,” she says.


To­day, mil­lions of peo­ple are ei­ther out of work or have taken pay cuts. The re­ces­sion has forced peo­ple to set their pri­or­i­ties and re­think their spend­ing. Nishit Gupta, di­rec­tor of KALKI says peo­ple are tired of this panic mode.

“Fash­ion trends will vary as the world slowly emerges from the global quar­an­tine. With wed­dings now be­com­ing more in­ti­mate, smaller in size, the fu­sion trends will find favour with both brides and brides­maids. Mir­ror lehen­gas, or­ganza skirts, pre-stitched sa­rees, neck­let gowns, dhoti-crop tops in hand­wo­ven fab­rics and hand-done em­broi­deries with tra­di­tional tex­tile tech­niques will trend. It will also help sup­port the ru­ral ar­ti­sans and hand­loom com­mu­ni­ties,” says Nishit.

The pan­demic shock­waves have hit every in­dus­try. The ‘new nor­mal’ will make us slow down, and rein­vent how we view con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion. “If you view fore­casts, by next year from a slated -4% drop this year in the GDP, we may be able to achieve a growth of 4% in 2021, pro­vided we take con­trol of the pro­duc­tion and job cre­ation by be­ing self suf­fi­cient,” says Ba­haar Dhawan Ro­hatgi, a Del­hibased lawyer-cum-vis­ual artist and in­flu­encer.

She hopes the fash­ion sec­tor will be­come more re­spon­si­ble and sus­tain­able. “I hope afi­ciona­dos will pro­mote prod­ucts that em­ploy en­vi­ron­men­tal­friendly, fair prac­tices, min­imise waste and boast func­tion­al­ity. We may wit­ness a tip­ping point where de­sign­ers will be drawn to cel­e­brate aus­ter­ity, em­pha­sis­ing a class­less so­ci­ety (re­mem­ber post war ‘Aus­ter­ity Bri­tain drive’ in the 1940s) sig­ni­fy­ing af­ford­abil­ity, ac­cess to leisure, health, value life and main­tain­ing bal­ance,” says Ba­haar. Per­haps need­based sus­tain­able dress­ing is the glam­our we’ve been miss­ing!

If you view fore­casts, by next year from a slated -4% drop this year in the GDP, we may be able to achieve a growth of 4% in 2021, pro­vided we take con­trol of pro­duc­tion and job cre­ation — Ba­haar Dhawan Ro­hatgi, lawyer-cum-in­flu­encer

De­signer Jugnu has made pro­tec­tive masks from kalmkari fab­ric

Sus­tain­able fash­ion is the need of the hour

Sa­rees will be sought af­ter. Priyanka Cho­pra wear­ing a Masaba Gupta cre­ation

Smart-ca­sual wear will be the go-to op­tion. (pic cour­tesy: from the in­sta han­dle of Sam­pada

A kurta by Ritu Ku­mar high­lights the multi colour thread em­broi­dery

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