Digital content creation and fashion | Sunday Observer
Finding a silver lining in a dark cloud

Digital content creation and fashion

26 February, 2023

This week, we reached out to professionals from two of the rapidly growing industries - Digital content creation and the fashion industry.

To understand the concerns these fields are facing during the economic crisis, we spoke to two gifted content creators, Danu Innasithamby and Chethana Ketagoda, and two talented designers, Amilani Perera, and Asanka de Mel.

In conversation with the professionals here’s what we found out:

Having been in your field for a considerable period do you think you reached a point where your hard work and skillset is compatible with how much you earn?

The content creators said they do not think their hard work matches how much they make. They agreed they may have reached this compatibility a year ago, but with the economic crisis everything is expensive, and nothing is sufficient. “Now I have to think a few times even before ordering a coffee. There is absolutely no space for saving to take place and it’s like we earn and earn and nothing happens,” said Ketagoda.

Our designers believed that so far the earnings have been satisfactory given everything going on in the country, however, the unpredictability is taunting.

“While prices can skyrocket any time now and things can come up, it is the stress of uncertainty that is really what is punching me these days,” said Perera.

Do you feel secure as a brand in these times?

de Mel responded to this question and stated that he believes that while all raw materials are going up in price, there seems to be some hope for fashion in Sri Lanka because people are compelled to buy locally, and as a brand that develops most of its fabrics and uses over 90 percent natural fibers in its clothes, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for us. Basically, even though these are difficult times, we are excited about the future and we hope for the best of fashion in Sri Lanka.

Have you had to alter your content, how you approach your content, and endorsement deals since the economic crisis?

Ketagoda said that she’s had to adjust her content by 20 to 25 percent. “When you are a content creator you specialize in a certain category, you know the content that you do that gets the most traction. For me that is comedy and I had a strong policy where I would not simply introduce a brand and tell my audience how good it is because this is also a certain genre.

Since the economic crisis happened and I was offered opportunities to do content in the aforesaid genre, I agreed and did it although it is not my cup of tea. I don’t regret doing this content, in fact, it gave me the opportunity to learn a new area in content creation.”

Innasithamby said that there is no specific alteration in the content he does, but rather an alteration in the manner in which he manages his expenses. “People are bargaining more, but I have tried to stick to my rates so far.”

Have you had to adapt your designs and marketing strategy to cope with the current economic crisis?

Our designers informed us that they have had to adjust strategies to match the crisis.

Perera said, “Now people are more emotional in terms of how they are driven, and this affects marketing.” We have also noted that not every follower is a customer; they could be fans or mere observers, so we need to make it a point to relate to everybody as well.

I have always had to change the way I look at my designs based on the happenings of my surroundings, so this come naturally to me. “The emotions and the passion amongst people right now inspire me to do what I do.”

de Mel said that while there has not been a drastic change in marketing strategies, he too has had to change designs significantly depending on what fabrics were available and how best to tailor them to bring out the best of the design. “We have had to change our packaging due to the unavailability of paper, but it has made us move further towards sustainability which is a good thing,” he added.

How do you think your field was affected by COVID and the subsequent economic crisis?

The content creators believe that the world of content creation was drastically and massively altered since COVID. A few years ago it was not a viable career path, but it is. “I have dabbled in several professions, including the digital field, but the work I did in content was never commercial.”

“During COVID, it became the only mode of income for most of us. It grew rapidly, to the point that it became essential for brands to promote their products digitally. So content creation has come a long way. It is creating career paths for anyone and everyone without an age limit or background. But the economic crisis did put a strain on things, but things are moving slowly yet surely”, Ketagoda said.

The designers said that COVID made things for the fashion industry.

Perera said, “There is a massive Raw material issue. The price of fabrics has increased, printing has doubled, and even threads and needles have gone up in price. The fashion industry is heavily dependent on imports and it is struggling right now.”

How do you think the economic crisis will affect the future of the fashion industry?

The economic crisis is happening globally, the supply chain has been drastically affected and we as Sri Lankans are affected by inflation, the imposing of taxes, the standard of living decreasing and people’s disposable income decreasing.

“When it comes to those who spend money on fashion, it is not that their incomes have significantly changed, but their sentiment is low, and they are constantly under a lot of pressure. The unpredictability, and the probable inability to afford essentials, so the fashion industry is very much affected by the economic crisis.

“However, a positive way to look at it is to see this as a period for local brands to bloom. The money people spent on imports and outbound leisure travel will now be spent within our country on local products. This will support the local brands greatly. So I believe there is some hope for the fashion industry.”

How has the competition within the field evolved with the economic crisis?

The creators believed that the competition has become a little intense. Although Ketagoda said that it may depend on the person. “I believe everyone can evolve in this field. But I have seen people buying followers to get work. So it is not an organic growth simply a requirement to show numbers. However I think we can stay connected with other creators without seeing each other as a threat, we can help each other and learn from each other,” she said.

The designers believed that the competition has rather remained the same, however, in terms of the number of brands and designers, there is a decrease.

Do you believe it is important to have a fallback plan as a content creator?

The creators believe that a fallback plan is always safe, Innasithamby said, definitely, content creation does not pay well, it is a full-time career option but it’s always safe to have a safety net especially in a depleting economy. You have to be smart enough to open up to opportunities for yourselves.

Do you think migration is an option for designers?

Perera responded to this question and believed that this depends on what you want to achieve as a designer and what you want your brand to be. I believe while it is an option it is important to carefully think about it and analyse the pros and cons of migrating. You can think about how you can keep your Sri Lankan mark with your brand overseas, so it is a very careful and meticulous process but it is certainly achievable.

Do you think content creators can find fair opportunities in migration?

Our creators believed that while migration is an option, it may take time to grow their brand. While they have to recognize that there will be a shift in their audience and hence it is important to slowly build their base. “You need a good plan, to research about it and grow your follower base. Because migrating and continuing digital content creation means starting from zero again and it takes a lot of hard work and guts,” they said.

Do you have a message for the young generation, to cope with these tough times?

Ketagoda believes that “the beauty of this profession is that you can do anything if you are good at it. The bad part is that you have to be ready to responsible for what you post. You can be your own boss, but you have to try to be authentic and original.

On another note, Innasithamby said that it is important to note that, social media is not owned by you. “You need to build a brand enough that you remain relevant even without social media platforms,” he said.

The designers were of the opinion that this is an opportunity to learn, explore, and experiment.

Perera said, “It is important that you see it as an opportunity and not a problem. There are recycling programs, upcycle programs, and so many ways for you to create a unique and socially conscious product. There is never a good time, if you start procrastinating, something will always come up, and you just need to be prepared for anything.”

de Mel added to this sentiment by saying that all aspiring designers should use this opportunity to work on their creative expression, creative design and learn the business of fashion and embrace opportunities as they come.