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Why can’t the fashion industry go beyond clothes?




Now that the buzz surrounding one of the most anticipated fashion events on the pandemic year calendar has settled, let’s take a look at the conversations generated by FDCI x Lakm Fashion Week 2021. Gender-neutral clothing. Check. Bright colors that lift the spirit. Check. Covid-19, a relaxed and luxurious outfit inspired by life. Check. Collaborative spirit. Check. Minimalism. Check. Durability. Recheck.

Each garment from the six-day event, which ended in late March, reflected how 2020 has shaped its creator’s craft and pushed the industry to think more about inclusion, self-awareness and equity. However, most of the conversations were limited to the usual discussion topics: inspirations, recycled fabrics, lehngas, escape fantasies. Almost none hinted at the impact of the pandemic on weavers or karigars, who were among the hardest hit, or at political issues. Fashion may have the power to offer comfort even in the darkest of times, but shouldn’t it also reflect the real world through its storytelling and designer perspectives?

When I asked one of the first Indian designers, Tarun Tahiliani, why not too many voices in the industry went beyond the themes of fashion, crafts and design, the answer to me replied: When crises arise (beyond fashion), we are not the first people the media thinks of for quotes.

Also read: Tarun Tahiliani brings Persian ‘jaali’ to life

It is not incorrect. Indian fashion journalism has been largely confined to what has come to be known as newspapers, driven by what the celebrity wore to last night’s party and the next big trend. There’s nothing wrong with that, but fashion is more, insists fashion journalist Sujata Assomull. Fashion reflects the culture, the society, the history of the time it was born. It’s a trillion dollar industry and has a lot (more) to say than what anyone wore.

Part of the problem, Assomull believes, is that the designers aren’t open enough in their storytelling. While creators like Anita Dongre, Ritu Kumar, Sanjay Garg, Tahiliani and Rohit Bal are doing their part to raise awareness on topics ranging from animal welfare to the suffering of migrant workers, they are rare. If you look at the press releases, the actual story doesn’t have enough space, so the questions asked (by reporters) are limited, she says.

Akathya by Shanti Banaras shines a light on the lives of trans women.

Akathya by Shanti Banaras shines a light on the lives of trans women.

Also Read: Trans Women Tell Their Stories Through Fashion

The other argument is that fashion industry representatives are not obligated to comment, especially when the words can be easily misinterpreted. Why talk about things when you don’t have enough knowledge on the subject? says Archana Jain, managing director of PR Pundit public relations agency. We are responsible for the public relations of the business unit. Anyone can share ideas from personal identifiers (social networks), but not from the official account.

Trolling on social media also turns people off, adds Sneha Savla, chief strategy officer at public relations firm Elevates. Even if a designer uses a plus size model, people wonder why only one? The attacks get so vicious that the real conversation is often lost … (But) the pandemic has been a catalyst, encouraging designers to speak more, but slowly.

Payal Singhal, for example, spoke about social anxiety in a post-covid world while showcasing his spring-summer collection, The New Normal, through a photo report on Instagram. It featured friends debating the idea of ​​going out for the first time since the lockdown. We are watching a mental health crisis and there is an urgent need to do something. Limiting fashion to clothing alone is a short-sighted approach, she says. She does not discuss political views which can be distorted to her advantage and I do not want to endanger the safety of my family.

It’s frustrating not being able to say what you think, admits designer Kunal Rawal. We have a lot to say. We are creative thinkers. But public relations, legal, and even internal teams suggest not to do so. In a country as diverse as India, it’s hard to please everyone, and to displease someone can cost more. Isn’t it time, however, for things to change?

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