The biggest crisis till date for the apparel and fashion industry, the COVID-19 outbreak is also likely to have a deep impact on Indian designers. As Sandeep Khosla of prominent label Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla (AJSK) points out designers are likely to lose the ability to be employers and safeguard their workforce.
Rahul Mishra, India’s first designer to be invited to showcase at Paris Haute Couture Week, who has a workforce of 1,000 people reveals as sales are down to zero in the past month, inflow of money is completely on halt. Fashion designers are trying to do their best for their employees — for example, AJSK is paying full salaries to staff despite the lockdown and hopes to be able to do this for as long as they can. However, the brand seeks government intervention to support the industry.
A few labels are encouraging pre-orders to ostensibly help their artisans earn and stay occupied at homes. Weddings, the mainstay of Indian couture, have been postponed indefinitely.
Relief funds for upcoming designers
To help designers, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, British Fashion Council, Italy’s Camera della Moda and France’s Chambre Syndicale, suggest collaboration is the need of the hour. In India, the FDCI plans to take a proposal to the Textile Ministry to help designers. The council also plans to set up a relief fund for upcoming designers who most likely will be struggling with production and loss of revenue as they don’t possess a consortium of funds.
Dealing with rent and GST issues
A big chunk of a designer’s revenue is spent on paying rent to landowners. To deal with this, Khosla suggests the government should introduce a plan for business owners as well. He believes a three-month GST freeze could help. Fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani feels this is an opportune time for the government to re-examine the GST system. He believes there are practical issues with the tax system as it makes shipping much more difficult and also hard to work as simple employees. Therefore, the country needs to introduce a completely different system, he opines.
Khosla also hopes banks support by delaying interest or repayment of loans to recover from losses incurred by COVID-19 outbreak.