Convenience has been one of the most important guiding sources of innovation. It’s only human to seek a solution when something stands in the way of our desire. With the pandemic putting a pause on our activities for a prolonged period of time, there’s something joyful about the simple task of even taking a walk. However, escape remains a far dream and browsing through your favourite stores seems unlikely for a long time to come. Adding items to cart and scrolling for hours is the equivalent of examining yourself from every angle in the infinity of trial room mirrors. For designers to take their offerings from in-store to online seems like a natural course of action.
Majority of the contemporary designers in the country work with multi-designer boutiques in the country. Many have stock available on their websites. However the common change in how they conduct their business in a pandemic-hit world is an easy one to trace—e-commerce portals that were to be launched in the future have been bumped up. Vogue spoke to players in the industry on the move.First steps
For New Delhi-based Dhruv Kapoor, the driving thought behind setting up his own e-com shop (that will be launched in September) was to present consumers, both local and global, with a shopping experience reflective of the brand’s ethos. “We normally have lots of enquiries through Instagram and at events in general, sometimes we can direct them to a store through which they could order online but in most cases, each store has their own unique style and some pieces might not be available,” he shares. Kapoor further explains that this gives him the opportunity to test their presence in different markets and acquire insights for himself for targeted development of new businesses. However, moving to a new platform comes with its own set of challenges. “We have to strategise how to expand our reach, seasons, delivery options and even something as small as additional duties and taxes for international shipping. Made-to-order turns out way more expensive for us, so we will be sticking to stock inventory. The initial challenges for us were mostly regarding sizes, numbers and what is the targeted shelf life for each item. We are partnering with shipping companies for speedy deliveries and building a new team that will specifically manage the e-shop from social media content, to deliveries, ensuring customer satisfaction to the fullest and aiming for a luxurious experience.”A personal touch
Concept design and fashion luxury store Le Mill may have taken a step out of its South Mumbai space but their approach on e-commerce continues to be as distinct as the physical store. For starters, collections by international labels in their current season have been shot on Indian models to give customers a more relatable look and feel to the products. Conscious that the pandemic might make customers wary of walking into a store for discretionary purchase while still wanting to get a look and feel of the luxury goods they are investing in, Le Mill has a special service for their client in Mumbai.
“Customers would be able to book a captain (butler) at a time slot convenient to them and have their products hand delivered while our captain waits for the customer to make a selection. At Le Mill, we are committed to our collective safety, as we adapt to COVID-19. For example all our garments are now being steamed twice a day. We started using a Germiscan which uses UV-C technology to sterilise surfaces in less than 60 seconds. The Germiscan is used on all garments before our pieces are packed by our masked and gloved team and placed into sanitised shopping boxes. Our courier partner is offering contactless delivery for clients ordering on Lemillindia.com,” Cecilia Morelli, co-founder Le Mill, tells us.Game on
Ever considered shopping for your wedding trousseau online? With a virtual consultation service and a live chat bot to assist you, JADE by Monica and Karishma make it seem like a good idea if you’re planning to tie the knot soon. Monica Shah sees adapting to the needs of the bridal wear customer in the midst of a global pandemic, as a moment to grow rather than a hurdle in the business. “It’s a long journey to set up a seamless process and then build a regular flow of customers on it, especially in a time of so much online clutter and instant gratification. But good things take time to curate and execute. We see challenges as another opportunity to innovate in order to offer an immersive experience to clients.The restrictions and limitations of a brick and mortar don’t apply to online stores. And that in itself is quite exciting as you get to recreate the ethos and mood of your brand in a virtual universe. We’re looking at social media campaigns, influencer outreach, personalised WhatsApp marketing and emails as well as other digital channels to spread the word.”One for all
With the pandemic upending plans of any social gathers—fashion weeks included, designers are left to their own devices to promote their collections. “The biggest issue in the near term for designers would be the lack of availability of working capital due to unsold inventory and reduced throughput. However a bigger issue for those businesses that will survive will be the time taken for a return of demand from the consumer end,” says Jaspreet Chandok, head of lifestyle businesses at IMG Reliance, that manages and consults on lifestyle properties including Lakmé Fashion Week in India. Plans to set up a virtual showroom to direct customers to runway collections as well as a B2B model are well underway. “As an entity dedicated to the growth of the Indian fashion industry, it is important for us to be able to innovate and create new tools for the industry to generate business. The virtual showroom will provide an interface where designers can upload their collections and line sheets for buyers to view on a common platform. It will also provide a platform for them to interact and then finalise orders. We are in conversations with leading tech companies to see how we can innovate beyond this base format for a more efficient buying process,” he shares. The platform will not be charging designers to be a part of it and will help streamline the designer-buyer interactions in the future. IMG Reliance is yet to confirm the e-retailer they will be partnering with.
As the industry evolves, there’s hope for a more responsive and advanced future for Indian fashion that stands at par with its international counterparts.Also read:
Indian designers on the challenges of keeping brands afloat amidst the coronavirus pandemic
How COVID-19 is transforming fashion weeks around the world
Indian designers share what it's like to reopen stores as the lockdown eases