With factories and supply chains unable to resume activities due to the nationwide lockdown, all work has come to a standstill. Orders in hand have been kept on hold, resulting in rising concerns of deadstock.
The repercussions of the novel coronavirus extend to reduced consumer spending which has further dented the entire textile and apparel value chain comprising brands and retailers to weavers.
Indian fashion designers share their bounce back plan post COVID-19, address the problem of excess stock, and let us in on how they are using this time to rethink and re-strategise for the future.
Many designers and labels are rising up to the occasion by offering masks that match their brand aesthetics or latest collection to encourage purchases. Labels such as Anita Dongre, Bloni, Eka and Doodlage are amongst the few Indian fashion players who have gone this way.
“The fashion industry will have to come up with innovative ideas to adjust to the changing consumer behaviour, to survive and encourage people to invest,” said Kriti Tula, Co-founder, Doodlage.
“We are producing protective face masks to donate and retail in order to ensure a running atmosphere at the atelier. Currently, we are pushing sales of these face masks through departmental and medical stores across the country which are licensed to sell the same.” Akshat Bansal, Founder, Bloni, told Apparel Resources.
In another instance, Indian sustainable fashion brand Doodlage has come up with an idea to offer free face masks to its consumers which will match pieces from its latest online collection.
Doodlage will be offering free face masks along with its upcycled garments ordered by customers on its e-commerce store. These face masks will be created utilising leftover fabric scraps from Doodlage’s latest men’s, women’s, and accessories collections, which the brand has launched online.
“Drop us a remark on your orders to get yourself a matching face mask on all freshly upcycled and recycled styles, it’s on us,” Doodlage announced via its Facebook page.
After being granted required permissions and clearances by the District Municipal Corporation to operate in accordance with health and safety guidelines, Eka has started manufacturing protective face masks crafted from leftover textile scraps from its collections.
So far, the label has already donated 1,000 non-surgical masks for the underprivileged to the district administration and is supporting local craft clusters by continuing to work with them.
Commenting on the same, the Eka announced via Facebook, “It is ongoing work, we will continue to send across approximately 300 to 500 masks each week. These are made from fabric scraps, 100% natural, washable and reusable. A learning from the pandemic for all of us is – reuse and reduce, all consumption leading to non-biodegradable waste. The usage of disposable masks and PPE will only lead us into another crisis emerging from this one.”
“I see designers selling existing dead stock at discounted prices to kick-start post lockdown. I see businesses chasing technology and digitalisation more than ever, essentials becoming more advanced and capsulated, and togetherness becoming more intimate and important despite people being more isolated than before.” – Akshat Bansal, Founder, Bloni
Indian fast fashion retailer FabAlley has also jumped into the bandwagon by launching a new category of protective face masks which it aims to sell via online marketplaces such as Big Basket, Nykaa and Myntra. Combining functionality with fashion, these face masks are reusable, washable, and are made in signature FabAlley prints and patterns.
“Face masks have become an essential part of our new reality. As a brand, our design philosophy has always focussed on relevance, amalgamating customers’ needs, with trends and designs. During these uncertain times, masks are not only required as precautionary measures, but are also going to become an important aspect of our everyday outfits, be it to work or after, and hence, there is no reason you can’t continue to look and feel good while protecting yourself.” Tanvi Malik and Shivani Poddar, Co-founders, FabAlley, shared with AR.
According to a report released by McKinsey, as countries move through the contagion curve, there are pockets of increasing spending even as consumers universally pull back on discretionary spending. Online buying has spiked up almost everywhere around the world, but that shift has not come close to offsetting the overall reduction in spending.
In the case of labels such as 431-88 and Amrich, online retailing has been strong during this period, but due to the lockdown, no dispatches have been made yet.
“The same old ways of emotionless online retail therapy are not going to work in the near future. We need to remember that the web lacks tactile association and high fashion clothing has a lot to do with touch and feel, therefore we should look forward to striking a balance. Exchange and return, fitting and sizing need to be revaluated if online retail for fashion is the ‘new normal’.” – Akshat Bansal, Founder, Bloni
Commenting on the same, Amit Vijaya, Co-Creative Director of Indian handloom label Amrich, said, “The lockdown, which in a way, is necessary to prevent further spread, also prevents any processes for work to function. Manufactured stocks are just lying and the fear is that the season would pass by without being able to get it to customers.”
A time where ideas are born
“This time of solitude and isolation gives us an opportunity to rethink our roles in society and introspect on the need of the hour,” Amit said, further adding “Sustainable living is not just a buzzword anymore – we have been given this time to rethink on how to proceed in the future, slowing down to learn and grow from our mistakes; to be still more responsible for our actions in consumption and production; research techniques and come up with new ideas.”
Fashion and creation are not going to stop. For Akshat, Bloni’s range plan may have fewer numbers of pieces, focusing on more regional based clothing, but most importantly, keeping a very strong brand identity in sync, where sustainability, comfort, and functionality all collide, will be the brand’s priority.
Validating the same, Shweta Kapur, Creative Director of Indian label 431-88, cited, “We’ve taken this time to also figure where we are currently lacking and cutting off all unnecessary expenditure. Luckily, 431-88 is not a seasonal brand and we only work with separates, so it is easy for us to jump the traditional calendar and offer products that can be wardrobe essentials for years. There will definitely be a huge shift in consumer behaviour in the coming months, and we are currently studying and analysing that.”
“Indians are emotional spenders. With everything going on around us and the looming recession, people who can spend would also be a little wary about shopping. I see more people wearing things that they already own instead of buying new things.” – Shweta Kapur, Creative Director, 431-88
The Government’s role
But still, when we separate the Indian design industry from the textile industry as a whole, a lot of issues still remain to be understood. A relatively new and niche sector with different scales, categories, catering markets, market places, hidden facts, highly skilled staff, and employees, the Indian fashion space is still evolving.
Elaborating on the same, Akshat said, “The Government needs to understand the Indian fashion sector first to start helping. They need to create a special team that listens to the problems, situations, issues of individual companies to command help and support. Some companies may require funding, and others may need strategic help with accounts and managing finance including long-term planning. Most of my contemporaries would just do great if they have an experienced helping hand in making a better ROI, instead of running the show all alone.”
This period is also a great time for businesses to reach out and connect with their customers in order to build a loyal base. With almost the entire world under home arrest and a Wi-Fi at hand, it has never been easier to grab eyeballs. Thus, with proper communication, a brand can use this time to strengthen the most prioritised factor for success in retail – consumer engagement.
Bloni is taking its consumers on an archive journey, wherein they are opening up their research and process books for a better understanding of the brand. Making them truly believe in the brand would result in the creation of a stronger connection.
Even for 431-88, right now is really about community building. “Rather than pushing products and sales which honestly can’t be fulfilled till the lockdown lifts and also somewhere a little tone-deaf, we are focusing more on things that the 431-88 woman enjoys doing and can do at home. Women from our community, which is made up of our clients, partners and vendors, are pitching in with their area of expertise, whether it’s sharing recipes, books, workouts or just how to be mentally engaged. Right now, it’s a time to pause. Re-Set, Re-Align and Reflect.” Shweta revealed.