In conversation with Outlook, designer Raghavendra Rathore mentions how the buying habits of the customers have changed after the two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic and what can be done to improve the condition of the weavers. He feels creatively solving design issues has become the new anthem.
How did the pandemic affect the business of fashion?
The pandemic has caused a shift in the way people engage with their clothing. Everyone, from an individual person to the system as a whole, which is marked by declining sales, shifting customer behaviour and disrupted supply chains, has been affected. Personally, the pandemic has been about a lot of soul searching for the entire design team that adopted technology as its new partner. Creatively solving design issues has become the new anthem - readapting design, clothes and services offered to the customers is something we have had to shift gears around. Since the experience people are looking for has changed, clothes need to be an accent to their personality and last for a lifetime. Being primarily bespoke in our offering, home-shopping and zoom consultations have taken precedence as our goal remains to keep the customer’s comfort and safety at the centre of everything.
How is the business of fashion picking up after the pandemic?
The primary driver of growth will continue to be digital channels. From a product perspective - it is a good time to prepare for the winter collection as things will ease up going forward. Going from covid to non-covid times, companies are now focusing on a blended work environment – a mix of remote work and on-site work; so, the collections must have a scintillating option of tops as people really do not care very much about the bottoms they are wearing when they are on zoom made in colours that are zoom friendly.
On the issue of sustainable fashion, why is it the need of the hour and how are you promoting it?
The focus is on launching specialised products immediately as the market opens up, till normalcy returns within a period of a year and a half. The focus is on presenting collections that are more sensitive to sustainable thinking and slow-fashion-centred pieces will dominate for the next two seasons.
On fashion going local…
Fashion going local has two aspects – the consumer: companies will need to engage better with local consumers, make strategic investments in markets witnessing a stronger recovery and unlock new opportunities to keep customers shopping. The second is about empowering local communities; standing strong with society and finding various ways to give back and rebuild confidence in our social fabric. Raghavendra Rathore Foundation (RRF) is working meticulously towards achieving these goals, and we are always on the lookout to invite partnerships and ideas for the same.
On fashion going digital? How has it affected the buyers and sellers?
The market sentiment post-pandemic has been quite buoyant for E commerce in terms of retail. The consumer demand has continued to improve after the second wave. In today’s day and age of fast changing trends, one has to keep an eye on the discerning consumers who have the awareness and exposure to various product offerings and trends available to them through a gamut of media channels and sources. The Brick-and-mortar vs online commerce debate also is going to last for some time, in other words, as the online fashion industry has grown this is the new trend in fashion.
On the condition of the weavers and how can we utilize their craft more?
All designs are craft, artisanship and things that are often made by hand in informal environments. Weavers and artisans have long been using natural fibres and exquisite artisanal skills and techniques which fascinates people all over the world, not just within India. These artisans devote time and effort sticking to age-old techniques to keep alive their ancestors’ work - diversifying into wearables and high-fashion, courtesy the younger members of the family.
How has the pandemic changed people’s taste in fashion?
Gen Z associates itself with brands that align with its values, such as eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing practices. Given the fact we are sitting on a gold mine of crafts at our disposal, it is imperative that we value it and lay emphasis on the importance, significance and benefits of sustainability. The accountability and due credit are the need of the hour- sustainably elevating, promoting and paying tribute to artisans, collecting and preserving rare and contemporary craft, art and culture. These references are lifelong inspirations and have been on the Raghavendra Rathore Jodhpur brand mood board season after season. Pushing boundaries within the realm of this vision and inspiration has allowed us to stay true to its roots while offering signature classics that build brand recall and definition like no other. Restoring qualities of inspiring and timeless aesthetics, that can be passed on from one generation to the other.
On designers using influencers and not models?
Influencer marketing is an incredibly effective channel when it comes to building trust, increasing brand recognition and driving sales. The evolution of the influencer power and dynamic on social media shows a shift in consumer marketing where larger traffic flows now to influencer handles, not the official brand accounts. This reveals the personal connection influencers have with their followers, something brands are harnessing through the power of collaboration.
Pairing your brand with the right storyteller –ensuring a strong balance between organic and paid content. Content is king, and Influencers are content creators—a standalone Instagram post for a brand can require anything up to two weeks’ worth of planning, research and conceptualisation. The success of a collaboration hinges on the influencers ability to have a direct connection with the following they have amassed over the years. The brands should ensure that their audience relates to the person who inspired them to hit the follow button in the first place.