Arts·Video

Made-to-order supply. Virtual collaborations. Is this the fashion world's post-pandemic future?

Despite being physically separated, forward-thinking choices and adaptability are helping the creative directors of NorBlack NorWhite thrive.

Despite being physically separated, adaptability is helping the creative directors of NorBlack NorWhite thrive

Made-to-order supply. Virtual collaborations. Is this the fashion world's post-pandemic future?

2 years ago
Duration 3:30
Despite being physically separated, forward-thinking choices and adaptability are helping the creative directors of NorBlack NorWhite thrive.

Like everything else in 2020, the fashion world has been hit hard by this global pandemic, but it's also become an opportunity to pause and reflect on an industry that might be overdue for some major changes. This story is part of a CBC Arts: Exhibitionists episode focused on a better way forward for fashion, streaming now on CBC Gem.

Mriga Kapadiya and Amrit Kumar, co-founders and co-creative directors behind the fashion brand NorBlack NorWhite, found themselves stuck on opposite ends of the country when India went into lockdown in the spring — a challenging position to be in for business partners in any industry. Since March, Kapadiya has been living in North Kerala with family, and Kumar in Delhi where NorBlack NorWhite is headquartered. 

But the pandemic has proven that their business model of made-to-order fashion from their online platform was a forward-thinking choice. They don't have a physical retail store, and instead of sitting on stock in sizes or designs that aren't selling, they are able to respond to orders and feedback, and only manufacture exactly what their clients are buying — all while continuing to share their process, style and stories through their online presence.

Mriga Kapadiya, co-founder and co-creative director of NorBlack NorWhite In North Kerala, India. (CBC Arts)

"In the early pandemic months, things were so uncertain we really didn't know what was going to happen," Kumar explains. "We started discussing alternate plans in case we needed to shut shop and let go of our team."

"It's been an unbelievable turnaround in the past few months of our community really supporting us, new people learning about us and overall online followers and likes that have turned into actual purchases and sales."

Kumar and Kapadiya both grew up in Toronto and moved to India in 2011, where they started NorBlack NorWhite as a fashion brand and cultural platform. Their styles showcase handmade Indian textiles techniques, such as bandhani (tye die), which are created in small batches, with Kumar and Kapadiya's team working intimately with dyers, vendors and fabric sources. Their website shares behind-the-scenes videos and photo essays of their dyeing processes, as well as interviews with other female creatives. This strong online presence and intentional approach to fashion has earned them a loyal following. 

Amrit Kumar (second from right), co-founder and co-creative director of NorBlack NorWhite working in Delhi, India. (CBC Arts)

For Kumar and Kapadiya, NorBlack NorWhite is not just about business — it's a representation and exploration of culture, which is a very different model from many other fashion brands.

"I thought people would learn from everything that we've gone through but they're still pumping out 50, 60-piece collections," says Kumar. 

"I feel like, if people don't learn now, it's a sad situation," adds Kapadiya. "Everyone has to figure out new ways of continuing and maintaining. And this is when we get resilient and we get creative through this process, right? If you can't be creative through a process that takes away your resources, then I truly don't think that you're creative at all." 

(NorBlack NorWhite)

In this video directed by NorBlack NorWhite and edited by Bhavya Ahuja, Kumar and Kapadiya give us a behind-the-scenes look at their process and share what it's been like working from opposite ends of the country.

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionist's episode on fashion during the pandemic and looking forward, now on CBC Gem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mercedes Grundy is a producer for CBC's Unscripted division. She has played an integral role in the creation of series like Exhibitionists, The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag as well as special projects like Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Grundy 5 Canadian Screen Awards. She has an educational background in photography, and produces film and theatre when not busy here at the CBC.

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