Major fashion brands have stopped spinning their silken threads and transforming them into ramp statements. With boisterous bows and fun prints, the brands have come up instead with chic solutions to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Instead of Louis Vuitton handbags and those ‘oh-I-need-to-get-those’ Zara corduroys, people are now stocking up on masks by the same brand names. However, there’s something deeper than just making a fashion statement, that has caused brands to change tracks.
Fashion brands change gears
There was a scurry in cities, as the use of masks became mandated from April 8. Obviously, everyone felt it was only an N95 that could shield them from the deadly virus. However, these medically approved N95 masks designed to protect the wearer by trapping 95% of particles of a specific tiny size, were in huge shortage. The demand for them was such that hospitals began doing everything they could to extend the mask’s life. To bring calm to this ensuing chaos, the Government came up with the norm of a face cover. Any cloth could be used as protection against the virus - even a simple handkerchief.
Around the same time, the fashion industry was reeling under the stress of a haemorrhaging economy. The industry’s usual export orders from the United States and the UK dwindled. This coupled with a shortage of weavers who had headed back to their villages. In all, the lockdown posed a litmus test for the fashion biz.
Thus when the Government said a face cover would be cool, this was the clarion call for fashion brands to step up. Brands scurried to get the wheels of the industry, which had suffered a huge hit, chugging again. Clinging to the only respite in sight, they started producing face masks instead of the usual items. Previously being sought for couture and trends, the brands began to be famed for their masks.
The real reason why fashion brands switched
Kunal Mehta, Chief Operating Officer, Being Human Clothing, was quoted saying, “These are unprecedented times, something no one was prepared for. Every year, brands plan their expansion and strategies. Sometimes, they foresee a slowdown and they plan for that. No one has ever planned for ‘zero sales’, ‘negative cash flow’ situation. Hence, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on the apparel retail sector. Our costs, expenses and all the usual outflows continue, but there is zero revenue. It’s a massive financial crisis and thousands of jobs are at stake.” The big benefit of manufacturing masks is that, even in times of a global pandemic, the retail brands can keep operating and coming in to work.
An essential business
While the Indian apparel retail industry was slated for growth at 13 per cent, the outbreak has drastically changed the overall scenario with the entire industry on a standstill or even going backwards in time. In this time of crisis, manufacturing face masks is now being seen as an essential business for brands that were previously indulged in leather products, dresses, high-end fashion. For some fashion companies, pivoting to making masks may be the only way they can possibly weather this crisis. It also puts them in line to win lucrative government contracts. Thus, retooling production lines and churning out face masks both medical and consumer-grade, served as a boon to the fashion industry. However, many fashion houses feel that most people might never convert to buying what they actually sell.
The likes of Louis Vuitton and Zara join the bandwagon
Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Dior along with seemingly every mall brand in America — Gap, Zara, Brooks Brothers, Eddie Bauer, and Eileen Fisher, were part of this new era of fashion. The niche designers too - Johnny Was, American Giant, and Lilly Pulitzer; Youphoria Festivalwear and Lesley Evers; and Etsy, gave a thumbs up to this venture and got on board. In Pennsylvania, Fanatics, which manufactures uniforms for Major League Baseball players, is turning its jersey fabric into face masks and hospital gowns. In France, the global capital of fashion, Paris-based Kering, which also owns Italian brand Gucci, said Saint Laurent and Balenciaga would start manufacturing the gear in their workshops as soon as their processes and materials got formal approval.
Closer to home, Indie brands like Fabindia and Tjori began creating masks in beautiful block-prints and weaves, others like women’s workwear brand Fable Street have made masks in subtle prints and colours, and others still like designers Masaba Gupta and Payal Singhal have added their own aesthetic tinge. Designer brands like Anita Dongre, Nitya Bajaj, Shivan and Narresh, and Manish Tripathi are all for experimenting and seeing just how they can give the face covers a good old ramp up.
You may not really be able to flaunt that chic skirt or the Gucci outfit, considering there are hardly parties or clubbing events possible in the near future. So you might as well go ahead and get hold of one of those trendy pieces of face cover that your favourite fashion brand is churning out.