The current pandemic has compelled fashion to rethink its operations. In a conversation with Barkha Dutt, four fashion industry experts, Karuna Ezara Parikh, Maanvi Gagroo, Aditi Mayer and Sanjana Rishi, discuss how to rethink fashion and one’s own identity in the aftermath of a pandemic.
“I have banished the male gaze,” said Karuna. As humans, we have a strong desire to be seen. In the digital world, you are only supposed to reveal your best self. And, as someone who works in the industry, it was liberating not to be on display during the lockdown. “I realised that I will take better care of my body for myself rather than for others,” she said.
However, she also stated that completely avoiding fashion would be detrimental to the entire industry/art. Instead, we should reconsider how long-term sustainable our clothing choices are and what truly counts in the post-pandemic age.
People are now more concerned with their well-being than with outward appearance. During the pandemic, there was a lot of contemplation. The emphasis was more on being fitter rather than seeming fitter.
“I have largely withdrawn from social media because people do not exhibit their entire reality on it. I’ve become more at ease doing things on my own, for myself,” Maanvi added.
“We prioritize our digital self over real self,” stated Aditi. She speaks about fashion being political and diverse in the context of sustainability in fashion.
Because of Black Lives Matter and other political movements, there is now an internal diversity inclusion in the fashion business, with supplier chains choosing colorism in who they wish to represent. “My audience has more than doubled in the last few months because the topic is being taken seriously.
Previously, discussions about racism in fashion and sustainability were typically viewed as a distraction. Gender and race are now important elements in shaping our relationship with fashion. Social justice is becoming synonymous with environmental justice,” added Aditi.
Sanjana Rishi defied convention by wearing a pantsuit at her wedding. She believes in environmentally sustainable fashion and generally buys a lot of second-hand clothes.
She talked about how she received hate comments on the internet for wearing a pantsuit at her wedding. People claimed she would never appreciate Indian traditions, since her mind had been shaped by Western culture.
“I didn’t realize it would offend people but it did offend people to the level where they were commenting on culture and all kinds of hate comments,” she said. She stated she didn’t understand the criticism, since “Indian men wear pantsuits at weddings all the time and nobody questions them.”
On the other hand, many women reached out to her and said they also got the courage to stand up to their parents or in-laws about what to wear at their wedding.
People nowadays are identifying homegrown Indian enterprises that are already operating in the area and are reacting favourably and investing in those, rather than brands that aren’t sustainable and are merely superficial.
These fashion experts challenge us to consider not only our fashion choices but also how we and others are reacting to the world in the present. While social media has amplified our voices and efforts, the pandemic has brought essential issues such as gender, intersectionality and environmental rights back into the spotlight.