10 Qs for Ajai Vir Singh
With Savithri Rodrigo
Fashion as we know it is gone, but transforming and reinventing has always been its way of survival. Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) Founder and Managing Director Ajai Vir Singh has always believed in ethical fashion, or “good fashion”, and was on the cusp of unveiling CFW 2020 under the theme “Responsibility in Fashion” just before Covid-19 hit. But that hasn’t stopped Ajai from whirring those wheels in his head.
In our 10 Qs, he spells out where the industry is headed, what needs to be done, and how fashion must understand the context and recalibrate solutions to make the solution relevant.
- You made the analogy that fashion is like riding a tiger. Why?
Yes, because globally, fashion is on a self-destructive path. As the numbers are huge, none of the big stakeholders want to upset the apple cart. I feel that most know it’s going wrong, but they don’t want to be the first to spoil the ride.
- Is fashion really a priority at this time?
I approach fashion from the basic human need of food, clothing, and shelter. Designers need to approach it that way because then every creation emerges as a solution. Solutions are always in need. Clothing is a need, and fashion or fashioning of the garment just makes it relevant. So “relevance” is the key word.
- Has isolation caused us to bid goodbye to fashion as we know it?
I really hope so. I wish fast fashion giants who stimulate the artificial need to buy clothes, stop, take stock, and re-think fashion based on creative connect and not just on high-value discounts. Hyperconsumption has got the world trapped in it and we must escape from that.
- With fashion being a route of self-expression, how do you see design expression panning out?
Fashion is like a second skin; while it protects, it also helps us express ourselves. Around the world, the volume of sales being driven senselessly has made it lose its soul, putting designers under pressure and making them lose relevance. I hope designers can now capture the emotions of society and create based on that to find relevance.
- What is the worst eventuality you would have predicted for fashion at another time?
The tiger would have become a monster and eaten all!
A few years ago, fashion was the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil. Oil is inherently polluting, but the fact that something we place on our bodies can pollute like that is doubly shocking. If not corrected, can you imagine how far it can go?
- How did you feel when you had to postpone CFW this year?
Given that we promote “Responsible Fashion”, we can’t act irresponsibly with CFW. Even though we have gone through various attacks in the past, this step had to be taken.
- What is the biggest lesson you learned in the last two months?
I have learned and understood the value of being “slow”, because by slowing down, I can extract much more from a day. Each moment has value. I also realise how much that fast pace took away from me.
- What is the biggest regret you have?
That word is not in my vocabulary; instead, I use the phrase “lessons and information”. It’s a matter of perspective. You need to have the right one.
- What would you say is the new normal in the fashion industry?
I have been doing a lot of writing and assessing. I feel compassion and personalisation will be the action words to drive the industry, as these action words will find a connection with fashion consumers in the new environment.
- …And to life as we know it?
Being conscious of going slow; extracting value while giving it back and knowing you are part of an important ecosystem.