The fashion and retail businesses may be regarded as a non-essential industry on the Philippines, but that didn’t stop a number of local fashion designers to step up their game even if on a lockdown and observing community quarantines ever since it was imposed March 2020 by the government. We had the designers coming to the rescue as soon as the demand increased and our medical frontliners pleaded for help on provisioning them Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) from face mask to suits. But what happens next for fashion and the business after that? As this pandemic situation persists and has now changed how we go about our daily lives from observing physical distancing at all times to embracing digital technology more than ever — what is now the new normal in fashion?
I had a good opporunity to join and watch the webinar Conversations: The New Normal in the Fashion Industry presented by Fashion Institute of the Philippines last May 27. The webinar featured world renowned Filipino designer Francis Libiran and fashion business gurus Vin Orias and Renan Pacson as speakers, and moderated by fashion designers Wilbur Lang and Patrick Lazol.
KEEPING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Francis was the first one on hot seat and shared what is the new normal in fashion in terms of the business, without hesitation, he said “It is going to be different.” He then went on and shared his recent personal experiences with online consultations, something that both designers and clients should soon be adaptable to it, according to Francis. Pretty much like regular physical consultations, the online consultations have an appointment system and time setup where updates on the clothes are shared, sketching is done in front of the client, including providing instructions to the client on how to take their own measurements. “Online sessions would involve proper guidance of clients doing their own measurements, clients can be thankful and appreciative of the online experience by making them feel special”.
“You can even send swatches of the fabrics thru GrabExpress or Lalamove ahead of time.” Francis added, as he encourage making use of technology with the new normal and putting creativity on the business.
CREATIVITY IS THE KEY
Now speaking of creativity, Francis elaborated that when it comes to designing, the design should be practical for it to be able to serve its function, and to be sensitive on the design as well. “The challenge is how can you make it protective and at the same time adaptable to weather of the Philippines.” he mentioned. With that in mind, he does not recommend to have a water-proof bridal gown or a groom’s suit. While facial mask is now an essential accessory, Francis recommended to consider the function, if it is protective or decorative, or better yet integrate both.
While this pandemic can be stressful to established fashion designers, Francis gave his two cents to new fashion students who got caught up in quarantine. “Be focused on what you are doing, make use of the time in being creative given there are less distractions. Have time to be very creative and practice. Avoid being distracted by negativity and focus on being productive on your own craft.“ he advised.
Then before Francis’ time was up, I’m glad there was a couple of minutes time for Q&As and I got ecstatic as my question was read. My question was “What do you think is an industry best practice/s prior the pandemic that we were able to and can still sustain during or after the pandemic?” Francis responded with “As a designer, to be creative is what is needed right now, while also considering a lot of factors. It is not just designing, but to balance it with the challenges we face right now to make it practical.” Personally I think his response was simply genius and right of the back, yes, creativity is a skill that vary from person to person which is the source of all the best practices out there that can endure over different crises. “The best part is being creative by thinking of other solutions for the business side.” He added as he finished his segment. Yep, no one can argue with that.
CONSIDER THE BUSINESS IMPACT
Now digging deeper to the business side, Vin Orias of ORIAS Studios and Renan Pacson of Renan Pacson and ARIN shared their insights on the big changes they made ever since the pandemic started and what does it mean for the future of fashion.
Vin started the conversation strong as he shared how his studio handled the impact on the business operations as soon as the lockdown started two to three months ago. He reminisced going back to his team and started re-evaluation of all production status, both ongoing and upcoming; they were quick to consider the change on buying perception with the pandemic highlighting Cash Is King perception holding off the consumers; lastly, his team was able to pivot right away and created opportunities to have an impact and continue production and work for the people who sew. Renan on the other hand, who is inspired with Guerilla strategy, has already adapted to unconventional strategies using a lot of online technology setup, has considered limited resources, and someone who is used to schedule changes, were some of the practices he shared as he approach the impact of the pandemic on the business.
Vin then shared a change on his design that is beyond his basic essential look, he and his team has developed a protective jacket design that goes with the weather — a lightweight parka jacket complete with hood, adjusters and pockets. Isn’t that cool? As for marketing streategies, both designers strongly acknowledged the online social media presence is now more important than ever and should be focused on keeping the brand visible and the audience more targetted.
THE FUTURE STARTS NOW
As we shift to more utilization of digital technology, the future of fashion will be more fast-paced as we can only imagine. One big question is that, will online fashion shows be sustainable? Both Renan and Vin, doesn’t think so. “As the focus shifted towards retail, an online runway can be effective on some level but it is not the same as feeling, smelling and experiencing the product.” Vin expressed, while Renan questioned the purpose of runways shows and if it can be really achieved by organizing the digital runways.
Having a seasonless fashion is also a hot topic as it goes with slowing down of the fast-paced fashion collections. “Buyers are more intelligent, they are more specific with what they want.” Vin addressed. “Make pieces that will last, it will boil down to your intention.” Vin added, justifying the Orias brand. “There will be people who will go to clothes that makes sense and there will be the opposite end of the consumers who will look for fancier clothing.” Renan insisted, challenging the status quo.
With protective wears still on high demand and designers keeping up with, how long do they think will it last? Both Renan and Vin agreed that the need is important. “It can be seasonal.” Vin shared. “As designers it is important to be responsible to make it long-term or even a staple. The goal is to make it seasonless.” Renan encouraged. Towards the end, both designers agreed that having to sell online is one of the best things to consider this time around versus having a physical or retail store.
Being on a lockdown can be mentally challenging to some, especially to those who are artistically inclined. How do these designers find inspirations on their design? “Be focused and shift your thinking, have a proper mindset and focus on your creativity.” Francis recommended. “Realistic self-evaluation with what I have, as it can be very stressful and negative” Vin revealed. And lastly “Use your time to look in depth and strengthen your brand identity. The pandemic has leveled out the playing field where local designers have more control, which can be have a fresh start.” Renan conveyed.
Do check out the designer’s social media accounts for more information on their current activities:
Francis Libiran —
FB: Francis Libiran https://www.facebook.com/FrancisLibiranOfficial/
IG: @francislibiran @francislibiran8
Vin Orias —
FB: Vin Orias https://www.facebook.com/vin.orias07
ORIAS Studios https://www.facebook.com/oriasstudios/
IG: @_vinorias @oriasstudios @oriasessentials
Renan Pacson —
FB: Renan Pacson https://www.facebook.com/renanjayoduliopacson
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