There's nothing fixed about what the mercurial millennial likes. To stay relevant, fashion brands need to be original and accessible.
As fast fashion catches up with people across the globe, the demand and supply for customised designer wear and luxury products have gone down drastically. While last year we saw the rise of trends like normcore, ugly fashion trends like dad sneakers, shredded jeans, and prairie dress coming back in vogue – the trend predictions for 2019 also look obscure. With the excess of options, it seems designers are running out of trends, and now anything and everything that could possibly fall under the “opposite of fashion” category is being promoted on the runway for novelty. Could this be a downfall of fast fashion? We find out what Indian designers have to say about the lack of innovation in the fashion industry.
When it comes to pleasing the mercurial millennial and the following Generation Z, there is nothing fixed about what they like and what they don’t. Designer brands all over the world are having a tough time sustaining the war of trends because the new age consumer is well aware of his/ her needs. The rise of well-informed customers, asking for sustainable, fit for all colours, body type, and culturally correct brands, has led to the downfall of many iconic labels that thrived on promoting a certain idea of fashion and beauty. This certainly is a tough time for fashion, and a lot of design houses are changing their design philosophy to appeal to new target groups in order to sustain.
Globally, a lot of trends and ideas have already been tried, and designers are struggling to generate new ideas. To remain relevant is a huge challenge. Designer Vidhi Singhania mentions, “Fast fashion brands and e-commerce retail platforms have disrupted the industry by meeting a previously untapped consumer need for trendy clothing for a lower price. These brands can turn around new products in fewer than six weeks from conception to shelf, and their success is forcing the rest of the fashion world to keep up. In India, the fashion industry is uniquely competitive and brands that don’t innovate fast enough will be left behind.”
Brands are now spending a sizeable amount to create awareness among consumers and trying to explain and educate them about what are they buying. Designer Dharna Hassija highlights that the new age consumer is well informed and the choices are not restricted by a publicised trend in magazines, newspaper or otherwise. She says, “Not just fashion, but overall the consumers today prefer product customisation matching individual preferences and needs. They know what they want, and have multiple avenues to get it. Same is for the fashion industry. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful change that the industry is seeing as it gives rise to the democratisation of fashion. No longer can the trend be governed by a seasonal collection of a handful of large fashion chains. This need for personalisation and adaptability to various trends allows designers to stay true to their own creative inspirations and not blindly follow the trend.” To stay relevant, the design chains will need to start catering to the bespoke needs of customers. The process of selling one collection fits all will soon disappear. “The bespoke trend is already visible and soon will catch up in the bridal market as well. The biggest change in the industry is that the customer is now looking for the value of money. Coming years will see a decline in sales of high priced common design brands. As a designer, I focus on making more design creatives and stay away from mass production. For every design and sample, the customer is provided with various customisation in terms of fabric, colours, embellishments.
The sooner designers adapt to customer first (and not designer first) approach, the better it would be for them to adapt with times to stay relevant,” predicts Hassija.
Interestingly, a lot of brands did innovate themselves including designer labels that are creating affordable pret lines to cater to the fast fashion trend. At the same time, it can be difficult to keep up with the world of fashion, as we are no longer governed by the extreme social standard that dictates how we can and cannot dress.
“Yes, it is a tough time for fashion considering the number of options that a customer has but most importantly today’s customer is well informed. They are aware of what they are buying and what they want. Educating your customer is the key to retaining them.
Social media plays an important role and so does Bollywood. In fact, fashion trends are changing rapidly every season so when a new trend is discovered others are forgotten. Due to changing millennial trends, in the last few years, we have seen a rise in the number of young girls coming to our store and buying saris,” explains designer Vidhi Singhania.
Sari, he says, is versatile and can be draped in many ways from traditional to fun, sporty or business. The sari has made inroads all around the world. Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities have worn them to red carpet sagas, fashion shows, press conferences, and very important events, bringing the humble sari once again to the forefront of the world fashion.
In India, people are willing to spend money on quality apparel, heirloom, special weaves, and other hand-made products, so the authentic brands will still continue to be in demand. However, if the attitude towards fashion needs to change, designers have to innovate and experiment with ideas to stay in sync with changing trends, believes celebrity stylist Nidhi Singh. She says, “To appeal to the younger buyers, designers have to add a contemporary twist and make the products more versatile. The business strategies need to change, and instead of being exclusive the brands have to get more inclusive to widen their consumer base. Customers are willing to pay for good service. Therefore, the time spent on personal customisation is compensated as well. If a brand needs to stand out in today’s time, the best way is to be original and accessible for all.”