Continuing our series of #Covidtimes – How are you coping, Sandeep Agarwal speaks to Mohsin Sajid about the current crisis to get a perspective as how they are evolving during these tough times. Mohsin shares his views on all questions during the Instagram live talk.
Sandeep: Hi Mohsin , How are you ?
Mohsin: Hi , I am fine thankyou . I have been watching all of your talks and they are amazing.Thankyou very much for inviting me.
Sandeep: You are most welcome. We need to get perspective from people from different parts of the world and you are so strongly based in UK.Before I start, I hope everybody in your family and friends are okay.
Mohsin: They are all fine. My parents are in Singapore right now and have extended their trip.
Sandeep: Is it likely that the lockdown will continue for another 3-4 weeks?
Mohsin: Yes, they are planning to extend till May at least but we are hoping for another month , lockdown will continue.
Sandeep: Now, we have learned that everything in UK is closed including all the stores, shopping etc. Only shops for essential goods are now open.
Mohsin: Literally , only food places are open including some takeaways.Everyone is really becoming good at cooking again.
Sandeep: So , how are you coping with the situation? What changes are there in your life because of this ?
Mohsin: We are working from home.We travel a lot so the only thing which is effected is that we used to go on travel in every 2 weeks being it work for a client , visiting factory , or making fashion creations for a show. But we have been still busy , we have been preparing presentations for our clients, all the other educational work etc. So we have become a quite more busier.
Sandeep: So people like you and many others I have been taking to are ahead of the curve as they were already using these digital tools.
Yes, we have been doing videos for our clients for 5-6 years now.Now, in the last few weeks , everyone is kind of freaking out.We have got really lovely clients for whom we have been working for.They have given a lot of additional work . But it has been tough as well because some of our clients have not replied to us. Some of our big clients creates product themselves, so they have not been paid and as a result we have not been paid.So , it’s very sad what’s happening.
Sandeep: So do you expect that they will pay or not ?
Mohsin: I am not sure and I am hoping this.Its our clients and they have not paid us since January . So , it is really tough and strange because they are really good at their work. They are still in contact and have not disappeared . So, I am hoping that we get paid . People are in much more trouble right now and we are thankful that we are fine.
Sandeep: In many other supply chain companies, they have the buyers which are very empathetic, they are trying to find a solution and some of them are quite rude and upfront.
Mohsin: I have been copied a lot emails and some of our friends are doing a lot of things on line . Some of the emails they get are so ridiculous asking for silly , horrible ans non sustainable discounts. There are many big garments companies which are not thinking about anybody but themselves and it’s quite disgusting.
Sandeep: Are they thinking about employees or not ?
Mohsin: I have come across many companies who are saying that they will pay to their employees and also companies which are very upfront. There are many companies which are just thinking about themselves.It is quote terrible.But one should understand that they gonna need the employees again after this is over anyway.
Sandeep: In Europe, the retrenching of employees is more than USA. But you cannot through out your employees this way.
Mohsin: In Europe, its very strong and you cannot fire anyone like that.We are lucky that we have a systematic approach in UK. In developing countries, where there is only one person who is earning for his family , and supplying money to parents and uncles , its very difficult and sad for them . But if you are not important in some bigger companies ,they ted to lose their jobs.
Sandeep: In terms of retailers and buyers, most of them are in a difficult position specially the smaller ones which are in a bugger mess. So all these small brands , artisanal brands, you yourself run an artisanal brand, so how do you find yourself in this time as a business owner ? Where do you see people like you in the near future?
Mohsin: To be honest , our business strategy has changed in the last 18 months. I have been doing a lot of work with tancel and doing a lot of sustainability work.We have been doing a collection for our clients which is really influencing the way we design. I have been contemplating not to use cotton and we have not used polyester for such a long time now.It is very satisfying , quite challenging and really fun. I hope that what you were asking for.
Sandeep: No, actually my point of view was how these small brands and prime ventures in the coming months or in a year , will they find it difficult to survive or may be they find a new niche?
Mohsin: I think these smaller brands are going to suffer.It is more interesting to see that will the products be more expensive to buy, is the minimum order quantity gonna change ? There are many questions on how these smaller brands are gonna run the denim line. It is very sad like situation.
Sandeep: We have been hearing that quality will become more important in the coming times. So , when this situation comes where consumers are looking at more quality than quantity, I feel that smaller brands have more time because this gives them a better space and they produce in a better way.So , the buyers will might pay higher to get a better product, probably then it will create a new niche.
Mohsin: Yes, the smaller brands are the ones which are gonna do so much better now. Everybody is now conscious that if the product s made in an ethical way , are the products sustainable.All the companies that have been doing really amazing so far are gonna benefit a lot more and even not , it’s gonna increase a lot . Fast fashion will be there monitoring the product as it is sustainably washed or not like Jeanologia.It’s gonna be a little more open as how the products are made.I am not sure anyone will go in the store and try the jeans anymore.There are so many questions like who else has wore that jeans. So the real question is how they are gonna sell the product. There are lot of questions which we are gonna find the answers in about 6 months and this is scary and exciting.
Sandeep: Are you going to be looking for different kind of denim fabrics as compared to what you were using in the past? Is your perception changed that I am going to use this kind of fabric .
It is been happening a lot lately.In last 15 years , I have been teaching in many different colleges and universities. I have been working with many big companies and they are our associates like Kingpins , transformers etc. It is all about educating the younger generation.They are asking a lot more serious questions as compared to what we asked when we were kids. I have been creating the collection with zero waste even not with the recycling material because there is no waste involved.It is more clever design. We have designing more sustainable ways in the last 2-3 years.Marco and Tricia have been amazing people to work with. there are some companies which are kind of detective that you can’t work with this people etc but these companies are so good as they say you work with as many people you want.
Sandeep: What changes do you see in the denim as a product ? As a garment , as a fabric , what changes do you see apart from sustainability ?
Mohsin: I think its gonna be more about anti bacterial. It is been heading towards a non cotton solution and that is what people are aiming towards.So not using cotton , polyester and much more sustainable;e garments.We need to create and wash the products in such ways and many companies like Jeanologia and Tonello have been working for this a lot . I have been myself working as non cotton non polyester way although I like cotton. I think it should be treated as a premium products and not a a cheap product. I have seen somewhere that a cotton product has been sold at very cheap rates and it should be sold at higher prices.I always said that fast fashion companies should not be allowed to use virgin cotton.Every company over 60 years old should not be allowed to use raw cotton.I don’t think its gonna happen but There are so many people who live on cotton and it should be used to make other things like food for instance because cotton has been grown on lands which grow food. Cotton is s strange product which grows only on a good quality soil.So, there are many other solutions, natural dyes m indigo dyes etc. There are companies which are coming with a solution with bacteria base.So there are solutions where we can stop using cotton and chemical dyes in coming years.It is PHD task and we are gonna give it to 4-5 students every year.We are gonna pay them wages , accommodation and supporting them so that they can find a better solution to all the problems which we are facing today.They are going to present their finding in the shows like Kingpins every 6 moths. So this will be very transparent and not gonna be a hidden thing for a particular company.So its about sharing and finding the solution a bit faster.
Sandeep: Yes, it is a great task. But due to CORNOA, we don’t know when it is going to happen.
Mohsin: Yes, it might put things on hold right now.But we are going to get normality in upcoming time anyway.We are not gonna interview the students in CORONA virus but we probably start around September.We have been working on this since many years so there will be a delay in this but it will happen for sure.
Sandeep: I saw you in Japan in first week of March. It was probably for the show that we were going to organize.
Mohsin: It is very sad really . We were there to support your show, we booked very early and we were very excited but it turned out a holiday for us. Whenever we go to Japan, it is always for the buyers, buying houses and our clients. This month , we went there purely for fun .We only planned the 2 days of your sure and that’s it rest all the week we planned for fun.When we went there, we went for window shopping every single day and people were very conscious there with sanitization and masks with everybody . And when we came back in UK , everybody really freaked out.I am really looking forward to go to your show in September.
Sandeep: I really hope that everything is okay by that time because it is really getting too long and hard.
Mohsin: I think you people really inviting some very amazing people in the show and we were very excited. You don’t get to see all the brands and companies at one platform.You have a great team and I hope you will be able to do it in September and I will be there to support you.
Sandeep: Thankyou so much Mohsin. So as a denim industry where do think we are heading?
Mohsin: A lot of questions are gonna asked to the companies about the ethics and how they are treating the employees.It is heading into a more interesting space where people will be designing and taking their stuff into non seasonal products,it is gonna be very confusing what’s gonna be on the shop floor. I don’t know if people are going to go on a holiday much.It is shaking up industry in a positive way.We have always been heading in to an industry with too many companies. I have been shaking hands with new cotton mills every time in many parts of the world and it is very frustrating, In UK, Europe, people are going to loose their jobs.
Sandeep: What about the millennials in UK ? are they interested for shopping and wanting to go out ? Like everybody wants to go out right now but if given an opportunity will they be interested in going out for shopping ?
Mohsin: I think some of the people are gonna shop as the stuff is now cheaper with heavy discounts. We are gonna be flooded with lots of products that are cheaper. But more sensible people are not gonna be shopping and heading out.There are many changes around us and we have been working from home and finally people are able to see nature. So the theme of the nature is gonna come back.
Sandeep: What are the positives you see coming out of this crisis?
Mohsin: People have been eating more healthy.They are more conscious about their health.They are more aware about their food habits.The pollution has been reduced and the environment is now very good.
Sandeep: That is a big positive we can see . there are other smaller positives like family relations, how people are looking at more important things in life, understanding the real worth of people etc. So anything you would like to share as what are you doing in terms of this ?
Mohsin: We have been really doing fine and we have been very very busy during this period. I am gonna be working on a lot more online stuff like , online presentations which people have been asking me for my tutorials. So I will be doing 6-7 hours of my lectures online now in coming weeks . I am doing this with the guys from Kingpin and this will be fun.Most of them will be on how to make products. This period of uncertainty has kicked me up to take the stuff online .I will be finally doing my book on destruction methods which I started. So, there will be a lot of cool things at the end of the year.I am gonna have a serious talk on denim history in my studio as well.
Sandeep: You happen to have a lot of vintage sewing machines in your studio.
Yes, I have learned a lot through them. Some of them are very unique and from different parts of the world. I have learned a lot as a denim designer through them.
Sandeep: It is kind of a denim nerd studio you have there.
Mohsin: I have going and working for different mills in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and learning a lot about these sewing machines.I am also gonna do some workshops on history garments of the year 1873. Even the Levi’s Strauss and Jacob Davis came up with rivets and stuff , there are much more interesting garments from that period.In that time the rivets were not even patent , there are so many amazing garments from that time.In 1950s, it was named as golden era of producing denim but for me when the overlock was designed , that was the time of golden period for me.The period from 1870 to 1920 , it was a magical period which no one really references too much and that is the period I have been heavily researching on.
Sandeep: I would really love to visit the studio . It has been really lovely talking to you and specially seeing the collection in your studio and it is wonderful.
Mohsin: Yes , you are always welcome. You people are doing an amazing job. Although you show has been postponed, still you are promoting other people stuff online. I have been honored to become friends with you. We have not been travelling much and interacting online now. But , you are most welcome to visit.
Sandeep: Definitely , thankyou so much and stay safe , take care.
Thank you so much and same to you.
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