COVID-19: Indian fashion designers ensure karigars are not left in lurch

Fashion designers are providing financial aid and supplies to their ‘extended family’

Published: 08th April 2020 07:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th April 2020 05:19 PM   |  A+A-

Fashion designer Anita Dongre with her women artisans

Fashion designer Anita Dongre with her women artisans

Express News Service

As the nationwide lockdown continues, some have the privilege to work from home while others have nothing on their plate. Consider the fashion industry. From the cancellation of the fashion week in Delhi to pulling the shutters on stores and factories, this industry, that employs a huge number of craftsmen, tailors and embroiders, is witnessing a tough time. However, fashion designers are making sure that their extended families are not left in a lurch when the economy is collapsing and every moment is a cliffhanger.  

Lending her support to smaller vendors, self-employed artisans, and her partners who do not have medical insurance or coverage to prepare for medical emergencies arising from COVID-19, designer Anita Dongre took to Instagram to announce a medical fund of Rs 15 million. The medical insurance of all her employees is in place, that covers them and their family members. In the case of an emergency, this fund will be extended to them too. A helpline has also been set up to assist employees and partners to answer any queries.

With many weddings getting cancelled, designer Gautam Gupta predicts the next two months to be critical for the industry. With work being on hold, Gupta is doing his best to ensure that his team is safe and secure. “As a brand, we cover all our artisans under insurances from health to accidental. They were given 70 percent advance salary on March 20 to bear expenses for the month, and have been told to call for any further need. Everyone is on paid leave; from the design team, embroidery to the tailoring unit. We also transferred a month’s advance to weavers on March 21 foreseeing the circumstances,” says Gupta.

Designer Rhea Pillai Rastogi believes that supporting your staff is the least one can do to soften the blow of economic hardship. “Apart from paying their salaries, I’ve kept additional supplies at home in case they run out on theirs. I’m continuously talking to them, reassuring them, making sure they don’t fall prey to false information and rumours about the pandemic.  Regular video calls to uplift their spirits and keep a track of their essential supplies is now my daily routine,” says Rastogi.

Like Rastogi, designer Arpita Mehta, too, is making sure her karigars receive their salaries. “As a company and brand, we believe that when we grow, we grow together and when we suffer, we do that together too. It’s obviously been very tough trying to keep the financial cycle running as there’s zero income, and that’s taken a big hit on running the show. I keep a check on them on a day-to-day basis, in case they need something where I can help them,” says Mehta.

Trying to support her workers by paying them cash as and when required is designer Pooja Shroff. “It is a tough time for all since the stores, including online sales, are closed, and there is absolutely no income coming in. We are trying to do whatever we can to help our workers and karigars with the resources we have in every possible way, as we are all in this together and we need to fight it together.”

Many designers, including Indian-American designer Tina Tandon, are producing masks. “We have converted our production unit to create masks, head bonnets and other protective gear as the healthcare workers are in dire need of them. Our US facility was able to fulfil the shortage in many hospitals, and help the heroes fighting COVID19 at the frontline. This is not exactly designer wear, but if we are equipped to make something that can help humanity and keep workers working, why shouldn’t we do it?” ponders Tandon.

Generating employment
Many designers, including Indian-American designer Tina Tandon, are producing masks. Closer to home, designers Rajesh Pratap Singh, Samant Chauhan, Pawan Sachdeva and Shruti Sancheti are waiting for permission to join the league in manufacturing face masks.


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