The fashion industry is badly hit due to the widespread of Covid-19. On March 23, when the country-wide lockdown was announced, all factories and stores shut down with a wave of uncertainty and with no semblance of when they would open doors again. Artisans were given medical insurance, employees were paid to survive the pandemic with equanimity. However, as the barricades of the lockdown are pushed away, factories are opening but nothing is the same. Designers have pressed the reset button and are maneuvering their plan of action.
While some are working on new collections with reduced production, some are making masks. One factor which is common across the board is changed operations both in terms of hygiene stipulations as well as distancing at the workplace. “Our factory reopened with changes in operations both in terms of hygiene stipulations as well as distancing as in our business the tailors cannot really work from home so a whole paradigm shift has been brought about in the way we function. The factory has been sanitised, tailors are maintaining social distancing and wearing masks and face shields as they work,” explains designer Rajesh Pratap Singh, whose first plan was to start making masks. However, as a brand they will always stick to their core aesthetic of timeless classic and try to promote that. “Classic clothing (anti-trend) is itself a sustainable offering as it means you wear what you buy for a long time to come. We feel more people would gravitate towards this line of thinking,” he adds.
The chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India, Sunil Sethi, believes that designers should start sending out shipments of all pending orders, so that the money starts to come in. “We can’t waste anymore time, many designers are exporting to international buyers, they should start sending out their shipments first so that orders don’t get cancelled. They should immediately pay their workers, all vulnerable workers should be paid off,” suggest Sunil Sethi.
Couturier Suneet Varma has also sanitised the factory and dealt with facts affecting the mechanism of running a factory. “We work almost four months in advance so the couture collection is 30-35% ready, we are moving towards completing that line. Even though we don’t come under the category of essentials, a large part of social living and art depends on us. And as fashion is influenced with time, we have to make changes in our collection – price points, the work and of course the showcase. We will be making more precise lines and reducing stock. We made 85-90 pieces and showcased around 50-55, now we will make 60 garments and showcase 35. Nobody can pre-empt the buying behaviour right now,” confesses Suneet Varma, who has many NRI clients.