Everyone is talking about where are we going to go? What we’re also not talking about is have we any clue, where we’ve been? – HSY
The world of fashion, like the world of art is often dictated by the times we live in. What is now regarded as one of the largest industries in the world, fashion has been catapulted into uncertainty much like every other sector of the economy. Covid-19 has spared no one, it doesn’t discriminate and the effects of the novel virus have crept into every corner of the earth in a matter of months. While the fear of uncertainty looms over our heads, a new found resilience ignites within. Creativity remains undefeated, unmoved and infact is thriving.
These unforeseeable circumstances have rendered all previously planned strategies redundant. The old rules don’t apply anymore.
Fashion on the other hand, although un-mutable much like all forms of creativity; has certainly become much quieter. This is not the first time in history fashion has had to withstand and evolve with time infact, it’s the very nature of the artform but unlike any other global pandemics, Corona is easily the most relentless – bringing down giants to their knees. What has followed is a terrible domino effect that has ricocheted across the globe putting millions of people and businesses in peril.
The industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation, hour by hour. In the midst of this havoc and uncertainty we spoke to some of the most renowned names in Pakistani fashion about fashion post covid-19; fears, future et-all.
What followed the outbreak of covid-19 were lockdowns across the globe, dramatically bringing businesses to a halt, disrupting supply chains, ultimately leading to a quarantine on consumption. This collective fear of uncertainty currently dictates our spending, impacting the economy at large. With a much needed re-evaluation of our necessities, fashion like several other industries has become particularly vulnerable. “I think a lot of competition will die out, this pandemic is the biggest test for any fashion house, design house or company at the moment, so the ones who survive this are the ones who will actually prevail” says Omar Farooq, creative director at Republic Menswear. These unforeseeable circumstances have rendered all previously planned strategies redundant. The old rules don’t apply anymore. “Every hour on the hour families go into despair, financial stockpile is finishing, some people are completely wiped out.” Added veteran designer, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin better known as HSY.
Glamour and excess, a language the fashion industry is all too familiar with, no longer applies. Displaying wealth and status while people’s lives hang in the balance seems invasive and absurd.
Lockdown also means a change in the rules of engagement. Habits, behaviours and interactions of people have altered rapidly. Suddenly, people have nowhere to go, no gatherings, no events, physical interaction has become a liability – the new normal is staying indoors. This halt in gatherings has directly impacted one of the largest sources of income for the Pakistani fashion industry; weddings. “Our business is massively connected to the wedding industry as well, so if the wedding industry will be hurt, our businesses will also be hurt” adds Omar Farooq. Weddings in Pakistan often bold and exuberant events are now being replaced by smaller, more intimate gatherings. “I do think culturally as far as the bridal industry is concerned people will have weddings, they’ll just be smaller and we’ll have to adapt to that” mentioned Kamiar Rokni, founder of The House Of Kamiar Rokni.
Fashion as Hassan Shehryar puts it “is not a need, or a want, it’s a desire” but what happens when desires change? From being big and bold, there is a need and a desire to be safe. This shift in perspective has led to most fashion designers reimagining the industry altogether. Glamour and excess, a language the fashion industry is all too familiar with, no longer applies. Displaying wealth and status while people’s lives hang in the balance seems invasive and absurd. Needs have changed and designers are responding accordingly. The pandemic has presented fashion with a chance to reset and completely reshape the value chain. “We’re all going to have to wake up and smell the coffee which was really bad before Covid. Fashion was not something that was thriving, everybody was talking about these things of excessive, fast fashion, where is all this excessive stock going? says creative director of MAHGUL, Mahgul Rashid. The pandemic in many ways has accelerated shifts that were already in the making. “I think this sort of perverse saturation of the market is going to be over, I think the market was already getting over saturated and we were in an economic slump to begin with” added Rokni.
The pandemic in many ways is a crisis that serves as a catalyst shocking the industry into change – a much needed one too.
With all this time at our disposal and not much to do, designers like all of us are reflecting on where their values lie. “We’ll have to reconnect but I don’t think it’s going to be through old ways, it’s going to be a completely new way of connecting with people, through whatever we make, whatever we do and how we do it” added Rashid. Life goes on, human nature is forcing us to adapt, we’re learning that you can no longer rely on imported goods. Questions about heritage, lineage, local production are all being risen. Quarantine may have brought about imposed boundaries and distance but within that has brought an interconnectedness like never before. In order to protect our futures we must find local solutions to empower our markets and our economy. “Sustainability now, also means being able to sustain our employees” said Rokni.
It seems as though the world is teetering into a rarefied atmosphere, no one is going to come out unscathed and many will be starting up all over again. In this state of bewilderment and fear a new beginning will rise, offering the industry a chance to learn from these constraints while informing a better future. “We’re going to have to find out how to build trust in fashion again before we can even try to build fashion again” says HSY. Navigating these turbulent times will not be easy for anyone, fashion industry leaders alike. The pandemic in many ways is a crisis that serves as a catalyst shocking the industry into change – a much needed one too. It is apparent that the fashion industry is just at the beginning of its struggle but despite all the uncertainty that surrounds it, one thing is certain, fashion will never be the same; whatever comes next, fashion will first survive, then thrive and then maybe, just maybe do better than it did before.