Neora by Nehal Chopra strengthens sustainable design practices during lockdown
Up-and-coming Jaipur-based womenswear brand Neora by Nehal Chopra has used lockdown as a catalyst for increasing its commitment to sustainable fashion and its digital presence, founder Chopra shares in an exclusive interview with FashionNetwork.com.
Neora hopes to gradually restart operations and will respond to the increased importance of online sales by planning to launch a dedicated e-commerce store this year, the label’s founder Nehal Chopra told FashionNetwork.com.
FashionNetwork.com: What has the brand’s experience of lockdown been like so far?
Nehal Chopra: We were still managing our usual order queues when the lockdown was just around the corner, and then it all changed overnight. Naturally, the regular operations came to a standstill, while we had to cancel some orders, some are still stuck in limbo since few kind customers had accepted the indefinite delay. As a young label, the pandemic has hit us a little too hard but then soon enough we realised that this is not the time for us to sit back and panic. Therefore, since then we've been revisiting our ideas as a brand and planning how we need to bounce back up.
FNW: What are your plans for restarting operations and what is the time frame?
NC: Now that restrictions are easing up we hope to start our operations by the end of the week. We are currently in the process of creating Covid prevention policies to be followed in our workplace. This includes sanitising the machines and production area at the end of the day, drying raw materials including fabric and finished pieces in the sun for 12 hours before using them or dispatching to clients. We are also putting up posters on do's and do not's for our team to follow, among a slew of other measures.
FNW: How has lockdown affected Neora?
NC: It has been a mixed bag of ups and downs and we are trying to see the silver lining here. Our upcoming collection has gotten delayed indefinitely. We lost a few confirmed online orders and obviously there were no sales from our multi label stores. Nevertheless, we know that this is the new normal and we are figuring out how to mould ourselves to sustain and grow. We are learning to do more with less, become more sustainable, deliver extra happiness with our pieces. We are getting ready to embrace a more digital world, and all this requires revisiting our brand's ethos.
FNW: What is the situation with the brand’s workers and craftspeople?
NC: Neora's staff is its backbone practically... When the lockdown happened we understood that our craftspeople are most vulnerable right now, because they unfortunately don't have enough savings to survive for a longer time. We paid them advance salaries for the entire month of March and 70% advances for the month of April and May. In addition to that we are in regular touch with them to educate them about the virus, and also track their well being. Thankfully, all our labour is local so they could fend for themselves by staying at their homes here in Jaipur.
FNW: How has the pandemic changed the brand’s future plans?
NC: We have been keeping a tab on how the world is changing and we've been into some serious planning this whole while. As a new label we've always been keen on learning and adapting new concepts that are not just fads. Until now Neora as a brand has adapted several sustainable methods but during the lock down we've figured out many more ways through which we can go a notch higher in this area. We always strive to create statement pieces of the highest quality, and will continue to uphold that belief. We believe that consumers will be more mindful in their spending and will only invest in brands and pieces that are out of the ordinary. Therefore, our focus will be on delivering immense value to our clients.
FNW: What are the brand’s plans for the future?
NC: We've revamped our next collection to include statement pieces that move further away from fast fashion, which is not the need of the hour. This is something that the brand has always believed in. Neora by Nehal Chopra is stocked in multi label outlets in over five cities pan-India, but we anticipate that many consumers will increase their online spending now. While we are already selling on many designer clothing websites, we plan to release our own online brand retail website later this year.
FNW: How do you think the pandemic and lockdown will change the Indian fashion industry?
NC: What would have happened gradually has been been forced on to us in the fashion industry now. There was a lot going in the fashion space with a truck load of fashion shows, exhibitions, awards with an unexplainable haste. It came down to being a rat race and somewhere along the line we forgot to relish fashion as an art form that was meant to be creatively played with since the very beginning. With the pandemic we believe that the brands have realised that their plans need to be updated and altered to more mindful. Also before pandemic here in India, sustainability in fashion was touched superficially. There were honestly a handful number of people who were truly conscious buyers but post pandemic we believe there will be a increase in the number of conscious buyers in India.
FNW: What are your upcoming launches?
NC: Post pandemic we want to be back stronger, better and quirkier. We have been working on a collection that consists of some flashy, colour-blocked silhouettes, with colours that will take your whole pandemic depression away, almost instantly. These statement pieces will be made sustainably. We can only reveal that the client will have not one, but many uses of the pieces.
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