The pandemic sure put a lot of things in perspective for us. Suddenly dining at our favourite restaurant became all the more cherished, shopping at a store seemed extraordinary and the idea of a normal life became so special. The fashion industry came to a standstill as well. Fashion weeks were cancelled; store launches delayed which later adversely affected many brands alike. What felt like ages all these months ago, shopping was one thing we forgot how therapeutic it was. The swift touch of the fabric against your palm or simply spotting the perfect ensemble from a distance seemed like a long forgotten dream.
With the progressive relaxing of restrictions on our leisurely activities, fashion is picking up from where they left off as well. Designer Payal Singhal's long standing launch of her flagship store in Mumbai finally took place earlier this month which was long overdue. Even though, stores have now re-opened and shopping resumed at multiple designer stores and malls, people are still skeptical leaving their houses for a shopping experience. Shopping during the festive season is as natural as breathing; and we don't even realise the amount of shopping done until the festive season is finally over. Precautionary methods are however being put in place by many designers so people can once again experience the magic of shopping, however just a little differently. Designer Payal Singhal takes us through her new flagship store, how the shopping experience is being made available there and the future of fashion and shopping in general.
1. What drove you to go above and beyond and launch a new store during the pandemic? What were its challenges?
Payal Singhal: We were scheduled to launch in March'2020 this year. But we had to cancel the launch event and put everything on hold.
Having said that, this Pandemic gave us some time to sit back and rethink and revalue the way we want to move ahead as a brand. We got some more time to look into every minute detailing of the store. We have spent a lot of time in thinking and revisiting the design and aesthetics of the store. We wanted it to be intimate place for family gatherings and friends.
The only challenge was when the newly made store developed some mould as it was shut for so many months, and we had to work on getting it renovated even before we opened! I'm happy to say that we survived that phase and are now ready and functioning in time for the upcoming festive season.
2. What additions have you made to the store with the pandemic in mind?
Payal Singhal: The Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown has impacted everyone in some or the other way and for us has brought brick and mortar retail enterprises to stand still. We as a brand are very aware of our responsibilities when it comes to unveiling our flagship store at Khar D7 during such unprecedented times by taking utmost safety precautions.
One of the key safety features in addition to the hygiene checks, routine temperature checks at the door, the space is sanitised with disinfectant before and after each appointment. We also came up with a custom garment sterilisation unit that uses UV technology to sanitise every garment preceding the trials in front of the client. Additionally for the clients who book a physical appointment - we have the entire store specially made available only for them and sanitised before and after their visit in order to ensure utmost safety. We have also gone digital and are advising our clients on video calls and making shopping an easier experience for them just from the comfort of their home.
3. How do you think the pandemic has changed the way we shop for weddings? How is the experience of wedding shopping different in your Flagship store?
Payal Singhal: The experience of shopping has definitely changed a lot during this pandemic. We do not see people visiting the stores in huge groups and window shopping has drastically reduced as well. People are now shopping with a purpose.
I believe destination and intimate gatherings are the future of weddings which is logistically and economically possible during such times. Having said that however, weddings are a huge event in our country and a part of our culture, so we will see people going out to shop in intimate groups even now. There is a lot of emotion attached to the bridal outfit so people still want to touch and feel the garment if it is for their big day, before investing into it.
Keeping in mind all necessary precautions we have created a special bridal room marrying contemporary design elements while retaining the vintage appeal for such intimate wedding shoppers in our new flagship store. We also have customers booking digital appointments via Zoom and Whatsapp calls. We also make sure if a physical appointment is booked in advance then we ensure the entire store is made available for our customers.
4. Apart from a wedding and bridal collection, you've also launched a pret line, for women, kids and men, and accessories. Tell us something more about it.
Payal Singhal: Yes, it's the first time one can view all our offerings across menswear, pret, kids and accessories under one roof. The new store houses our much sought after collections for intimate destination weddings, Bridalwear, PS Pret, PS Men and PS Kids. An entire section of the store is dedicated to PS Accessories which become a mainstay of the Payal Singhal label: Tote Bags, Vanity Kits, Scarves, Ties and Pocketsquares, Stationery and Masks.
5. What do you think is the future of fashion once this pandemic is over?
Payal Singhal: Future of fashion will be very meaningful rather than just being fun and games.
Responsible is the word I think. Everyone starting from the makers, designers to the customers will be more aware and responsible for the choices they make in fashion. We all will be naturally more inclined and aware of what we are creating and how is it impacting the people around us. The customer will want to know the detailing of the garment they will be investing in, thus the purpose of creation has to be well thought of and has to have meaning to it.
Shopping may never be the same again but we're glad that we are privileged enough that we can in fact shop again and that too at our favourite designer stores.