- Fashion industry hit hard by the economic crisis
Once the pandemic eased up, we were all busy bees, flitting from one event to the next, making up for the last two years spent in lockdown, but now, with the cost of living skyrocketing, going out is an indulgence most cannot afford. So obviously, fewer people are feeling the need to purchase new clothes because between the economic crisis and the fuel crises, we have all been forcefully confined to our homes.
What does this mean for the fashion industry that depends on the success of other industries in order to survive? Brunch reached out to a few fashion designers and clothing brands to see how they have been affected by the country’s situation and if there’s hope for the industry in the near future.
Drop in customers
Alùra by Asheni Founder Asheni Gamage noted that there has been a drop in customers and has deduced it to be due to delayed deliveries.
“The courier company I work with has asked us for a minimum seven days to deliver the product to the customer,” she lamented, explaining that back then, customers would have their items in a day or two. This puts a stop to last minute orders, as she cannot specify when to a customer when they can expect their purchase, further reducing business.
Jello Clothing Founder Deshani Anupama noted the same, but she was unable to chalk it down to a particular reason. “It could be because they cannot afford it, or it could be because there is no need to buy clothes these days,” she observed.
In terms of delivering, Anupama informed us that they have their own delivery service but with the fuel situation, there are delays and noted that even so, it is still better than relying on secondary platforms as they can cancel at any time without warning. “Then the customer would not be happy, as we won’t even be able to promise them a day of arrival, much less a time,” Anupama told us.
We also reached out to Atelier Himashi Founder Himashi Wijeweera to understand how the wedding attire business is faring. She noted that she is not facing a drop in customers per se; rather, the customers take longer than usual to confirm an order. Whether it’s because they are unsure of the price, or are simply deciding if a wedding is practical or necessary in these times, she cannot tell, but the typically streamlined process with the customer has become significantly slower, she told us.
Wijeweera is not too burdened by the fuel crises as her customers have always come to pick up the outfits after the last fit on, as per her policy, but while she doesn’t have to stress about getting her orders to its intended location, her customers do have to figure out a way to get to her.
We asked them what means they’ve taken to ensure they stay afloat, and in order to attract customers, Gamage has taken to offering promotions. She is also trying her best to reduce her prices along with these newly introduced offers so that it will benefit both her business and customers.
“My goal is to keep the business running even though there is only a small profit by doing such offers,” Gamage told us.
The future of the fashion industry
It seems that the industry has taken quite the hit right now, but what does this mean for its future? Wijeweera observed that people have become very conscious of what they are spending on due to the economic crisis, and many have decided that fashion is not a need.
“The industry will take a big hit, but on the other hand, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the athleisure movement was thriving and it will continue to dominate the industry as long as people are forced to stay at home with the fuel crisis,” she said. In her opinion, basic and comfy clothes will be at the forefront of the Sri Lankan fashion industry in the foreseeable future.
Gamage looked at it in a more positive light. “The fashion industry never really dies no matter what, especially with women,” she told us, acknowledging that while it’s going to be tough years ahead, as designers, everyone needs to support each other during these difficult times and keep businesses running. She also noted that they should try to reduce prices as much as possible to help their customers.
Anupama noted that it’s going to be incredibly challenging because of the price hike in fabric and labour cost and the shortages, but is determined to keep going, taking it one day at a time. They all have hope that once the hustle and bustle of city life flares up again, their industry will return to normalcy, and plan to hold out until then.
Recessions have always had a hand in shaping the fashion industry; the past two global recessions have shaped key sectors of the fashion industry over the past 15 years. The 2007 financial crisis accelerated the rise of fast fashion among millennials much the same way that the coronavirus recession heightened a shift toward the second-hand clothing market among Gen Z. Perhaps this too, is the beginning of a new era for our local industries, giving them something novel and fresh to look forward to once the country hopefully settles down.