If we look closely at the online Indian fashion industry, about 75% of the total fashion sales are of apparels and footwear yet this holds only 8% to 10% of luxury fashion sales thus many designers believe that luxury and high fashion cannot benefit through online mediums as buyers prefer to see, feel and then purchase or place orders.
Although the pandemic of COVID 19 and the fear in the minds of the consumers have forcefully changed the situation, maybe leading to a change in the operation and buying pattern of the Indian fashion industry too.
Overview of the Indian Fashion Industry
Organized in the 20th century the Indian fashion industry evolved from traditional and machine wear to designer wear due to the veteran fashion designers who put their art and creativity in weaving and constructing garments. Designers like Ritu Beri, Bina Ramani, Ritu Kumar, and Rina Dhaka brought out the indigenous fashion, Indian weavers and artisans through their collections. Mostly into fusion wear, they experimented with silhouettes and Indian fabrics along with arts such as block prints, various forms of embroideries, gotta Patti work and mirror work.
- The 80s
The early ’80s saw a rise of the fashion world in India, credited to Indian fashion designers like Satya Paul, Rohit Khosla, Tarun Tahiliani and ABSK, the 80s were a booming time for fashion. With the establishment of the National Institute of Fashion and Technology in 1986 by the Ministry of Textiles, fashion also became a legit subject of study encouraging many to take this as a career path.
- The 90s
The 90s brought with it globalization and liberalization, effecting the Indian fashion Industry by introducing them to Prêt wear. Influenced by the west many designers started to launch collections that integrated the Indian fashion and culture but in western silhouettes such as T-shirts by Manish Arora and Kurti or tunics by Monisha Jaising.
A revolutionary moment was the establishment of the Fashion Design Council of India, which started to organize fashion shows and fashion weeks (India Fashion Week) to promote the fashion designers and manufacturers of India.
- Early 2000
This was the era of Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra of the Bollywood industry. The early 2000s saw a massive influence of Bollywood in fashion being continued by actresses like Karishma Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar. The actresses and actors attires decided what the next fashion would be. The rise of already a decade old costume designer of Bollywood, Manish Malhotra’s dressing these divas in chiffons, nets and satins started to rule the hearts of not only the Film industry but also the common people who would go and watch the movies. The 2000s also marked the Indian fashion designer Manish Arora become the first Indian designer to participate in the Paris Fashion Week.
- 2010 Onwards
Lakme Fashion Week (parted from FDCI in the early 2000s), introduced a GEN Next Program that allowed budding designers to showcase their talent and collection at the Lakme Fashion Week platform. The 2010 and onwards is marked as the era of experimental fashion where it was not just regarded as clothing but as a form of expression and conceptualization also spreading awareness about sustainable fashion.
As many started embarking into the fashion journey, fashion weeks such as India Runway Week (2013), India Bridal Fashion Week (2010), India Kids Fashion Show (2012) etc were formed to widen the opportunities and options for fashion designers to exhibit and showcase, thereby giving wings to the Indian fashion industry and its new entrants.
Apart from Instagram which the Indian fashion designers considered as a digital medium to promote their brand and skills, another far-sighted effort was initiated by Pernia Qureshi when she launched the Perniapopup.com for fashion designers to reach global buyers. A well-curated and executed effort she brought the Indian fashion industry online by not only generating sales but also branding them at a global platform.
2020 And The Sudden Change In The Indian Fashion World
Accompanied by the global slowdown, demonetization, tax reforms and unrest in the country, COVID 19 aka Corona Virus changed the dynamics of the Indian fashion industry.
- Price Points & Online Sales
The lockdown period being extended along with strict measures to close down the markets and malls, the Indian fashion designers such as Jenjum and Samant Chauhan confirmed that brick and mortar sales have dipped down 90%.
The permanent fear that this widespread pandemic situation has infiltrated in the minds of the people is sure to encourage online sales for a long time to come.
As many fashion designers believe that luxury fashion due to its price point is not a favourable product to be sold online, the fashion industry might see an emerging line with lower price points.
“Right now the hit is 100%. Even when the lockdown gets lifted we expect a huge liquidity crunch in the market and are expecting a 50% to 70% drop in sales in the immediate future”
“Our main strategy will be to minimize wastage and concentrate a bit more on affordable designs in the near future.”- Dolly J, Indian Fashion Designer to I Knock Fashion
- Local Procurement
Many Indian Fashion designers use handloom and handmade textile was woven in India to create their collection but with advancement and globalization materials and fashion, parts are also procured from China, Korea, Japan and other countries. The pandemic led to a halt in the movement of goods, leaving no option but to procure material locally, thereby opening a larger area of sales in future for the local manufacturers and vendors.
“Most of our raw materials such as handloom textiles are produced in India while we also import a few key fabrics from countries such as China, Korea and Japan — which are currently unavailable.
While the situation seems to remain difficult, we are working on finding alternatives locally and even up-cycling from our inventory”- Rahul Mishra, Indian Fashion Designer to I Knock Fashion
- Medium of Branding
As print media has shrunk in size due to difficulty in operating during the lockdown, fashion designers and fashion brands are opting for digital mediums to advertise. Instagram, Online Media and Facebook are the new branding mediums in the fashion town!.
Keeping a track on numbers and visitors is comparatively easier through digital media.
Many talks are also being organized on Instagram and Youtube to keep the momentum of fashion going. A group session was organized on the 7th of April with celebrity designer Gaurav Gupta and celebrity Stylist Anaita Shroff Adjania by Quarancharity. Thus members of the fashion industry are now looking towards digital mediums to brand and to keep in news.
- Virtual Fashion Shows and Exhibitions
11th March 2020, the date for FDCI’s bi-annual fashion show LMIFW A/W 2020 was postponed due to the scare of Corona Virus. Many other fashion events and exhibitions that were organized and lined up in March, April and May 2020 were cancelled due to restrictions on gatherings by the government authorities of India.
Such restrains and suspicions on physical gatherings led to the encouragement of virtual exhibitions and shows.
What Are Virtual Fashion Shows And Events?
While Instagram, Facebook and other such social media platforms make everything accessible for everyone from everywhere, virtual fashion shows and events have made connecting from different areas to buyers without being physically present at one place a reality for fashion brands and fashion designers.
Although not a new concept, in 2014 Top Shop staged the World’s first virtual Catwalk where four lucky winners with Virtual headphones and headsets experienced models catwalking live and also experienced celebrities sitting next to them virtually.
In 2017, Lakme Fashion Week introduced virtual seats in India to provide a front-row experience of the show to those who could not attend the show personally.
A 360-degree fashion show presented exclusively on Facebook, It encircled, talks, backstage, real-time reactions of celebrities, interviews and designer insights. The purpose was not just to connect on Facebook but also to show and make them experience the grandeur of the set and provide an on-ground experience. It was India’s first-ever virtual fashion show of Manish Malhotra at Lakme Fashion Week presented by Etihad Airways.
In 2019, India Runway Week marked the launch of Avon Lingerie in India in the virtual fashion show exclusive to Instagram with 35 designers participating in the same. The 3-day event featured designers like Samant Chauhan, Nikhil Thampi, Nikhita Taandon and Niki Mahajan etc.
Virtual Fashion Shows And Other Events During Lockdown & COVID 19
After cancellation or indefinite postponement of fashion shows and events across the globe, the fashion industries of many countries are taking to the digital space to ensure that the show must go on.
- Recently on the 24th of March 2020, Shanghai Fashion Week organized a virtual show in partnership with Alibaba’s Tmall, launched as a special edition of Tmall Cloud Fashion Week. This was viewed by over six million people. Each designer was designated an hour to showcase their collection.
- Georgio Armani, the Italian fashion house made last-minute changes in the Milan Fashion Week showcase due to the virus and announced on the 23rd of February 2020 asking the visitors to stay indoors and view the fashion show online on its website, Facebook and Instagram. The models walked in an empty showroom while millions viewed the collection on the internet.
- Ahmadabad Indian fashion designers Shyamal and Bhumika resorted to Instagram to launch their latest Spring Summer 20 collection.
Are Virtual Fashion Events The Future Of Fashion In India?
While the world is acknowledging the power of virtual fashion events, India too has a wide scope for acceptance of virtual fashion events.
With about 460 million internet users across India of which 60% is actively engaging on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. and factors such as digital India and low prices of data are encouraging a wave of online and internet usage across the country. It is expected that by 2024 about 700 million people will have access to the internet either through mobiles or other mediums in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities too.
As COVID 19 has led to a lockdown refurbishing the habits of the people of spending more time online, ordering from apps and internet sites and looking for entertainment or courses online, the chances of citizens preferring to watch or participate in fashion events online is more than onsite.
How can Virtual Fashion Events Change The Dynamics Of The Indian Fashion Industry?
Virtual fashion events can be considered to be more affordable, providing a wider audience reach through various platforms at the same time. Events, exhibitions and shows organized to be showcased through online mediums can
encourage a larger global audience thereby broadening the horizon for the fashionista.
As merits are kept in a place that seem to be weighing more than the demerits, hosting an online fashion event is not a child’s play, frames, size, fit in the mobile screen and desktop screen and many other technical aspects should be accurate to finally throw a great picture to the audience.
The virtual fashion industry might open newer avenues proving to be beneficial and detrimental.
- Technology Industry & Artificial Intelligence
Newer organizations will be formed in India that would specialize in online fashion events. Integrating the latest technology a new fashion event industry might see to develop due to Virtual Fashion Events.
Robots metamorphosing the shape, color and hair type of humans may come in picture in order to avoid human contact. Robots might actually replace the models on the ramp. The more efficient form of humans might take over the fashion modelling industry with newer features of changing shape, size and face. Easier to maintain, coordinate and program with bleak chances of human error or disadvantages, post COVID 19 can bring these machinas on the fashion ramps.
Already in making and shaping is Sophia the robot who walks and talks fashion, spotted in New York’s Fashion Week on the front row from Hong Kong, this robot is taking to news already. catching everyone’s eyes. Snapped and featured on the cover page of many magazines, Sophia might be paving way for many of her kind to enter into the fashion industry as models, influencers or even columnists.
(Imagine having a model audition of these robots, where they send out videos of introducing themselves with their built in profiles and work portfolios.)
As drones are already used as video recorders, they might be developed further to become the kin of the fashion industry. In 2018, Dolce and Gabbana cleverly used drones to behave as flying models showcasing their bags at the Milan Fashion Week. Although not totally successful, the Saudi Fashion Show turned drones into ghostly structures hanging outfits to showcase. A disaster, these flying saucers vented too much air making the garments tremble during the show.
These might be developed further to not only give a clear footage in fashion shows but also to behave as models by the side of the robots.
Virtual Headsets, those sitting or viewing from the front row might enjoy these shows a bit more than the back seaters. Virtual headsets can be a game changer for the seat arrangements done during the show. Have the very important sit at the same area as the show. Rest can be handed over these headsets to enjoy the show as much, even if they are seated further away.
- Subject of Study
Just like Visual Merchandizing was introduced in study subjects, Virtual Fashion might become a new branch of fashion that would be taught in institutes, enhancing fashion and providing a new profession to many. It may involve setup, best ways to style for online events, postures, technical knowledge, ambience creation etc.
This subject of study can be made intricate with knowledge of various forms of virtual fashion marketing and platforms to exhibit from. Apart from this, fashion education in India might see a reform as this subject may introduce practical knowledge more than theory.
The regular subjects of study might also include handling crisis in fashion business now. Moving towards online and virtual fashion events, the fashion industry needs to inculcate digital media and its future in fashion as an auxiliary subject in order to prepare the students for future.
- Affordable Online Fashion Shows
As many do not have the deep pockets to participate in fashion shows, an online fashion show or event might be the perfect way to bring forth the collection across a million viewers for fashion designers.
Using of social media to have a virtual fashion show with collections of pieces on 3D models prepared on software’s may be a new trend that you might notice coming very soon in the Indian fashion Industry. No need of big sets, venues, people for coordination, preping backstage and physical presence of influencers. All you would need to do is send invites and invest the money or even less in preparing 3D model images swirling and showcasing every angle of the garment on Social media. These images will stay with you for as long as you want just like the data stored and kept in drives and externals.
An affordable online show might be the next choice of the fashion designers in order to make up for the lost time and money during COVID 19 and the lockdown.
IKF Desk (Conclusion)
While the virtual fashion world was explored and dived into in 2014, the 2020 pandemic has forced this to become an alternative to the current situation. With its acceptance, changing consumer behaviour pattern and wider reach attribute, it might become a parallel industry to onsite fashion events in India. As India is growing in terms of internet users and fashion-conscious consumers with most of them purchasing online, along with fashion designers planning to bring out affordable collections to suit the pockets and needs of the consumers after lockdown opens, there is a great possibility that they might also resort to online mediums to showcase their collections as it is more affordable thereby making it a regular practice in the Indian Fashion Industry.
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