As production across the country has halted due to the nationwide lockdown, the Indian fashion industry is grappling with unprecedented losses right in the middle of its spring-summer season. The industry relies on a range of talent starting with workers, craftsmen and artisans who have been rendered jobless due to the lockdown. Designers are being forced to secure the livelihoods of their direct and indirect employees.
A moratorium for statutory dues
In fact, some designers wrote a letter to the Ministry of Textiles with at least 120 signatories featuring names such as: Rohit Bal, Rohit Gandhi & Rahul Khanna, Tarun Tahiliani, Ikai, Antar-Agni, Amrich, Gaurav Gupta, etc. They demanded a moratorium for upcoming statutory dues at least until March 31, 2021; the relaxation in payment of utility bills at least until December 31, 2020; employer unemployment pay cover at least until three months from the date when the government permits opening of commercial establishments, factories and godowns; the waiver from liability towards payment of rent for commercial establishments, factories and godowns, among others.
Low-interest loans and deferments in overheads
Speaking to Kolkata-based publication The Telegraph, some signatories advised the ministry to adopt a practical approach. They urged the government to provide either a credit line or low-interest loans, along with deferments in various overheads or bills that factories generally have, said Gaurav Jai Gupta of Delhi-based label Akaaro.
Designer Abhishek Dutta stated wedding cancellations will have a huge impact on the industry. The summer collection is like a dead stock for the entire designer fraternity as is fall lines, as production has halted. He further revealed previous outstanding payments have also come to a halt and advised the government to allocate funds to brands and designers to pay their entire set of workers.
Eshaani Jayaswal, who has 21 direct employees added it would take a lot of effort and courage for designers to start afresh. The government should help them pay workers who are dependent on them. Many of them have been drawing from their personal accounts now to pay them. This letter was sent in the second week of April. However, the ministry is yet to respond on it.
Meanwhile, the business of India’s local designers who depend on retail stores for their sales has come to a standstill. Sales have come to a halt and weavers and craftsmen are facing wage loss. And as per Shailesh Chaturvedi, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein India, businesses would have to take care of both people and cash flows, at least until June. Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) too had to cancel its bi-annual ready-to-wear fashion week in March. While they returned payments of participating designers and sponsors, they did not get any refund for the venue where the shows were supposed to take place.
FDCI created a Covid-19 fund to help young designers to combat and tide away and help pay salaries, overheads etc. And the Lakme Fashion Week organisers IMG Reliance too have chipped in.