By Pujanee Galappaththi
While the Covid-19 breakout has brought the retail culture to a standstill and broken supply chains, the fashion industry is suddenly forced to push towards a phase of crisis management and adapt to this global catastrophe. A report done by Mckinsey & Company, titled “The State of Fashion 2020: Coronavirus Update” and released in early April, states that the average market capitalisation of apparel and fashion has dropped in almost 40% between the start of January and 24 March 2020.
In light of these unforeseen episodes, the future of the local fashion scene looks bleak, and most designers and fashion brands seem to be confused with how to proceed during these trying times. To help us navigate this rather disturbing wave, we spoke to a veteran in the industry, Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) Founder and Managing Director Ajai Vir Singh.
Vir Singh was of the opinion that fashion – a measure of self-expression at different levels of society, as we originally knew it – has now shut down. “Currently, the only apparent accessory on us is the face mask; the biggest luxury houses are making masks currently to help flatten the curve and this in fact should be taken as a foretelling sign of which direction we should move in after this – a new route of fashion powered by compassion and personalisation,” he emphasised.
When asked what we could do to get the Sri Lankan fashion industry back on its feet, Vir Singh stated that in order to make a substantial difference now, fashion needs to start creating in a solution-oriented manner in order to build itself up from within. “We need to utilise the resources available in Sri Lanka and start to recalibrate and replan design and production,” he noted, adding that this is the best time to build a fashion ecosystem and economy within the country, which will be strong and internal.
In order to go about this, Vir Singh gave us a few helpful guidelines local designers and fashion experts could follow to jump-start this new chapter of Sri Lankan fashion:
. Designers firstly need to understand the current need of society and start creating in that context. The need is not for over-fashioned garments and nor is it the mood for that. In contrast, every manifested design product should by default be a solution to a need.
. Food, clothing, and shelter is a key human need. Thus, at every level of society, there is an opportunity for clothing and fashion to exist as there exists one at every level of society who values it and is willing to pay for it.
. Although supply chains are broken and retail is closed down, it does not mean the “need” is also closed. Designers need to think of a new, innovative supply chain to deliver and fulfil the need. A good example is how digital and mobile supply chains started delivering (goods) after the first week of curfew.
. Designers need to create and get experimental and creative with fabrics and materials that are available within the country.
. Designers must keep in mind to plan each resource well and not to jump on hearsay or projections. Self-belief is your biggest asset at this time, so look at available liquidity, plan designs, Look at available resources, accessible work assistants, existing consumer base, production timelines, and fulfilment.
. This is a good testing ground to push our local boundaries and create innovatively design-based garments that suit the current need. Therefore, I encourage designers to come out with solutions and start local commerce to move.
CFW has been engaging with designers since the beginning of March to start creating with responsibility in mind, and it is available to provide any design and business-related advice and assistance at this time.
Finally, Vir Singh said: “Scenarios like this bring the best out of designers as it pushes individual creativity beyond the comfortable boundaries and innovative solutions surface, and sometimes this is what we need to go from good to great.”