Indian textiles revivalist and fashion designer Gaurang Shah today supports more than 800 weavers all across India. He has been collaborating with and motivating master weavers from Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kolkata and Chennai with intriguing designs, textures and patterns. However, the pandemic brought about a stop to the normal functions in an unprecedented way. Apparel Resources got in touch with the stalwart to know how he made use of the lockdown period to make meaningful work.
How has the lockdown been for you and the weavers who directly work with you?
Gaurang: While the lockdown has affected in-store sales, we have redrawn our strategy, adapting to the market dynamics, continued to stay in touch with our customers and weaver community in order to urge them to have faith in our business model, and to begin with put in all the protocols in our looms to ensure that weavers are not affected and they are safe now and future forward.
While the physical stores remained closed, we have made arrangements to keep our commitment to serving our client orders once the lockdown is lifted. Each of our collections involves weavers and craftspeople committing several months weaving a garment or sari, with the ultimate goal to create heirloom-worthy pieces of wearable art. It will be a challenging year for us, but we are optimistic that once the normalcy is returned, we will be back on track slowly and steadily.
In order to stay relevant during the lockdown and to come out of it in a positive way, what plans did you put forward?
Gaurang: As part of our strategy to further expand our business, we have launched our online store www.gaurang.co, which will feature the finest handcrafted casual, formal and bridal clothing collections. This strategy will also help us reach out to clients where we don’t have physical stores.
“The online store enables us to strengthen, lend confidence to our community of over 800 workers, and several hundreds of artisans, with a window to expand our customer base, and increase our order pipeline.”
Our e-store features a range of classic, versatile, and statement pieces all handwoven, which until today was only available for purchase in the brand’s popular six Indian and two international physical stores.
In the offline stores after the lockdown was eased in certain areas, we have launched a menswear pop-up series. To begin with, we are presenting four designers who will present over 100 new casual, formal and bridal menswear collections.
Our strategy will be more integrated now and we will constantly try to bring together web, social media and in-store activities in a synchronous manner to strengthen our revenue stream and fortify weaver sustenance.
You work exclusively with the weaver cluster… how did you support them during the lockdown and what are the future plans for them in the coming months?
Gaurang: Our commitment to collaborate with and support our weaver community is an ongoing process. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, we have helped them to understand the Government procedures and have assisted them further to ensure that the working conditions in looms are safe. Also, since weavers are families that work within their home environment, it was easier to sustain a controlled and safe environment.
Our weavers are busy throughout the year, as the designs they weave have a long production period – from a minimum of 6 months to more, depending on the designs and collections at hand. As the market opens, and the consumption begins, we will ensure that new arrivals reach our physical stores across 6 cities and in our e-store we have launched. This will ensure that there is no stock piling with the weavers and we too have fresh collection for the customers.
In order to help the weavers further and give them more commercial support, we have also created a segment with indianemporium.co, wherein customers will now have a choice to shop for a variety of dyeable fabrics such as cotton, silk, chiffon, crepe, georgette, tussar, matka direct from our looms, which can be dyed to any colour. Visitors to the online store can also choose from a 1,400-colour shade card, and will have an option to seek high-quality dyeing services.
Will designer clothing purchases take a backseat in the time to come?
Gaurang: The market has certainly slowed down and will take a hit this year, but as we move into normalcy, we believe that the momentum will pick up slowly. We have witnessed a slowdown in the purchase of bridal wear, as there is a curb on large-scale weddings. But there is hope that the online sales will begin to show faster recovery than the offline stores.
Shopping for clothing may not find immediate favour given the economic slowdown. However, the bigger picture is that instead of frequent shopping for clothing, you will find the advent of the need to basis shopping in the short-term and mid-term. In the longer term, it will turn positive.
“Shopping online may become the focus with time, but let me assure you that for premium and luxury clothing, customers would still want to visit our outlets. The need of the hour is infusing confidence in the minds of the consumers and giving them more power to loosen his or her purse. As they will find more money at their disposal, they will be willing to spend the money on more desirable lifestyle products including rebooting their wardrobe collections.”
We also hope new policy measures from the Government to aid the handloom industry and provide economic support, for the weaving community will go a long way in the revival of the handloom and weaving industry.