In the post pandemic world, the internet has become the new place to be. Today, every one from the fashion world whether a hot shot designer or newbies who are just testing their wings can be found online. Shailaza Singh explores the fashion net!
The net leveller of fashion
Sunil Sethi opines that the online trend has been a game changer for many. “Earlier people from Delhi were used to making a trip to Delhi and checking out new trends in fashion in those markets. However, now people are used to buying from the comfort of their homes. So, naturally the retail market will suffer. The designers who have been investing in opening shops and stores, especially single operators who only work on flagship stores may not be able to continue with paying high rents on their store. So, some churning is bound to take place as far as the Indian fashion designers are concerned. International markets have opened up at a much faster pace than domestic, so those who are into export markets might get some reprieve because of the business coming from that end.”
Pallavi Jaipur says, “The online world has helped in defining a new channel of buying and selling which is now here to stay. It has definitely increased the reach of the products.”
Rajesh Pratap thinks that now there are a lot of people who are ordering expensive items online. “Earlier, people didn’t have the confidence to buy a suit or a lehenga online because they had to try it on and get the fitting done. However, now people are ordering even expensive clothes. Brands have made it so convenient that people will come to your house and you can try it out to see if fits. Returns are becoming easier. So, online buying is gaining more credibility. You know you can get the fitting done and return it if it does not work. So digital fashion, distance selling is a reality. This is what has changed already. And this is a case everywhere. Now people have realized the futility of renting out expensive places, paying their employees huge conveyance allowances. They have understood zoom meetings are faster, easier and cheaper. Likewise, even in high fashion, things will change with time. But what those changes are, we will get to know with time.”
Raghavendra Rathore says that the migration of the fashion world to the online space has helped a lot of young blood to the market, which is bound to notch up the competition as a result of the pandemic. “You will see a lot of young designers suddenly muscling their way into the mainframe of Indian fashion because they now can create one product and don’t have to create a collection or have an army of tailors. Today, in the fashion business, you just need one prototype, a decent photographer and a decent website. So, whole migration to online is going to challenge the industry but at the same time provide opening for younger brands who didn’t have visibility or get into fashion week or capture the mindshare of the larger public except for partnering with Bollywood or other such biggies earlier. In a way, the field has become more level. Now the bigger brands will now be seen sitting next to a younger brand on a website. So, you don’t have to have big pockets to get into fashion. There is blood bath ahead of us in terms of price point and quality (what you see, buy and eventually get).”
However, he also feels there will be a churning of sorts when it comes to the fashion business selling its wares online. The consumers might also learn a few lessons. “On the flip side, the treachery of how people market and package their products will increase. There is bound to be a lot of instances of disappointment where an item costing 2500 rupees may not really look like a 2500 rupees item. We are not used to looking at products at that price point. Earlier people were used to buying 15000 rupees worth of product after they could touch and feel it. Now when people will buy a similar looking item for a lesser amount online. When they receive it and touch it, they may say, ‘Oh my God, this is polyester!’ There is going to be a great setback or mismatch in terms of expectations which will again course correct in a few months and people will arrive at somewhat a midpoint. All that is going to be a huge challenge because people would want to buy more for the same amount of money rather than quality because right now because there is hardly any opportunity to showcase the quality products considering the current paying ability of most people.”
It is indeed true that most people of the fashion world have been forced to move online due to the pandemic. In fact, the American fashion retailer Gap has closed all 81 stores in UK and Ireland to move to the online space.
Speaking of fashion, where do the accessories feature in this post pandemic world? Have they been dropped like hot cakes or are they still hot?
Sunil Sethi believes that people will be more devoted to practicality rather than fashion. “People now realize that there are some day-to-day things that they would need all the time. So, carrying sanitizers, extra masks, gloves are going to be a norm. Most men too will look for some sort of a man bag which will help them to carry all these things along with their gadgets like iPads with them where ever they go.”
So, what about footwear? He says, “These days women are out of practice with their heels. So, obviously, dress shoes and heels are less in demand. Hence, office wear will include more flats than heels. These days, I see more and more people going in for sneakers or breathable shoes. People no longer look down on what is called activewear in footwear. As a matter of fact, this kind of getting more prominence and acceptance.”
Raghavendra Rathore believes that there will be a lot of accessories when it is about handmade or sustainable products as a result of lesser number of artisans available for work. “Most people will focus on creating a lot of handmade accessories like earrings or masks.”
Neeta Mohapatra agrees. “These days more and more people are purchasing accessories from small firms and NGOs, which is a good trend to have emerged during the pandemic.”
Swati Vijaivargie says believes matching masks are the new accessories while shoes and bags are passe. “People are looking at matching masks and scarves.” Ashima Parnami disagrees, “I cannot sacrifice fashion for safety. Fashion or no fashion, I prefer wearing my N95.”
Earlier, the fashion aficionados swore by their favourite brands. Saying something about their beloved brands or designers had the potential to spark a passionate debate or even a full fledged war. Has the new world order impacted the brand loyalty?
Raghavendra Rathore feels that brand loyalty may vanish temporarily especially in the ongoing pandemic. “The consumer on the other side is becoming more discerning and the loyalties they had to brands are going to dissipate at least for the next few months or maybe for a year. Until it is gifting or impressing somebody, having a brand of prestige is going to take second priority. So, if the inflow of salary is stagnant, logically people are going to move to brands which are suddenly popping up and are equally producing qualitative products. So, as far as the consumer is concerned, loyalty will disappear, though the consumer will go and soak in the trends in the brands but they will buy replication elsewhere.” However, he believes that this might be a phenomenon reserved only for products with a short shelf life and will probably inspire new changes too. “The products that have a life cycle of more than two seasons or year and a half, I don’t think there is going to much erosion from their story boards and they will probably have customer loyalty because it is a long-term investment. People will start spending less on what is perishable or will wash away or tear in six months, because they want to wear something in the personal space and maybe save the big purchase for a later time. Many companies have probably understood this trend. For example, iPhone has launched new and less expensive versions of their products. Although the process would have started some years ago but this becomes an opportunity for them to launch six models which are comparatively low priced. You will see this happening across all industries. People have already been working on this front and what can be remoulded has been remoulded and has already been launched or will be launched in the coming months.”
This article by Shailaza Singh appeared in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on 16 July 2021