What will fashion be like post pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic will be a watershed in the history of mankind. As with every other domain, the rules of fashion will be rewritten too. As Vogue’s Anna Wintour, perhaps global fashion’s most powerful voice, said: “There’s no way we’re going back to the way things were.”
It may seem frivolous to talk about fashion right now, but let’s keep in mind one fact: with so much economic disruption, the local textile industry will be a major employer and will help many – worldwide – to get back on their feet. Clothes are also part of everyone’s life and many of us enjoy fashion
There is no question however, that the pandemic will have an effect on our purchasing power, and fashion buys will no longer be a priority. India, of course, has its own unique relationship with fashion, thanks to textile and craft being at the very heart of our dressing traditions. The current buzzwords of global fashion, repurposing and upcycling, are traditional here. For example, kantha embroidery, a popular technique used in contemporary Indian fashion, is a traditional technique from Bengal. It was used on discarded fabrics as a way to breathe new life into old garments.
While I am no fortune teller, this moment in time will change the way we dress. Fashion, after all, evolves and has always spoken of the times we live in. So here’s what I think will happen.
1. On repeat mode
“Instead of pre-draped sari dresses I’m pairing blouses with something simpler and unstitched for recurring wearability” —Amit Aggarwal
Many of us already have too much stuff so we will not be buying more – a concept that renowned trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has called “quarantine of consumption.” Designer and stylist Pernia Qureshi says, “Because we lived in this consumerist culture, we are completely unaware of what we even have in our wardrobes at home. So this is a great time for spring cleaning. It will help you create a fresh, new, upcycled wardrobe.”
Since every neighbourhood market has a tailoring shop, and access to beautiful fabrics and trims is so easy in urban areas, repurposing is easier in India than in most countries. Re-wearing, recycling and repurposing will have style cred. Expect designers to be more open to working with a client’s existing wardrobe. One of the first designers to embrace upcycling was Amit Aggarwal, who says, “Our structured blouses are loved with our pre-draped sari dresses, but I’ve consciously created a line with the same blouses paired with something much simpler and unstitched to entertain the dialogue and the purpose of recurring wearability.”
It’s a trend that will go beyond clothes, as Jaipur-based jeweller Sunita Shekhawat explains. “Jewellery is considered a form of investment. In the olden times, it was called stree dhan – wealth for women. For us as a jewellery brand, reworking or re-assembling jewellery pieces is a great way to give each piece a new design.”
2. Blown away!
“What was seen as essential, like weekly blow-out services, will now be looked at as luxury” —Rod Anker
Over the years we’ve taken for granted the services offered by neighbourhood salons, going to them for blow-drying, manicures and threading. Since the lockdown began, however, women have been forced to DIY their own grooming. Hairstylists such as Delhi-based Rod Anker, make-up artist Savleen Manchanda and author and beauty expert Vasudha Rai have started tutorials over social media on how to groom at home.
Says Rod Anker, “I think some of these ‘weekly blowout’ type services were never needed and with life being put into perspective because of the pandemic, they will drop off to some extent. What was once seen as essential will now be felt as a luxury.” Instead we will go to salons for things that last, such as a good cut or colour. Vasudha Rai adds, “In beauty, therapies such as laser hair removal, ultherapy and derma rolling, which have long lasting effects will be enjoyed much more than before.”
3. The lounge choice
“The kurta’s popularity this summer is going to be strong”—Manish Malhotra
The kurta has emerged as the lounge outfit of choice in this time of #WFH. Fashion designer David Abraham of Abraham and Thakore says, “Lounge wear is clothing that is easy, adjustable and not confining. Much of Indian clothing, from kurtas to salwars, falls in this category.”
Bollywood’s favourite designer Manish Malhotra advises: “Kurtas are beautiful and versatile, you can wear them with linen easy pants, shorts and salwars, so it’s a fabulous style mix. The kurta’s popularity this summer is going to be strong.”
4. Mother’s days
“People will turn to their mothers’ and grandmothers’ wardrobes because of the sentimental connection with the pieces”—Palak Shah
Shopping our closets has become the catchphrase of fashion during the lockdown. “I have no immediate desire to shop. I have come to realise that we actually need very little to look good and feel good. It is about quality, not quantity,” says Pernia. For festive clothing, she will mix and match her pieces with pieces from her mother’s and grandmother’s closets.
The reasoning behind this will not simply be economic or ecological, says Ekaya’s Palak Shah. It will be emotional too. “The overwhelming impact of the pandemic has made all of us think long and hard about many things including our families. People will turn to their mothers’ and grandmothers’ wardrobes because of the sentimental connection with the pieces,” she says. And social distancing has made us realise the importance of that human connect.
5. Old is gold
“We want to make waste a resource and give old clothes new value,” —Dhatri Bhatt, H&M
In lockdown, we have the time to reflect on our style buys, especially the impulsive ones. Anita Lal, founder of Good Earth, explains, “I see a redefining of the very concept of fashion. It need not be frenetic and ever-changing with a constant demand for newness and its inevitable redundancy and waste at every level. More versatile clothes will be in demand.”
While there may be a period of “revenge buying” after the lockdown ends that will benefit the purveyors of fast fashion, this segment of the fashion world had already become more mindful before the pandemic. H&M, for instance, has a garment collection programme where customers are encouraged to drop off their old clothes in exchange for a voucher towards their next purchase. The brand sorts and recycles the old clothes. “We want to make waste a resource and give the old clothes new value,” says H&M India’s communication manager, Dhatri Bhatt.
Veteran designer Tarun Tahiliani sums it up best when he says: “Post-Covid, there will be a new sensitivity and understanding of what we have done that needs to be enacted in the way we live. It may mean many of us will buy less, but better quality.”
Auhor bio: Dubai-based fashion journalist Sujata Assomull is also an author and an advocate of mindful fashion. She was the launch editor of Harper’s Bazaar India.
From HT Brunch, April 26, 2020
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