Life After COVID-19: The New Age Of Fashion Consumption
While it’s too premature to even think about the repercussions of the greater change, mindful consumption and originality will be leading the way, explains Nachiket Barve
I’ll start with the present. It’s a standstill, a paralysis of sorts, that hasn’t ever happened before in the history of fashion. An unseen situation has stopped everything. If I have to reflect back to the last year, we weren’t at our brightest. But that’s not the concern. Presently, how we were doing as industry is irrelevant, because that’s not our updated reality. When you say Indian fashion, it’s more about fashion in India. I don’t think Indian fashion made much of a mark internationally in terms of the number of people consuming branded products. I’m not talking about stuff made in India or supplies of India, those are different aspects. I’m talking about what is designed in India.
The global market is also paralysed right now, and it could be a while before the borders open up. A while before we get in the thick of things. A lot of independent weavers and embroiders will suffer tremendously. The demand will reduce. A lot of orders have been cancelled. The need right now is your health, and not the next handbag or scarf. In terms of strategy, when it comes to placing the brand, the rethinking is entirely going to depend on when things normalise. We are in a state of limbo between how things are now and what happens a month later. It’s impossible to predict. In India especially, we’re right in the middle of the crisis, so prediction is a tad hasty.
How I think Indian fashion is going to be affected going forward, you ask? Well, everything about consumption and storytelling through fashion will change. And you know what, it should change. For too long, there’s been too much stuff being made. And then there are copies of original design, which lead to over consumption. This is a global problem, not just in our industry. Hopefully, the silver lining on this dark cloud is realising the actual value of fashion instead of mindlessly consuming and buying products that are going to be awfully harmful to the environment. Fair payment is going to come up, and be discussed profusely. When it comes to a product, even a handbag becomes the holy grail of fashion. But this month, you’ve nowhere to carry the handbag. Even that is a basic shift in consumption.
From how weddings are performed (we can’t even think of destination weddings or ones with five functions), a lot of those movements are going to define consumption in various ways. Globalisation will not die, but it will definitely be rethought. Not just for fashion, but for all industries. Will we still be flying in ingredients from across the world and products made in different countries? Not really, for a while. That, in turn, will create more support for local industries, brands and talents. We will spend that same money on Indian designs, and vendors, and support our country. Crisis or no crisis, innovation and authenticity is at the core of my aesthetic. It’s extremely important to be socially fair, and as a brand, I am supportive of that ideology, and plan to continue to embody it.
So is this going to make our digital footprint stronger, you ask? I don’t think that’s the case with fashion. Yes, maybe in terms of media consumption, but it still doesn’t change the importance of feeling clothes and buying them, which is of utmost importance to customers. That will never go out of sync. Online sales have grown, but even then, people will be mindful of consumption without thought. And by the time this ends, consumption will hopefully go in the right direction. It can become extreme or willful and conscious, more clarifying consumption, I hope. I know sustainability is highly encouraged, but we know that some of it is for the optics, or for the selling point. But when you talk about sustainability, it is also buying something and getting use out of it for a good two to three years. That’s something that will factor in now. It’s too soon to predict if the crisis will make sustainability a bigger factor, but depending on where we are, we will see if sustainability becomes a larger movement.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think when people’s priorities are shifting in large spaces currently, everybody has to rethink how they really wish to communicate. Same goes for brands. I’ve never believed in the kind of marketing where you just get someone to peg your product to the masses. For me, looking at a product with great value and keeping the transparency is where it is at. Yes, transparency. About how a product is made, and if it is made correctly. I have always encouraged questions and communicated enough behind the scenes with the stuff we put up. It is just a fair way of working. I expect that this crisis will teach everybody to be realistic about the pricing structure. The important thing right now is to generate work for artisans who need it, rather than trying to maximise profit. Whether it is a retailer or designer, let’s make things more accessible to more people by pricing them correctly, rather than selling to a thin slice of the society. If we make fashion accessible, the system to reach out, to recuperate, could be faster. Here’s hoping it is