Think back to those customised lehengas and saris from your favourite designer. Or even the blouses and kurtas commissioned to your neighbourhood tailor. Aware of it or not, it’s likely that you’ve been a dedicated patron of bespoke everything for years now. Indian culture, after all, is no stranger to the concept. It’s almost like second nature to us; a practice that we grow up with and understand well.
And as we prepare for a renewed reality in the post-pandemic world, bespoke is going to revitalise itself beyond just those select ensembles for your traditional wear wardrobe. The premise is simple: a rising preference for quality over quantity, which will ultimately lead to a want for pieces that are truly special. We are moving towards highly customised wardrobes, carefully curated with designs unlike any other. “People are going to buy less in the new normal. So they won’t be as interested in off-the-rack clothes that everyone else will have too,” reasons designer Payal Singhal who has been offering bespoke services across all her product lines including bridal, prêt, fusion, menswear, kids wear and accessories for 20 years now. “The way forward for fashion is to go back to its origin. It’s going to be all about private appointments, individualised designs and an overall artisanal quality,” she adds.Bespoke bridal wear 2.0
Bespoke and bridal wear are often used in the same breath, and with good reason at that. Soon enough, brands that were only providing made-to-measure hitherto, will also look to jump ship. Amrish Kumar, CEO at Ritu Kumar, explains that they have recently reintroduced their bespoke bridal services. “Our designs are heirlooms, steeped in India’s rich textile history. Moreover, our atelier in Kolkata works with master weavers, embroiders, printers and artists from West Bengal, Varanasi, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. We realised that certain textiles and techniques could only be done justice with a bespoke service.” He goes on to add that while designers will now offer a lot more flexibility in customising pieces, the customer’s response will have to be a game of wait and watch.
Designer Anavila Misra, who is best known for her collectible saris, feels that people will be far more engaged and involved in the making of what they wear. “Less but well-crafted will become a way of life for many, as they realise the value of mindfulness. Bespoke 2.0 will allow you end-to-end services from the comfort of your home,” says the designer, whose blouses and bridal pieces are all bespoke. Singhal too allows her clients to customise their looks (as well as embroideries) from head-to-toe. This also includes access to her past collections to mix-and-match elements “Last year, we had a bride from Toronto who wanted to combine three of our lehengas. We did just that and created something entirely one-of-its-kind for her. All of this was coordinated through WhatsApp and video calls.”
Both Misra and Singhal agree that technology will play a big part, as trans-continental trips to order just a few outfits will no longer be an option for many. 3D renditions, archiving, virtual trials and e-commerce will make the overall customer experience more seamless.Luxury prêt, bespoke edition
Homegrown prêt labels are an integral part of the Indian fashion framework, and many of these brands have embraced customisation. With the new normal (excuse the cliché), this mindset will only be further accelerated.
Zero-waste resort and lounge wear brand Verandah has been bespoke—they don’t keep an inventory and every order is entirely made from scratch—from the get-go. “We’ve championed bespoke clothing from the very beginning, when I launched the brand from my house eight years ago. Over the years, we’ve had several clients who get multiple pieces customised for the entire season, so that they have variety and versatility in their wardrobes,” explains founder and creative director Anjali Patel Mehta. “The demand, especially now, will be for special, well-cut and transitional pieces that can last a long time. Shoppers will look for more value, and will want to invest themselves in the process of creating even the simplest of outfits, so that nothing is a one-time wear.”
Though a brand’s ability to offer such a service would depend on their scale and capacity, pre-orders will be a definite way to tackle overproduction. “The gross misinterpretation of digitalisation was that people felt everything had to be bought immediately. And brands were losing money to get collections on the shop floor so quickly,” says Singhal. ‘See now, buy now’ will soon be replaced by ‘wait and wear’. “Think about it—if you’re craving something and buy it within seconds, the satisfaction is going to short-lived. There is a certain joy in patience. Your attachment to the piece will be higher.”
The moral? It goes beyond just ‘less is more’. Let’s stop and look at the definition of fashion: Not only does it refer to the latest styles but also to a manner of doing something. Why not combine the two to approach our wardrobe with purposeful choices. To build a collection that you can enjoy an emotional connect with, and savour every minute of the experience.Also read:
Indian designers on the challenges of keeping brands afloat amidst the coronavirus pandemic
Why supporting local designers has never been as important as it is now