June 19, 2024


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The Thought Leader Series | Fashion: Timeless clothing, sustainable processes, rediscovery of Indian craftsmanship and athleisure to be buzzwords for 2021

a person sitting on a bed: The Thought Leader Series | Fashion: Timeless clothing, sustainable processes, rediscovery of Indian craftsmanship and athleisure to be buzzwords for 2021

© Arun Sreenivasan
The Thought Leader Series | Fashion: Timeless clothing, sustainable processes, rediscovery of Indian craftsmanship and athleisure to be buzzwords for 2021

Tarun Tahiliani, Designer

Luxury is a personal engagement with an object or an experience: The meaning of ‘luxury’ is the ability to be discerning and have access to things that significantly enhance your experiences. It is less about what other people think or how they view you consuming ‘luxury’ and more of a personal engagement with how something feels against your skin or how you experience it.

My friend Minal Modi once commented that she does not need to see or wear a logo to ascertain luxury. She could easily just slip her hand into a purse to know for sure.

Timeless, meaningful luxury will gain stronger roots: The pandemic has only changed one thing — we have got off the never-ending treadmill and can engage better with products that truly mean something. It is time to think about sustainability and our planet, which is teetering on the verge of a major catastrophe.

It is in our collective interest to buy less, buy finer, buy things that will last and buy luxury that has meaning. We are creating garments that are even more timeless than we did before.

Repurposing the vintage is the future: We are teaching people how to re-purpose their bridal outfits by styling them differently and creating multiple looks from the same set of clothes. We are using more natural fabrics and we will soon be looking at their carbon footprint. Fast fashion may have had its day in the sun.

Authentic brands will survive: In this new stillness we have achieved, there is an increased exploration into how authentic are the brands we buy and what they stand for. I am seeing a lot of brands that were quite spectacular, but full of hubris in their clothes. I think the moment for spectacular and flashy consumption has passed. It is not about what you can afford; there has to be another way.

Consumption patterns are fast-changing: The hyper-immediacy of Instagram that induces a desire to always look and be different is no longer relevant. If people transform at a fundamental level, their consumption will change.

The fashion industry has hunkered down: The current crisis has reshaped consumer spending and I think it will be affected for a long time to come. In India, the fashion industry was dependent on tourists, NRIs, special occasions and a lot of destination travel, all of which has ceased to exist. While we have scaled-down, people still want to buy fine things for their wedding. Of course, once the vaccination drive gains speed, celebrations will be back to normal. Everyone wants a departure from the newly forced drab, but there will be far more conscious consumption.

Rahul Mishra, Designer 

Luxury as the simplicity of being defines my couture: It is in the purity of intention and how various natural phenomenon may exist in a way that is both, beautiful and utilitarian. About how wildflowers may grow out of the most unexpected places and sunlight fall on each leaf, each flower to give it life. Luxury is to be able to experience those virginal sections of the planet, be able to walk barefoot on a beach and gaze at the clear blue sky. Even better, when you have family and loved ones to share those experiences with.

Couture as an individual expression: The inherent quality of creating ‘couture’ based on individual requirement and not with a shallow intention of promoting consumption is what drives us. Each of the pieces empowers the crafts communities of India. They are independent of trends and season, are aimed to be versatile, and remain relevant for several years, perhaps even through generations.

Investing in classics that are independent of trends: I am a believer in a fashion that is sustainable and ethical. COVID is a great leveller and has impacted all sections of society. People are inclined towards investing in pieces that are classics and fashion that is individualistic but traditionally rooted, with reference to familial heritage and history. The trend cycle disruption may lead to an increased demand for clothing that is season-less.

Craftsmen will define the future of fashion: Craftsmanship is a multitudinous parameter for evaluating a piece of clothing, especially in India. It represents social empowerment, employment, cultural conservation, emotional value, quality and aesthetic. The Indian fashion industry represents millions of regional craftsmen, which is a large chunk of rural businesses. In the initial days of the lockdown, while several local craftsmen found themselves in danger of losing their livelihoods, the manufacturers, designers and fashion brands realised that they are the backbone of the industry. Since then, there has been a visible inclination towards promoting craftsmanship values and sustainable practices in the industry. Every brand in its capacity and understanding has taken a step towards a more conscious approach.

The digital boom: The digital push, in both communication and retail space, is a major transformation. Considering people’s inability to indulge in physical retail, brands had to push their interactions virtually. In the case of couture brands like us, where human interaction is of utmost importance, the website traffic and queries are still being directed to WhatsApp or the flagship stores to complete a purchase. While the intention remains the same, i.e. to offer an ultimate luxury experience, these changes have become a foundation for something more fruitful.

Consumers will look for an emotional connect: People have observed how nature healed itself during the lockdown and we have a new sense of empathy towards our fellow humans and natural resources. Consumers will invest in a fashion that holds artisanal and emotional relevance. We have witnessed how people are supporting small businesses and the local economy. Particularly in luxury fashion, consumers will make purchases for inevitable needs besides small amounts of leisure buying.

H. Radharaman, Founder, CEO and Principal Designer, The House of Angadi

Evolution of new consumer behaviour: In a dynamic global economy, where overconsumption and slow production exist side by side, it would be a reductive approach to identify trends. I am hopeful that the current interest that fashion consumers have shown in locally-made products, in mindful design, and in educating themselves about how their clothes and accessories are made, will persist and define new consumer behaviour.

Luxury will be defined by the inherent design value: Price has never been a true marker for luxury, and so I have always looked to how any product is designed, the ideas it conveys, and the work that has gone into producing it. The pandemic has only strengthened my belief in the idea of luxury as a coming together of various kinds of excellence, starting from the source material and through to the finished product.

India needs to reflect deeply about the crisis in its handmade sector: The pandemic has shown us that in times of crisis, it is the craftsperson who stands to lose the most. We were one of the first few companies to make a public promise not to let our looms fall silent, a commitment that we were able to fulfil against all odds through the past year. I have resolved to be even more responsive. Experiences like these call for deeper reflection on our existing policy infrastructure as well as the role of designers and creators, and how both the government and private players can come together to address such issues.

Clothes and accessories as pieces of investment: The demand for locally made textiles and original design from our studio has shot up. The product has to speak to the consumer, backed by solid design and production values.

Priyanka Modi, Creative Director, AMPM

Technology as the next luxury paradigm: The after-effect of the pandemic might not have changed the idea of luxury for me, but it has certainly reprioritised my list. Technology is a new luxury. During the lockdown, it was technology that determined how comfortable you were in confines of a home. The digital experience, an ability to work remotely
and remain connected with your teams easily were the real privileges. On a personal level, luxury means many different things to me. Integrity in quality, thoughtfulness in service, consciousness in design are just a few.

Brands that have not repurposed, realigned and reimagined the future will disappear: The next two years will be determined by what its purveyors have done over 2020. Brands that have repurposed, realigned and reimagined their future will be much better placed to succeed. Brands that haven’t been serious or enterprising enough will disappear as easily during the tough times, as they appeared when the going was good.

Designers and brands will have to be innovative and experiential: Someone informed, inquisitive and looking to invest, instead of one just looking to consume. Conversations around conscious consumption and sustainable luxury have grown. There is a general sense of wanting to do better. For the luxury consumer, a safe wholesome experience matters the most.

The idea of large-scale will die out: From both production and consumption perspectives, the focus on “more” will die out.

Kunal Rawal, Menswear Designer

Personalised, cost-effective and intricately detailed pieces: 2020 has been about restrictions and a life without restrictions is luxury. The industry standard is moving towards quality over quantity. Consumers are understanding the value of handmade one-of-a-kind pieces, which are created with intricate details just for them. We have clients eager to buy versatile separates that they can later use to create multiple looks, giving them a bang for their buck. With weddings getting more intimate, 2021 is likely to be a year of comfort, customisation, and personalisation, whether it’s comfortable fabrics or comfort-driven silhouettes.

2021 will be a year of rebellion in fashion: We will see layers of streetwear make their way into occasion-wear. I can imagine a pair of drop-crotch pants being styled with a sherwani. Men are veering towards versatile shades and military tones such as olive, gunmetal grey or deep charcoals.

Retail takes on an omnichannel avatar: The move to digital has led to a seamless bifurcation of fashion into different platforms to ease the buying process. Consumers like to go through the first two steps of purchasing, which is exploring and viewing online, supported by zoom calls and virtual fittings, and then come in-store to make the final purchase.

The beauty of options: The biggest pillar for our label is the value of ‘optionality’. Men’s couture is very limited and I always offer my clients as many options as I can. We have over 350 style options that can further be customised (with over 300 customisation options).

The digital switch has helped Indian fashion reach a bigger audience: We have launched collections digitally and have been available for purchase all around the world simultaneously, opening us up to multiple new audiences. The concept of digital shows has allowed us to create runway experiences for our clients in the comfort of their homes, with fewer distractions. We’ve amplified the details on the top of the garment so that they form a digital view, the outfit looks and feels the same, if not better than before.

Monica Shah, JADE by Monica and Karishma

Artisanal and meaningful luxury will bolster the supply chain: Luxury fashion will focus on pieces that have high artisanal value, are mindfully crafted and carry personal meaning. This idea has been cemented throughout the pandemic, reinforcing my belief that true luxury lies in lovingly crafted pieces that stand the test of time and trends.

I see, or at least I hope to see, a celebration of Indian fabrics, techniques and crafts. We have artisanal excellence in our country. Overcoming years, Indian arts and crafts will get their due.

Instead of borrowing inspiration and techniques from the west, we have to look inwards within our own country and craftsmen communities. The DNA of Indian artistry is rich and superior in quality. The more we celebrate and nurture it, the more everyone in the supply chain can benefit.

Payal Singhal, Designer 

Re-use, Recycle and Re-wear will be the buzzwords for 2021: Or rather, slow and mindful fashion. There will be a rise in lounge and resort wear as everyone takes mini-breaks.

Innovative ways of increasing turnover: Businesses will have to rely on lesser products being sold and think of innovative ways to increase their turnovers. The luxury consumer may not have been financially affected by the pandemic, but priorities have shifted and no one wants to partake in over-consumption and wastage.

Gayatri Khanna, Creative Director, GAYA

Value for money fashion will hold sway: There is no getting away from this one: We will have to be more mindful of the choices we make and be grateful for the things we have. Increasingly, the business of creating luxury garments and accessories will be about offering clients a value for their spending. Luxury fashion will be superior in quality and made to last longer in terms of appeal, aesthetics and quality.

During the crisis, many customers have been shopping consciously and thinking about ethical aspects of their purchase, a change in mindset accelerated by the pandemic. People are endorsing brands that have a mission and a purpose, aligned with their morals.

A transparent supply chain will come into place: The wheels of sustainable fashion and transparent supply chain were already set in motion before the pandemic, but the crisis has given them necessary momentum. Homegrown products will have an edge over imported fast fashion.

Loungewear emerges as a viable category: It lends itself to the ‘Work from Home’ and ‘Socialise from Home’ mantras. Designs that can easily translate from daywear to eveningwear will become a norm. Masks will continue to be the must-have accessories for months to come.

AI and technology will create an entirely new fashion experience: High fashion was always about the experience of going to a luxury store, getting assistance from the fashion consultant, touching, feeling and trying on clothes or accessories. Post-pandemic, even luxury brands are selling more via e-commerce channels. They will continue to offer a unique experience to shoppers online with the help of AI.

The production cycle will dial down: There is likely to be will be fewer fashion seasons, more people will choose the see-now-buy-now model. Homegrown brands will get leverage over foreign ones, offering a much-needed boost to the local economy.

 Sarika Panwar, Head Designer, House of Soi

High-street fashion with a large carbon print will take a hit: Awareness about global warming, animal cruelty and extreme labour practices are at an all-time high, and so is the need to support sustainable, organic local brands. People may also begin to rent out luxury outfits instead of buying them outright.

Online fashion brands will find a footing: Many have been hesitant to buy luxury clothing online, but that is slowly changing. Local brands selling online, backed by great customer support and offering good quality, will gain a footing.

Arnav Malhotra, No Grey Area

Luxury brands you can identify with will come into play: The contemporary version of a luxury brand is unlike the old because consumers have changed. They no longer buy brands to establish their social stature; rather they invest in brands they identify with. Conscious consumerism, brand value and utility are the mantras.

The rise in demand for ethnic wear: With weddings pushed to 2021, there will a jump in the sale of Indian brands and ethnic wear in Q2 2021.

E-commerce is a space to get discounts: In the Indian marketplace for luxury, e-commerce is primarily seen as a space for getting good discounts or buying fast fashion. However, with brick & mortar stores hard to visit, it is forcing consumers to gravitate towards consuming luxury digitally.

Rise of minimalism and technical fabr
ic: I see a lot of brands gravitating towards minimalism and utility. With a large focus on wellness technical fabrics and transparency in fabric, sourcing will become very important. Consumers will demand more transparency from the brands they buy.

Fashion will customise for the new travel trends: Travel will resurge in 2021 once restrictions are lifted and people will opt to travel to destinations that are outdoorsy, natural, with lower population, such as secluded beaches and safaris, rather than big cities. This will impact the fashion they consume, with a focus on comfort and casual, and change the fashion industry.

Priti Shekhar, Founder and Creative Head, Label Earthen

Fashion weeks will become redundant: Luxury is an experience deeply rooted in authenticity and culture. The one attribute that the pandemic fostered in us, to take things at their own pace, will be reflected in fashion. At Label Earthen, we pay utmost importance to effortless fashion, to make clothes that outlast trends. Fashion weeks have become redundant and people will veer towards clothes that fit in seamlessly with their lifestyle.


Brand ethics will be as important as style: People will continue to want to wear great clothes — but we’ve learnt from the trying times that this is not enough. Customers will demand more from brands, and rightly so. I have a relaxed take on design and clothing and a lot of my inspiration comes from my roots, from timeless embroideries and fabrics made by hand. 

Designers from smaller cities will get an opportunity to reach a larger audience: There is far more interest in local designers than there ever was. The shift towards e-retailing was inevitable but thanks to the internet, homegrown brands, even those from remote parts of the country, can prosper. At Label Earthen, we find many of our consumers come from various parts of the world and they are looking for quality affordable luxury.

Occasion-wear will acquire a casual avatar: 2020 has transformed our identities, the economy, healthcare, sports, travel and our wardrobes. Occasion-wear will see a big shift towards comfort and practicality. Traditional wear will see a paradigm shift form heavy ensembles towards ones made with breathable fabrics that allow the comfort of movement through clean cuts.

Afsar Zaidi, Co-Founder and CEO, HRX

Fitness, Casual, Leisure, Athleisure: This is the future of fashion. Over time, a consumer’s understanding, preference, and appreciation will become far more distinct. An all-encompassing categorisation spanning all four categories will be junked for a more specialised understanding of the difference between the four.

Loungewear will go luxury: Loungewear is here for a long haul and the adaptation of the trend from high street to luxury brands is testimony to this fact. Footwear has taken a back seat and will continue to be a low index performer. Formal wear will continue to be dwarfed by comfort wear.

Fashion brands will have to be nimble: Consumer needs and preferences will change at lightning speed. How nimble we are in meeting the needs and the alacrity with which we deliver newer designs will become the foundation for our success.