NAVIGATING FASHION RESPONSIBLY

Ajai Vir Singh

A digital civilization is more apparent than before; in utilizing online platforms to reconstruct the future, following the pandemic of which Colombo Fashion Week strides forward by redesigning and rebuilding their presence. Founder Ajai Vir Singh continues its progress through reconstructing and introducing initiatives that are both responsible and cater to the designers, consumers and the audience proactively. With the ‘Responsible Meter’, Colombo Fashion Week steers the local fashion sphere affirming the development of fashion in the present context whilst continuing to responsibly attempt to reduce carbon footprint and account for more eco-approaches.

Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) is a developmental project that aims to drive progressive change in every aspect of the fashion industry in Sri Lanka. A movement that started in 2003 by Ajai Vir Singh, Colombo Fashion Week is a project focused on uplifting Sri Lanka’s fashion design industry. The platform has, in a systematic manner, created formats that demand transformation across the key pillars that would define a fashion industry. Colombo Fashion Week, presented by CFW Holdings Pvt Ltd. is one of four main fashion shows in Asia which has been running for over 15 years. Ajai Vir Singh was instrumental in founding the Fashion Design Council Sri Lanka, to give Sri Lankan designers a formal structure. He is an Executive Board Member of the Council. That same year, Ajai was invited to be a Founding Member of the Commonwealth Fashion Council based in London, UK. Fourteen years ago, he coined the phrase ‘Garments Without Guilt’ for Sri Lanka’s apparel industry and was instrumental in developing its global promotional programme, which won him the prestigious Global Effie in New York, USA, making Garments Without Guilt the only Asian campaign and Sri Lanka the only country in Asia to win this award. Garments Without Guilt is still the mainstay of Sri Lanka Apparel’s brand positioning. In conversation with Ajai, we discover the future of CFW, its initiatives and direction.

Q | How will CFW follow in the digital revolution further to optimize on fashion showcasing? 

A | CFW has consistently recognized the influence of digital mediums in the world of fashion and hence the current scenario has only got us to change gears. Having said that, digital as a medium needs to be understood from the perspective of fashion as an industry, the presentation of fashion needs to always have a personal element due to the nature of the product as the fashion experience requires you to have a personal connection. Yes, some aspects of fashion can certainly go fully digital but not all. Hence, CFW maintains a sensitive balance of both the offline presence and online influence.

Q | What do you think is the future of fashion after this period of the pandemic, isolation and lockdown?

A | At CFW, we believe the future of fashion is bright, especially because the COVID-19 environment has made fashion consumers sensitive to the need of buying fashion which is good for our society and our enviroment. Yes, there will be a hit on the numerical value of the fashion industry and revenue generated by the fast fashion culture. However, these benefits we have enjoyed in terms of higher revenues and cheap products comes with a larger social and environmental cost, for instance, unethical labour and the negative strain on our environmental resources. 

One of the positive things to come out of this pandemic is the realization that we need to change our normal ways of doing things and our consumption patterns in order to take better care of ourselves, our planet and our future generation. This thinking has been happening around the world in the past, but at a slower rate and the current environment has effectively put this on steroids so to speak. This idea that fashion must be responsible has been a core value of CFW, so we are thrilled to be able to share that with everyone and continue to take positive steps in the right direction.

Q | Sustainability is a critical subject CFW has addressed in the past showcasings and is now relevant more than ever after the consequences of the pandemic. Will CFW approach it differently going forward for a larger impact?

A | One of our objectives has always been to bring sustainability and responsible fashion into the mainstream. The pandemic has opened the door to this and given more opportunities for responsible fashion to become mainstream. In March, we were to introduce a set of tools which will make designers’ garments and collections more accountable, transparent and responsible. One of the most exciting and unique tools in the world of fashion is the Responsible Meter which we were to introduce in March and now will be launching this at the next CFW showcase. This is part of an overall program called Responsibility in Fashion. Our goal is to drive the importance of responsible fashion creation and consumption. We will introduce the program and these tools at the next showcase in an environment which will now be more coducive to responsible fashion due to the lessons we have learned from this pandemic.

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19th August, 2020 Applied Art

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