It’s once again that time of the year when we would like to forget, at least for some time, about the chaos caused by the virus and indulge ourselves. A large part of this indulgence is, of course, shopping, given the number of weddings and year-end celebrations. With the pandemic forcing the big fat Indian wedding to go on a diet last year, and toned down festive celebrations, people want to play catch-up in 2021. A quick look at consumer spending reports during festive sales are enough to know we are in a celebratory mood. And India’s fashion designers are saying “ho, ho, ho” all the way to the bank.
While we definitely need the good times, especially after the news of the spread of the omicron virus, let’s take a moment to think about a promise we made to ourselves and shared happily on the Instagram feed: to rethink our overconsumption pattern and the impact of fast fashion on environment. A recent report by non-profit Slow Factory showed that popular brands are hurting the world’s largest Amazon rainforest. The irony is after a gap of a year, luxury and fast-fashion shopping is globally returning to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, sales worldwide are likely to surpass 2019 levels by the next year.
Clearly, there’s a huge gap between reality and the perception of fashion. Were all our talks of being a conscious shopper hollow? Were those hashtags about being more sustainable just some wokey words to get social media attention?
The cycle of more
Walk inside the flagship store of any leading fashion designer and they will tell you they cannot take any orders until next year. Sales staff will explain there has just been too much demand, and designers are unable to keep up with the demand. We are shopping till designers cannot drop any more clothes.
Malavika Poddar of Carma, a Delhi-based multi-brand boutique that has been in the business for three decades, agrees the consumption is at an all-time high. She immediately points out that at present, it’s the need of the hour since designers need to make up for the losses of the past year. Consumers are not looking at how something is made but how it will look on their social media feed, says the retailer.
There’s one thing, though—shopper is becoming less brand conscious. “It is not about the label today, it is what works for their budget, their needs and their style,” she says.
The fact we care more about our style than status does show a more mature approach to fashion consumption.
And such consumption patterns are certainly good news for younger designers. Karan Torani opened his flagship store, Torani, in Delhi’s upscale Khan Market just before the pandemic—a high investment for a young brand.
Torani says: “This is an occasion-based market. Indians are always looking for an occasion and right now we have been in a cage. Pent-up demand is normal, and without it, it would be hard for brands like mine to survive.”
The more you analyse this current wave of consumption, the more gaps you will see between what is preached and what is practised.
Kshitij Jalori, known for his modern use of weaves, recently launched a capsule bridal collection. “To be honest, my sales are quadruple of what they were last year,” says the designer, who launched his eponymous label three years ago. Till recently he was able to take on orders and turn them around in 21 days but now he needs much more time.
“While there is no real change in the actual amount of consumption, the change is in how we consume,” he explains. “Women want clothes that work for them, clothes that can take them from the office to a night out.” Price and wearability are what is driving people to buy, not the fact that his brand follows principles of slow fashion, he believes.
No designer or retailer I spoke with said that being handcrafted or handmade was a top priority among shoppers. As Torani put it, “Craft is such a decorated word”.
No one is going to stop buying. The year that we’ve had there’s going to be a fair bit of impulse shopping. Perhaps the only promise we can, and should make, and stick to now is to be thoughtful in what we choose. We buy local, lesser and better.
Dress Sense is a monthly fashion column that takes a look at the clothes that we wear every day and what they mean to us.
Sujata Assomull is a journalist, author and a mindful fashion advocate.
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