The Indian fashion industry is at a very nascent stage, still maneuvering its way to build a future in fashion. With indigenous fashion as a strength for the Indian fashion designers along with the ongoing global awareness about India's fashion and clothing style through fashion blogs, videos and social media, many fashion designers have been able to set foot in the world markets. Organized in the 80s and 90s the fashion industry of India owes credit to veteran designers such as Rina Dhaka, Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit Khosla, Manish Arora and many others for building a fraternity from an unorganized and scattered sector involving designers, craftsmen, artisans, and workers.
Before the outbreak of COVID 19, the fashion designers, multi-designer stores, and retailers were looking forward to a flourishing 2020 as consumers were keen on being spendthrift especially because spring and summer seasons bring along with it festivals followed by marriages in India. The fashion designers and fashion retailers capitalize on various fashion events, exhibitions, and fashion shows during this tenure, branding, and materializing all the hard work done by them for months.
The 2000s saw the formation of a council that reinvented fashion and clothing in India. Fashion Design Council of India along with IMG Lakme Fashion Week started to organize fashion weeks making it a common space for designers, models, stylists, and buyers. From a bi-annual event, the split led to fashion weeks being witnessed four times a year, increasing the scope of designer participation and enhancing the upcoming talents. Following the trend, many other private fashion week bodies stepped up to promote the fashion designer's talent at regional and national levels giving further scope to bloggers and influencers to write fashion blogs and post about fashion and its auxiliaries.
Just as fashion shows and fashion weeks play an inevitable role in showcasing the designer's creativity, so do exhibitions, pop-ups, and other fashion events. Many in the fashion industry consider exhibitions as not only a medium to capitalize but also to brand and make clients for life. The more prestigious the event, the higher rank you gain as a designer. The exhibition organizing industry has seen a boom in India, started locally by women grouping for parties and get-togethers, now the industry organizes the most prestigious exhibitions at national and international levels.
The exhibitions alone provide fashion designers and other retailers a chance to understand and allocate their markets, stay in contact with the clients, and brand themselves personally at various locations.
The Indian fashion industry was at a rising best in 2019 expecting an even better 2020 when COVID 19 and its outbreak put everything to a halt. As markets closed and weddings and events ran through mass cancelations, sales of fashion designers dropped by 80% and fast fashion brands also witnessed an absolute shut leading to revenue nearing to zero for them.
Fashion designers, exporters, and importers experienced a massive backlash as orders of the western world were left hanging in between or canceled without any further notice. A major burden of the crisis is being shared by the artisans, workers, and craftsmen who work and earn on daily basis and are currently living on the supplies offered by either the government, other organizations, or general people.
The fashion event industry endorsing and supporting small, medium, and high-level designers, entrepreneurs, retailers, artisans and craftsmen observed a sudden lack of movement of the consumers, they also noticed cancelations of travel plans of the designers and hesitations from international clients to be a part of crowded places. This necessitated them to postpone their events without giving a further date or to take them online and have virtual shows to reach to the consumers. The strict rules of the Indian government also restricted the movement of the people and negated the holding of any event.
"Number of events have been canceled over the last 1 month as the Indian Government enacted more stringent guidelines on country’s complete lockdown."- Kiran Kheva and Avinash Pathania, India Runway Week
Founder Kiran Kheva and Co-Founder Avinash Pathania- India Runway Week
Asia's youngest fashion event India Runway Week, presented by IFFD has been holding fashion shows and fashion weeks for years. The platform for upcoming and young designers, India Runway Week, has introduced to the fashion fraternity many new, aspiring and talented designers.
"COVID 19 will have an effect on the industry for sure, if I have to tell the scenario then many guests of the event will head home early, for fear of catching the virus again, while those who remain attending the catwalk shows will surely be armed with face masks and hand sanitizer"
Both the founders feel that COVID 19 is sure to change the scenario of fashion in India while making it a tough market to survive for the coming months.
"Fast fashion trends will slow down as sales will dip for many leading fashion brands like H&M, Zara, Forever21, etc. We will be back on the track of seasonal fashion trends. This will bring correction in the fashion event industry and genuine players will only be able to sustain in the longer run."
"The wedding season will be over by the time lockdown is lifted, Every individual will put their money in the necessities so I think fashion designers will face real hard time for the next 6 months, post lockdown is lifted."
Founder Anam Mirza- The Label Bazaar
The Label Bazaar (TLB), founded in 2016 by Anam Mirza is one of the most celebrated fashion exhibitions and events held across the country.
"I had two shows one on the 21st of February and 29th of February, and that time COVID had not hit the Indian subcontinent, and right after that there was a massive hit in India, so we did not have to cancel anything, although our July show did go through cancellations and we are very uncertain about what the future holds right now"."It will take time for things to get back to normal, for designers and retailers to get back to normalcy it might take about a year" Anam speculates.
"Even if the market opens up, shoppers should also be there to come out and shop and hence, we are not sure if we will be immediately able to do exhibitions without being certain about the footfall, as social distancing might become something that we would be experiencing for a year or so."
Runway Director- Jagnoor Aneja
The Runway Director for Make Me Up India and Khadi India Fashion Show, Mr. Jagnoor Aneja has worked with eminent fashion designers Rina Dhaka, Varun Bahl, Reynu Taandon, etc.
"I was supposed to have a fashion event at the end of May, we had gotten the bytes of a few celebrities, I had already made my hiring and was in talks with sponsors who were giving a very positive response, but as soon as the news of COVID spread, there was a total lockdown, and the ones who have been following the news, they were indoors from quite a long time, we had also credit payments, but everything came to a halt as soon as the COVID news hit India followed by a lockdown."
"Besides, with travel restrictions and crowd gathering concerns, events might not be a possibility right now, this season for fashion weeks has gone"
Jagnoor envisions that the near future may be unfavorable "I Don't think that any event will be possible for the next 6 months as it is a long process of talking to sponsors, finalizing venues, and a lot more. Honestly, the virus is so deadly that you get out of the house, you are affected then you come back and infect the whole family too, so it will be fair to be home instead of going to events in the near future."
Director Nikita Arya- The FairyTale'ss Fashion & Lifestyle Exhibitions
An event management company, organizing fashion events and exhibitions both at a national and international level, Fairytale'ss has been bringing fashion and lifestyle to many since 2016 through events such as The Stock Exchange, Under My Umbrella, Dubai 2015, etc.
"We had 3 events, and all have been canceled, we cannot predict anything and maybe the lockdown might extend further"
"We are also expecting a dip in the footfall as people may be scared to walk out of the houses and it will be the summer season so there will be scorching heat, so honestly I don't think that people will be too excited to attend exhibitions or fashion events."
Nikita also sights that apart from the clients, there will be doubts from those exhibitors and designers too who generally import material from China.
"A lot of material and textile comes from China and other countries, so I suppose people might not be having stock also to exhibit"
Apart from the cancelations and postponement Fairytale'ss focused on the health first and thus took precautions accordingly.
"From the 18th of March itself, we stopped our employees from coming to our office and created an awareness video too along with Tik Tok videos focusing on the need to be home."
"IFFD is the only organization globally who conducted fashion week virtually on social media platform in the year 2019 and planning for the second edition of it"- Founder Kiran Kheva and Co-Founder Avinash Pathani- India Runway Week
As the fashion industry is not only being affected by the lockdown but also the fear in the minds of the consumers, many are looking to innovate and go online to continue the events and exhibitions through social media platforms, websites or even fashion blogs.
"With few exemptions in the lockdown, we can easily come back with our 2nd season of Virtual Fashion week for a wider audience of social Media Platform"- Founder Kiran Kheva and Co-Founder Avinash Pathani- India Runway Week
Even if travel restrictions and gathering regulations would ease, people would prefer staying indoors for months to come due to the mental impression engraved by the global pandemic. Virtual Fashion Weeks can be great combat to that, designers will be able to showcase their collections online, branding, and reaching out to a wider social media audience.
"Digital market is a big market, and before COVID 19 too we had already started to move towards it, we are moving rapidly towards digitization, instead of having an outlet, promoting on Social media might get you more attention"- Jagnoor Aneja- Runway Director
"The market needs to keep going, that is why we are coming up with an E-Commerce The Label Bazaar too, so that people can shop from us online also"- Founder Anam Mirza -
The Label Bazaar Renowned exhibitors are going online either creating their shopping portals or acting as a mediator for buying and selling. A step towards digitization might bring a huge change in the consumer buying pattern as they might shift their preferences to buying fashion online now.
"Women never stop shopping, the budgets might go down, but we still shop, We have our website, hence we will take it online giving a dedicated time slot to each exhibitor, payments can be made through our gateway and delivery will be done by us too"- Director Nikita Arya- The Fairytale'ss Fashion and Lifestyle Exhibitions
IKF Desk (Conclusion)
Fashion events play an inevitable role in the Indian fashion industry, although consumers are locked indoors and events and exhibitions have been canceled or put on postponement with many bearing the losses of the sudden outbreak, the fashion industry, and its attributes are standing steady, innovating and thinking about what can be done next instead of worrying about what has already happened.
Fashion weeks and exhibitors are exploring the digital mediums along with the intense involvement of social media. Reinventing the wheel, this industry refuses to die even during such a crisis.