As India tries to fight the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the plight of migrant workers and the daily wage workers also grows on. A large section of these migrant workers is employed in the fashion industry where they help with stitching, embroidery, cutting the garments, and doing basic machine work after teaming up with leading designers. The fashion industry too, like other sectors, has faced a terrible hit. One of the biggest areas that bring business to the industry is weddings. In the absence of big events and postponement of wedding festivities due to restrictions on large gatherings, designers are looming over finding new ways to nurture the business. It’s easier said than done though. Also Read - Impact of COVID-19 on Bollywood: When Can Theatres re-open, How Big is Loss And is OTT a Permanent Solution? Experts Speak
India.com talked to one of the leading Indian designer duos – Saaksha and Kinni who gave us an insight into how the fashion industry is trying to deal with the pandemic and what is it that they are personally doing to safeguard the workers that are stuck in the city due to the lockdown. Excerpts: Also Read - How Priyanka Chopra Wearing a Designer Mask Symbolises Classism: Turning an Essential Item Into a Fashion Product
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Indian fashion industry at large?
Due to the pandemic, the fashion industry has come to a screeching halt, much like the other luxury-related industries. In these times, anything that is not an essential item has been disregarded due to the dire nature of the circumstance. This, in turn, has affected the lives of many migrants and lower social economic background workers who have found themselves suddenly out of work. Also Read - Summer Fashion Tips: Best Ways to Style Cotton Sarees to Achieve That Classy Look
From L-R/ Samantha Akkineni, Sonam Kapoor and Kiara Advani wearing Saaksha and Kinni (Photo Courtesy: Team Saaksha and Kinni)
Have you personally suffered big financial loss due to the nationwide lockdown?
Due to zero incoming revenue and outgoing overheads still being borne, we are definitely incurring losses right now. We made a decision very early on that salaries would be continued to help our migrant workers regardless of whether we were still getting orders or not.
Weddings have been postponed indefinitely and even those that are happening have been scheduled in a much minimalistic manner. Indian weddings are considered a big industry for fashion designers. How has that impacted the entire business and sales?
The wedding industry has been directly impacted that has, in turn, hit the fashion space hard. Without weddings and events, many people’s reasons to shop have been diluted considerably which has a direct impact on sales and business. Weddings, in particular, bring in a large amount of business due to the many different functions per wedding and therefore, the different outfit changes of each guest. Without these social gatherings, people are left with fewer reasons to shop.
Representational Image/ Weavers in India (File Photo)
How many local craftsmen, weavers, or tailors do you work with on a regular basis? What are the kinds of problems they are facing and what are you doing to help them survive these difficult times?
We work with 37 tailors and 10 embroiderers who are all migrant workers. They are the ones who have been directly affected by these difficult times and we took it upon ourselves early on to help them in any way we could. We offered them areas to sleep within the factory unit (with provided mattresses and food) and we also made sure that from the day lockdown ended, they would be paid their salaries in full. We are also helping them with bus/train fare home once they are operational. It’s important to allow them to go back to their villages and not force them to work once lockdown is lifted – while we have all had the privilege of spending time with loved ones in the comfort of our own homes, they have been left without families and stuck in cities far away from their homes.
Note: This is an interview series where we are talking to various designers about the efforts that they are making for the workers and to stay afloat amid the pandemic. Stay tuned for the next interview soon.