As the world struggles to get attuned to the new normal, the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry wades through the tide to keep their clientele happy. From designers producing photorealistic, digital-only clothing collections to fashion weeks taking their virtual forms; fashion brands, designers, curators and exhibitors have started looking out for new ways to adapt to the digital era and connect to their consumers.

The current scenario has forced world’s best fashion and lifestyle brands to shut down their retail outlets as walk-ins fall short. Exhibitions have gone digital too. Is e-commerce the future? Will retail spaces lose their importance? How are gallery owners coping with almost no exhibitions ? What will be their and small designers future?

Ciceroni’s panel discussion with the leading gallery owners and exhibitors of Gujarat including Parav Shah, Founder- Beyond Gallery Ahmedabad, Anuradha Gupta, Founder -Trisha Gallery, Baroda and Anchal Saraf , Co-founder – The Design Avenue, Surat deliberated on these questions as they collectively spoke on “Way forward for Fashion & Lifestyle fraternity in new normal” with Falguni Patel, Editor and Head – Strategy & Operations, Ciceroni.

2019 saw the fashion and lifestyle industry try and test new business models and technologies. 2020 is the year they implement all of those. Putting down her thoughts on engaging the audience in the current scenario, Anchal Saraf – Co-founder – The Design Avenue shared “Now that physical interactions have diminished and people have been digitally involved now more than ever, we are trying our best to keep our users engaged by hosting creative workshops and find ways to connect the customers to the designers. Also, it is very essential to point out the right target audience to have a better reach.”

While there is no end to struggles adapting to the new living, retail outlets and exhibition spaces are the maximum to suffer with consumers fearing to step out.

Is switching to digital media and e-commerce the only option available?

Instagram and Facebook for instance are flooded with posts and images by brands, influencers and agencies, how does a brand stand out?

Answering these thought provoking questions, Parav Shah – Founder- Beyond Gallery, Ahmedabad said “Though we have an e-commerce platform and we have whole lot of exhibitors coming on it, but as far as luxury retail is considered, I do not think you can take the physical out of it. For any brand e-commerce cannot be the final answer as yet. Yes, digital is the need of the hour, but after the current scenario, fashion enthusiasts will have the capacity to choose between retail and online outlets as most of the brands will have by then adapt to both these modes.”

Furthering the discussion, Anuradha Gupta, Founder – Trisha Gallery said “We have been in conversation with most of our exhibitors and that has made me realize that, for smaller brands and designers, it is very difficult to go digital. Even for us as an exhibition space, its very difficult to give them the right customer service that they would find through retail shopping. We are more known for our retail spaces; we give the new exhibitors and designers a space to connect to the masses and newer set of audience. Digital media may not help them in that context as they are not equipped to handle photo shoots, logistics and sizing of different categories, especially small business owners. Millennials may approach things differently but we also have business owners in mature age segment where it means they have to learn a completely new skill set .”

Considering their insights, it is also a matter of fact that digital marketing is altogether a different ball game.

“Having once own digital presence on Facebook, Instagram , Youtube and website is different from getting marketing efforts done through Influencer marketing and it is still different to engage with digital media houses for editorial stories and Paid advertorials. Small and big business owners in Fashion and Lifestyle have to first understand that making the product is just one part of the business, second and as equally important part as designing is marketing and selling. Going forward, brands will have to up their game in storytelling and marketing to separate out their identity among the million others present on digital platform” added Falguni on the misplaced idea of marketing among most small and big fashion and lifestyle businesses.

Eventually, it’s the game of selling right ?

Agreeing to the point , Anuradha added “ It’s important to identify which is the right influencer for my product and then go ahead with it. It definitely results in good exposure for brands, but one needs to be careful in selecting right bloggers and media platforms”

“ We all have learnt that now there are thousands of bloggers coming up and proclaiming themselves as influencers. A smart strategist will identify the right influencer and weed out the ones with fake followers, notice the genuine engagement and then only invest in marketing efforts. Having said that, it’s important to understand the importance of marketing very much in today’s age to stand out from the clutter.” added Anchal.

With consumers being more aware about what and where to shop from and with influencer game rolling out, designers and brands are trying different ways to stand out in this rat race.

They unanimously say “Digital is the way forward for Fashion & Lifestyle industry. However, touch and feel aspect will never go out of the window. Brands will need to understand ideas of marketing better, now more than ever to cut the digital clutter and galleries will continue to provide space to growing talent”

What according to you is the future of fashion and lifestyle business?