We have been spending so much time online – Virtual dates, doctor consultations, work meetings, zoom birthday parties, we’ve quickly adapted to the social-distancing restrictions that now rule how we live our lives.
But what does all of this mean when it comes to fashion, and, in particular, fashion shows? For so long, fashion week has been a staple event on the industry calendar. However, with this ongoing pandemic, fashion is no different, with FDCI India Couture Week and now Lakme Fashion Week going digital for the first time in history, many ace designers have come up with innovative and beautiful collections.
In an exclusive interview, the designers tell us how the pandemic has impacted the Indian fashion industry. "As our country tries to fight the growing pandemic, the plight of migrant workers and the daily wage workers also grow on. A large section of these migrant workers is employed in the fashion industry where they help with stitching, embroidery, cutting the garments, and doing basic machine work after teaming up with leading designers. The fashion industry too, like other sectors, has faced a terrible hit. One of the biggest areas that bring business to the industry is weddings. In the absence of big events and postponement of wedding festivities due to restrictions on large gatherings, designers are looming over finding new ways to nurture the business," says Aakriti Grover.
Things have slowed down, Ridhi tells us, "But creation is perpetual. In the business aspect, things are slow but they're hopeful. The focus on local businesses, homegrown brands, the online integration of commerce, and so on are the silver linings. Keeping things in perspective, the paradigm shift that this global pandemic has brought is not all that bad."
"Intimate weddings are becoming a new favourite and alongside, the need and requirement to push our envelope to accommodate new demands and trends become imperative - giving us new avenues to work on," she adds while talking about how intimate weddings are becoming a trend.
While discussing their first-ever digital collection for Lakme Fashion Week, Sukriti mentions, "We were running against time, trying to complete our collections because we were not working at our full capacity due to the pandemic."
Sukriti & Aakriti showcased a 'Neo Phulkari' collection. "This season we are inspired by, Phulkari, which translates to ‘flower work’, it is a unique style or technique of embroidery particular to Punjab. However, more than just a handicraft, the threads of Phulkari are inextricably tied to the history of Punjab."
Ridhi, on the other hand, is known for her bridal wear. Her collection – was about changing the focus from modifying to modernizing. It is an amalgamation of the deep-rooted Indian traditions with that of an expansive and evolving counterpart. She kept the age-old craft of mirror work at its core. "We've woven together novel designs and techniques, articulating a couture equivalent of the "old wine in a new bottle" rhetoric. Drawing inspiration from Kutch and its royal heritage, we have blended the artsy mirror work along with bohemian embellishments and a riot of colours with our contemporary silhouettes. In the process, hence, having birthed a collection that's magnificently luxurious and marvelously affordable."
The designer duo believes, "This pandemic is a wake-up call both to consumers and the fashion industry. Covid-19 has made brands think in such a way to look at the future and the ways that will make them survive in the long run rather than taking quick measures like increasing production, reducing manpower, etc. The Fashion Industry has taken a hit, like that of many other industries. So, going forward, you can see a lot of emphasis on Sustainable Fashion and the importance of ‘Make in India’."
While for Ridhi, she feels that newer trends, other than masks, will come during the pandemic. "An overall inclination to pastel colours, intricate handwork, sheer flows; couture with a dreamy subtle vibe has been quite in vogue and has promised to stay for quite some time."
Discussing business and how the industry plans to bounce back, Ridhi says that with the Indian Wedding scene, nothing comes to a complete standstill. "Yes, the business has been affected. What was 1000% our normal has now shrunk drastically. The challenge is a global phenomenon and everyone has been equally affected. That said, however, with the Indian Wedding scene, nothing comes to a complete standstill. Despite the crunch and the situation, people are willing to shop, make use of sale seasons, and stock up for the postponed dates. The overall picture is of optimism and merry - picturesque like an Indian Wedding."
She adds, "It has been an undeniable struggle to manage cost. Especially, with demands boiling down to bare necessities and cost cuts everywhere. But what we hold as our core is to deliver quality with no compromise. And, moving ahead with this motto alongside working up a strategic operation around managing costs, we have been delivering and doing justice to our clients."
Both Sukriti & Aakriti and Ridhi Mehra believe that sustainability is the future. "Sustainability is the right way to go. Organic sourcing of materials, especially in the fashion industry has become quite important for designers keeping in perspective the responsibility one has towards the environment. Moreover, anything created naturally, organically with minimum damage being done to the environment certainly carries a distinct charm of its own," says Ridhi.
Aakriti adds, "From the start, we have adopted sustainability and eco-consciousness in our collections. We deal with strictly organic cotton made of milk and soybean. The brand uses naturally dyed gota and organic cotton with newer silhouettes and design with every changing collection.”
“We like doing things at a slow pace using old ways because it is sustainable and in high demand. Sustainable designs have never been an optional activity for the brand. While there is still a common notion that luxury is about extravagance, we started off creating festive wear in sustainable fabric to bring about the practice that conscious fashion is more luxurious,” Sukriti adds.