Friday 23, Oct 2020, Delhi (India)
At I Knock Fashion, we were doing a story on COVID 19 and its effect on the fashion hub Hauz Khas Village, but talking and gathering information revealed much more, the question remains, a site which was once a lively market for designers, quality shopping, family gatherings and heritage walks has now turned into a local pub ground. A UNESCO heritage site, reflecting the indigenous fashion of India, Is Hauz Khas Village only hit by COVID 19 or is the situation graver at the dying designer market of this area?
"The market is going down anyways because of the eateries outside, the pubs and clubs are not the best, the segment they are targeting is not the kind of clientele that we as shop owners look forward to"- Prerna, Fashion Designer, Hauz Khas Village
Possessing the architectural sensibilities of the Delhi Sultanate, the 13th century UNESCO Heritage site is an amalgamation of Medieval, British and Post British era reflecting the rich heritage and history of India. Hauz Khas in literal terms means 'The Royal Tank', a reservoir built by Allaudin Khilji to supply water to the inhabitants.
This lake (tank) is surrounded by a madrasa, pavilions, and tombs of the Muslim Royalty reigning between the 14th-16th century. Later in the 20th century, this area was upgraded and revamped to become a residential cum commercial complex at the heart of South Delhi. It was at this time that fashion designers, multi-designer stores like Ogaan, Ole Couture and Ricco, heritage book collectors, cultural food joints and cafes opened up making it an urbanized village and a perfect place to hang out experiencing the richness of India.
But it is all changing now, once a popular destination for ex-pats, foreigners, explorers, and shoppers are now dooming to be a place of loud music, overcrowdedness and cramped pubs and eateries. The designated lane for fashion and jewelry designers is becoming less and less populated as many are closing down moving to other locations.
On the condition of anonymity, a store owner at Hauz Khas Village quoted "It is not just COVID 19, there is a global slowdown, but yes, after the COVID, there are no tourist in the market, hence the sales have gone down, I am planning to shut down from here, open a small office and focus on online sales along with offline sales"
"Before COVID 19, it was already bad, I have been seeing a dip in footfall and walk-in sales since 2016. Many clients hesitate in paying GST too, it's a funny situation where a place like HKV is noticing lesser footfall." - Varun Loht, Co-Founder, VAR-SHI
VAR-SHI is strategically placed overlooking the lake at Hauz Khas Village, Founded by Vidushi and Varun, The label designs both men's wear and women's wear. Having showcased in Rome, the label blends the Indian and European aesthetics to create fusion wear garments along with Indian traditional wear. VAR-SHI also houses Shi Cafe, a terrace cafe where celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan, Zareen Khan and many more can be spotted spending their leisure time watching the serenity of the lake.
"HKV is in direct competition with Shahpurjat with so many designer there and with bargaining options, the crowd has diminished from Hauz Khas Village" Varun Loht, Co-Founder, VAR-SHI
Varun clearly indicates that demonetization and now COVID 19 has brought the market to a standstill situation.
A Lakme Fashion Show Designer Anuj Bhutani has a set up in the inner lanes of Hauz Khas Village, A JD Institute of Fashion Technology alumnus, Anuj Bhutani has been selling across India through multi-designer stores and online platforms.
" COVID-19 has affected every sector of every business. For us, of course, the sales have gone down. Production has come to a standstill. The sales have gone down at least 80%. Customers are reluctant to go outside to public places, malls, stores which have cut down sales. But we understand the importance and the need for people to stay indoors. Thus, all our employees are also working from home until the virus passes."
As the situation is not in control of anyone, Anuj looks at the positive side planning to utilize this time to stir up his creativity.
"Sales are down 80%-90% and online sales are also not that high as a lot of people are postponing their weddings, we are promoting our brand online and encouraging people to buy online, as of now we already have enough raw material stocked and not sure of that being utilized completely seeing the scenario."
PRE.VA.SU stands for Prerna, Vandana and Sudha the mother- daughters trio run the bridal and indo western wear store at Hauz Khas Village. A renowned and organized label. They contacted their clients as soon as they heard about COVID 19.
"None of our orders are standing we completed everything by fast-tracking our work as soon as we heard about it. If we do get urgent orders then we have everything managed in a way that the employees and workers can work from their places, there will be no contact to keep everyone safe."
"We had good sales in March last year but this time, since early February the footfall started to decline, we are in mid-March and obviously there is no business and now a complete lockdown"
"Our products are majorly dependent on foreign buyers that are drastically down as there is no travel"
Suvendu says "Personally years 2016 to parts of 2018, Hauz Khas Village was very throbbing, a lot of people used to come here but after a crackdown as the restaurants were not following guidelines and they were closed by police and administration the crowd that would come early evening and also shopped stopped coming, demonetization also affected many shops here."
Ode to Earth affiliated to Access Development Services, provides livelihood to many artisans across India, from handloom and block printed sarees to jewelry and blue pottery, this brand is a go-to destination for those looking for Indian crafts and heritage.
"A number of orders are kept pending for dispatch as courier services are also at halt and the sales are also hit due to COVID 19 as people are not coming to the market in fear of contracting the virus."
"The situation makes it worse for us as a designing label as the borders are sealed and it is difficult to procure raw material right now."
"The government needs to intervene whether it be on rental renegotiations or supporting small businesses such as ours"
Ansh Bhutani , fashion designer and store owner of Studio 51, stresses that COVID 19 has really affected a happening market like Hauz Khas Village, thus making it tough for small business, designers and other stores in that area.
An indo western, ready to wear designer store has a lot of options to choose from for any casual or party event.
While many feel that the future of online fashion can benefit from this situation, it doesn't seem much like it.
"Online sales are also not as high as a lot of people are postponing their weddings but we are promoting our brand online and encouraging people to place orders online too"- Prerna, Fashion Designer, Hauz Khas Village
"Online sales may turn to be a savior right now, at least it can help in making the running costs if not profits"- Ansh Bhutani, Fashion Designer, Hauz Khas Village
As fashion and jewelry are luxury buys that people generally get their hands on during celebrations, the designers and store owners are utilizing this time to promote themselves online so when the market reopens, they would have had enough visibility. Many feel that going online may be a good option but as luxury products are expensive people would still prefer to walk into stores before purchasing them.
While many concerns occupy the minds of the Hauz Khas Village's store owners and designers, a well-deduced fact is that the village seems to be losing its charm. It is from heritage and a cultural site being converted into a party hub. With COVID 19 spreading across the globe, the small fashion hub market of Delhi- Hauz Khas Village is massively hit due to the Coronavirus too.