Will Fashion Transcend Seasons? – India Today

Traditionally, the industry has always been bound by a fashion calendar. The fashion capitals abroad cater to predominant seasons — spring and fall — and also have specific collections for resort and pre-fall. The Indian calendar, on the other hand, is structured differently. The two major fashion weeks in the country have designated collections for summer and winter. Fashion designer Rimzim Dadu is of the opinion that in comparison to other fashion capitals around the world, the Indian fashion calendar is relatively more modest. She thinks the concept of multiple collections in a year is problematic, “Having more seasons and more collections adds up to mindless consumption. It also adds up to inventories and in turn discounted sales and in some cases even dumping or burning unsold merchandise to maintain brand exclusivity.”

Apart from the seasonal fashion weeks, we also showcase specific festive and bridal collections. Veteran fashion designer Ritu Kumar says, “We have adopted seasonal collections as a concept from the West. In India, the wedding season goes on almost according to astrologers across different auspicious times over the year. Our bridal collections are perennial and classic. Of course new styles are added, but couture shows take place at a certain time and it reflects the entire bridal line; it is not seasonal.”

Changing market behaviour

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that change is inevitable, and this has proven to be true across most, if not all, sectors. Take for instance a simple concept such as work-from-home, which was once relegated to just freelancers, has now become the new reality for most of us. The lockdown has caused distress to most industries, and fashion has been no exception. India’s major fashion week hosted by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) had to keep their Autumn/Winter 2020 show, which was due to happen on March 11, on hold. Also, with production stopped and shipments delayed for non-essential goods, the summer collections of many fashion designers and labels are stagnating in warehouses. Kumar adds, “All the inventory that was supposed to be sold in the months of March, April and May is still stocked up, which might spill over to autumn/winter. With regards to the winter collection, it might be similar to classic Indian designer styles because there will be restrains on budget and we might not see much market interest in purchasing immediately after the pandemic.”

Post China’s lockdown, retailers witnessed a case of revenge buying and many are claiming that Indians will follow suit. While we’re not sure how consumer behaviour will change on home turf, it will certainly be a next few difficult months for the fashion industry at large. Sunil Sethi, President, FDCI, thinks that revenge buying isn’t on the cards for us. Sethi adds, “The Indian consumer has a different mentality. We are conservative in our spending; we don’t want to show off in times of crisis. Also, the sustainability mindset is working with many Indian customers; and during this lockdown people are also rediscovering their wardrobe.”

Mentioning that forecasting consumer behaviour post the lift of the lockdown in India might be difficult, Tina Tahiliani Parikh, owner of multi-designer store Ensemble, sheds some light, “It is hard to predict, but I do feel that people are going to be more conscious about their consumption.”

Considering transeasonal clothing

Many designers are weighing in on the advantages of having one collection that spans various seasons. Dadu agrees that transeasonal clothing is the way forward. She adds, “We [her brand] have been creating transeasonal collections for the last few years now. We have focused on creating classics that would be investment pieces in wardrobes; that last beyond seasons and years to become heirloom pieces.”

One of the many factors involved when one talks about transeasonal clothing is innovation. Fashion designer Sanjay Garg, founder of the label Raw Mango adds, “One should look at this opportunity as a filter to edit offerings across the globe — there is too much already out there. Following trends and seasons dissolves everything in sustainability and organic fashion. Instead focus on innovation and explore the ways of how one can have a different voice and can sustain growth.”

Parikh highlights that quality and longevity of clothing will be of utmost importance to consumers, “People would go for better quality goods that are kinder to the earth and that they can wear for longer rather than [it] being restricted to a season.” Sethi, too, believes that designers will take this approach for the next fashion week showcase, “The designers are [now] saying that the collection, which may not have sold [in summer] will be layered, added or made in a way [it can be used] for their fall collection.”

Fashion designer Aneeth Arora, whose brand Péro completed a successful decade last year, is of the opinion that if fashion designers only stick to one season showcase a year, the collection can be augmented with a few seasonal pieces. Arora states, “If we showcase one season a year, we can just add a few winter pieces when we showcase for winter and keep the entire collection the same. A lot of it [purchase from] overseas depends on how shops see the collection and order, so we might have to just showcase the winter line to them. It will make everything a lot more efficient and there will be less fashion waste. We [designers] work a lot with textiles and a lot on research. In fact, every six months we are researching on a new season. In this process of research, we end up wasting a lot of resources, because we might experiment with 50 textiles but may use only 15. So the processes of working towards the season will change, because we will consciously do less. We will consciously experiment less.”

Post-pandemic changes

Undoubtedly, there will be varying degrees of changes across the industry, and designers as well as consumers will have to adapt. Talking to us about how the fashion world will see a change, Kumar says, “The change will be dependent upon numerous things. For instance, how long the pandemic will last; the longer it lasts the more difficult it is going to be for the fashion industry. Secondly, it’ll put a crunch on turnovers and cash across the industry. Thirdly, it is difficult to predict that after the lockdown ends, whether customers will immediately buy or there might be little rush in stores and thereafter, customer behaviour might change till a few months are over since the scare of the virus will prevail for some time.”

Recently, organisers of London Fashion Week announced that they will opt for an all-digital format for the upcoming season. We were curious to know whether the digital fashion model is something India can give a thought to in the post-pandemic world? Sethi, who considers this a great move, says, “If that is the way forward, there is no harm for India to take a leaf out of that book. We don’t know as of yet what will happen in October. But if international buyers do not come to India because of air travel restrictions or social distancing, and if there is a fear among travellers, then this [digital model] may be a good idea.” That said, he adds that the fashion week here is more than just shows, “We are not just about the 25-30 fashion shows. We are also about the 100 stalls of designers with racks full of merchandise. So, in that case, it is not just about [digital] fashion shows; it is about having the collection available digitally. That, I think, the Indian fashion designer is savvy to understand, is the need of the hour.”

Limiting fast fashion consumption may be a positive impact post the lockdown, according to Parikh. She discusses two predominant changes that might occur, “I think that people are going to be more thoughtful about their lives. There is going to be a lot of millennials thinking ‘what have we done to our world?’, and may reduce their consumption of fast fashion.” Arora, agrees, stating that a factor to key in because of social distancing is the major need for mindful consumption. She adds, “We should be more careful about what we produce and how we are buying.” Arora agrees that subscribing to a slow fashion pace as a brand also impacts the consumer, “When designers produce less, the message will unconsciously go out to the customers.”

Change, though, according to Garg, will have to take place in more ways than one as far as fashion is concerned, “I don’t think we should consider ourselves indispensable to fashion weeks or events. Instead, we should think of alternate ways to communicate and present new collections.” He concludes, “Supporting local businesses and craftsmen, and ensuring ethical treatment and fair wages will help promote socio-economic growth for all. Evolution takes place at all levels, I think we all need to be a bit more aware of our surroundings.”


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