The Indian fashion industry is going to be about going back to learning how to walk, rethinking how to connect, and flourishing in manufacturing, believes Bhaane’s Nimish Shah

We are in a limbo. For an industry that heavily relies on advertisers, everything has a domino effect. But when you face an impact like the current crisis, it’s almost like a write off. It’s a chance to redo, and restructure. You rank the formula and see if it was a success, and even if it was, you want to shake things up and reinvent. What we saw in the last five to eight years was the flourishing of the couture and the handcraft industries, both in the bridal markets and in the artisanal markets globally. In India, manufacturing is a big part of the industry, and that will continue to flourish, because that’s our expertise when it comes to making clothes and we still have labour at hand. But of course, the cost of manufacturing will go up. I can’t say the same about the design base, as that hasn’t actually come out so much in tonality, especially when it comes to ready-to-wear. Industries have been taking advantage of the fact that there was labour. We will still have labour, but the question will be at what cost, and if minimum wages will be revised, as we’re seeing that daily wages are substantially low.

Unfortunately, the designer space will have to sit back and see how everything unfolds, while large retailers obviously have a better penetration in the market. For our fashion industry, which was always quite dependent, it’s going to be about learning how to walk again. It’s going to be about building individual muscle, figuring how to talk to customers, whether retail is an approach or wholesale is the approach. The world is so scarred by the current situation and the thought of the future, that this will become a reason why fast fashion will slow down. Fast fashion also comes at a cost of killing yourself. It’s not just a revenue opportunity, it’s also about designers not being able to process any creativity and just yanking off collections without having to incubate it. People will take a step back and think if this is what they want to put out.

Hygiene is the need of the hour, in all possible ways, and there will be a lot of sterilisation and hygiene within independent thought processes. The season’s gone. So even if markets open now, commerce won’t happen. When the new season starts, everyone will re-evaluate what they were doing because a lot of issues were known, but there was no time to address them, because everything was fast paced, and you couldn’t step back. Now, there’s also a severe sense of patriotism and quality, so high street might struggle as a more evolved consumer would try to buy more localised brands than a high-street international brand. The customer is very aware, and more people are already jumping on to buying homegrown labels. From a publicity point of view, it will take the industry some time to know how to strategise, how to educate consumers. PR will be very handy in terms of educating customers. For us at Bhaane, our aesthetic has always been of a brand that was never built to sell clothes. They just became a medium of engagement. It was always about community building and creating a platform. Like always, we will see, adapt and change.

There’s no doubt that there will be long-term changes to the way fashion will be told or consumed in our country. There will be radical movements not just in India, but internationally as well, where we will be self-questioning. Do we need fashion weeks? Do we want to actually make these many clothes or do we need to make more clothes than what we have because people are tired and bored? And it would be really stupid if we didn’t change. Because we were all whining about wanting a change for a long time now. Here’s the time for course correction. Keeping commerce aside, compassion is on the forefront. Compassion about both nature and humanitarian issues. Impacts are being addressed on various levels, like sustainability. From the consumption side of things, most of us aren’t in the buying state of mind. I’ve been thinking about what I want to do when the lockdown is over, and I’m definitely looking to socialise rather than buying a new dress. But at the same time, once there’s mobility, everything circles back.

When it comes to how we’re going to be marketing in the future, I think sensitive marketing will drive. Whether through publishing, influencers, or whether it’s through making personal phone calls. Influence is just a tool and influencers themselves will be questioning their value, what they are doing, and the ethics of how they associate with brands. From stakeholders to improve the situation, I think we need absolute transparency to boost the industry further. Brands and fashion designers need to be more vocal about what they’re making and why they’re making it. The defense of price defining quality is going to be irrelevant. It is going to come back to being labour of love and honesty. I think that brands would address it themselves. Fashion brands will introspect on how they want to make things, how they want to tell stories, and how they wish to question things.