Can Indian Luxury Fashion Count on Revenge Buying Post Pandemic?  

Will we a see return of ‘conservative buying’ or can ‘revenge buying’ be possible in India?

6 min read
Will we a see return of ‘conservative buying’ or can ‘revenge buying’ be possible in India?

Lakme Fashion Week, Bridal Fashion Week, Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week, Van Huesen Fashion can go on and one. Over the past two decades, India has seen a massive trend for fashion where we had multiple fashion weeks organised by several brands and all with at least two editions each year.

Designer Ritu Kumar, who has been in at the helm of trends in India says, “We were going by what European countries were doing when it didn’t even suit our climate. Half of India doesn’t see winter, but we had a dedicated fall/winter edition every year.”

But with the spread of COVID-19 and the pandemic affecting businesses globally, fashion sales have hit ‘zero’.

Business or ‘No’ Business in the Past Few Weeks...

Payal Singhal made her debut as a designer some 20 years ago. Bollywood actors don her designs with pride and confidence. She told The Quint, “Business has come to a complete halt as all our retail stores and the multibrand stores we supply to are closed not just in India but all over the world. Online sales have also not been possible since there has been no shipping facility. There is also no manufacturing as all the factories are closed.”

A design by Payal Singhal. 
A design by Payal Singhal. 
(Photo Courtesy: Payal Singhal)

For designer Rahul Mishra, the business started tumbling from the start of February. “It began with our FW 2020 prêt-à-porter presentation at the Paris Fashion Week (on February 29, 2020) where we did not physically meet most of our routine buyers from China, Japan and Korea due to the travel restrictions in those countries. While the collection saw a lot of interest, most orders had to be put on hold due to a halt in the market,” Rahul tells The Quint.

Rahul Mishra’s brand works with craftsmen from around the country and he says that the priority right now is to save their livelihoods. “The Indian consumer also began to withdraw as we saw a rise in confirmed cases in India— when we had to shut down all our retail stores and the atelier by mid-March. While the revenues hit a ‘zero’, the expenses remain constant. As a company that depends on slow fashion processes and in turn, several hundreds of craftsmen, we are met with the responsibility of sustaining their livelihoods through this time,” says Rahul Mishra.

A design Rahul Mishra showcased at Paris Fashion Week (on February 29, 2020).
A design Rahul Mishra showcased at Paris Fashion Week (on February 29, 2020).
(Photo Courtesy: Rahul Mishra)

Designer sister duo label Sukriti & Akriti has also seen a massive plunge in sales. However, Akriti Grover told The Quint that they have decided to go on sale recently. “We have gone on sale and we are encouraging people to buy but we will deliver the product post lockdown. This is ensuring some cashflow and we did this so we can take care of our work family and ensure that they get their salaries. We have many artisan families that work with us and it’s our responsibility to pay them,” says Akriti.

Radhika Madan in a Sukriti & Akriti design. 
Radhika Madan in a Sukriti & Akriti design. 
(Photo: Instagram) 

But is discounting an option for all luxury fashion labels?

Sale on Sukriti & Akriti collection online. 
Sale on Sukriti & Akriti collection online. 
(Photo: Sukriti & Akriti)

Why Luxury Fashion Labels Don’t Go On Discounts?

A look at Falguni and Shane Peacock’s latest collection. 
A look at Falguni and Shane Peacock’s latest collection. 
(Photo: Falguni and Shane Peacock)

Nandini Sachdeva was supposed to tie the know in June but due to the pandemic, she decided to move the dates to November. When asked if heavy sales will encourage her to shop during the lockdown, she ponders and says, “Sales are lucrative and I have always preferred to shop online. But when it comes to expensive designer wear and that too for wedding functions, I think most people would want to try for the look and feel of the garment. If it was for a ceremony I had to attend, I would totally shop online for whatever discounts available. But for my wedding, definitely not.”

Shaivya Narula has three weddings to attend that she was looking forward to. But with the lockdown and cash crunch, she’s decided to put a hold on all the splurges. “I think it’s best to save at the moment. And I think Indian wear is easy to customise and that’s most probably what I will do in case there’s a party to attend. At this point, there’s no confirmation on any, so what’s the point in spending heavy bucks on designer wear that might be outdated or won’t fit you well,” says Narula.

According to Falguni and Shane Peacock, discounting takes a brand down as customers stop seeing the brand and it's standing in the same light. The duo tells The Quint, “With consumer's changing buying behaviour, the entire shopping experience and fashion in itself is undergoing a drastic change, the dynamic of discounts will also change. We're currently focusing most of our attention to understanding and studying the customer's psyche and their purchasing behaviour. After some movement, we'll be able to understand and test on how discounts will affect the sales post the lockdown.”

Rahul Mishra says that brands like his that focus on sustainable slow luxury fashion will invest this time in optimising and working around the customer's needs in the future than go on discounts. However, he says that designers could bring back their inventories and put older pieces on sale. “Offering discounts can help create a boost in sales but it’s eventually about the value of the product that a consumer would be investing into. I believe with luxury fashion, classics and timeless pieces would see more acceptance,” says designer Rahul Mishra

Payal Singhal’s label has a sale online but the brand is not willing to increase sales just to increase the cash flow. They feel that sales online are only a temporary fix to the problem and this pandemic is a make it or break it situation.

Payal Singhal’s label has a sale online. 
Payal Singhal’s label has a sale online. 
(Photo: Payal Singhal)

Amrish Kumar, the CEO of Ritu Kumar Company says that at this time we are only looking at surviving through this but sales don’t seem like the best option. “We have a business to sustain and brands all over will have to liquidate a certain amount of stock that they were unable to liquidate so I think there will be a fairly deep discounting in the industry, I feel,” Amrish tells The Quint.

Will Indians Go Back to Conservative Buying?

Most of India has grown up with the view that fashion that lasts the longest is the best. But we have seen trends changes, particularly in the past five years. With more and more international brands setting base in India, our demand for fast fashion was off the roof. Ritu Kumar says that we will see a return of conservative buying in India post COVID-19 and people would not want to spend on luxury items as much as they did in the past few years.

Akriti Grover says, “Fashion really needed to slow down. We were seeing massive production, new look books every other month and it isn’t required. Two collections coming out in a year are good enough. Everyone was replicating each other just for the heck of competition in the market. So this has really come down as good learning for the fashion industry.”

Rahul Mishra feels this is the time to decentralise the process of procurement and work closely with the weavers in villages. Rahul tells The Quint, “It is important that we acknowledge the importance of our craft community as the backbone of the industry. The companies may seek to create larger inclusivity post the lockdown and support local crafts. A good way to do this may be decentralising our processes and having several groups of people working for us from their villages. This has been part of our brand’s supply chain post our reverse migration efforts and it’s played only to our benefit.”

“I think all of us who belong to the fashion industry can possibly write an essay on what the learnings from this period are,” say Falguni and Shane.

They added that the repercussions of the slowdown in fashion will affect various other aspects in the production and supply process. Falguni and Shane say, “The pandemic has sent the fashion industry spiralling downwards. The repercussions will be faced by everything that has to do with fashion, right from the reduction in the store count to changes in the fashion calendars to shift towards sustainable fashion to downsizing skilled labour. That said, we're also hoping and planning to bounce back sooner than later!”

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