Evolution and adaptation to every evolving style is what fashion is all about today. And similar to all the other categories in fast-fashion, ethnicwear segment has had its share of transformation and women today are adapting to every bit of this change with panache.
Ethnicwear, which was once the only attire for women in India, still carries its aura, and according to Statista, the market size of this segment across India was approximately Rs. 925 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach a whopping Rs. 1.7 trillion by 2023. The versatility of ethnicwear in India, it being an essential must-have clothing, which goes for special occasions, weddings, festivals as also for office days, has ensured a growth of this market – in both urban and rural areas. And it goes without saying that the segment undoubtedly has a reserved share of the average monthly expenditure among Indians.
According to a survey carried out by ProdegeMR, around 35 per cent of respondents spent (on an average) between Rs. 701 and Rs. 1,700 per month on ethnicwear, as of May 2019. Even as the segment commands a pretty impressive market share, the much needed transformation in the ethnicwear category has brought to the fore an entire new segment which is a mix of Indian and westernwear – fusionwear.
While the trend is new and is witnessing new experiments on a very frequent basis, the majority of women’s ethnicwear brands are now entering into the segment in one way or the other. The growth has been organic and is being propelled by factors like changing lifestyles, rapid urbanisation and increasing fashion awareness, so much so that top notch brands like Soch, Biba, Project Eve, etc. have added an element of fusion in their collection even as start-ups in the likes of Tjori, AKS Clothing, etc. are launching fusion merchandise for the discerning.
“Fusionwear or Indo-westernwear has been making its way into the wardrobes of Indian women over the last few years. We are seeing new styles in fusionwear, and experimenting with existing ethnic silhouettes. Brands and designers are also now experimenting more than ever with this trend. Fusionwear can be anything from kurtis worn over simple jeans to sarees with crop tops and lehengas paired with shirts and T-shirts. Given its versatility and ability to go from day to evening, casual to dressy, we see an increasing trend of women experimenting with fusionwear to define their unique sense of style,” asserts Vinay Chatlani, CEO, Soch.
Fusing its way in the ethnicwear space
Traditional ethnicwear has been facing a stiff competition from the westernwear segment which has made strong inroads into the Indian women’s wardrobe across the country, with its functionality, comfort and in-vogue style. And while the emergence of fusion is being seen as an evolution of the ethnic segment, it is more like a show of adaptability by the category to the latest trends, an effort to revive its collection and give it a fresh and modern twist, thereby attracting today’s women who are on a lookout for an altogether new range of collection. This cult of Indo-westernwear is proving to be a boon for the ethnicwear industry.
Malini Chawla Saigal, COO, Ravissant, a relatively new player in the category, maintains, “The fusion clothing industry in India has tremendously evolved. Men and women today want contemporary styles and vintage charm to blend and thus Indo-westernwear is fast catching up. While a number of top-notch brands are showcasing an element of fusionwear in their collection today, we still have a long way to go considering the market potential of the segment in India. Fusionwear leaves ample room for getting as creative as one can be with their choice of clothing. It allows the person to break away from the shackles of set clothing norms and mix and match the top and bottom and if getting it customised, even mix and match the cut and style of an outfit to have a heavy western as well as Indian influence in one outfit.” The fusionwear segment is growing by 15-20 per cent every year and the survival and success of ethnicwear brands will mostly likely be decided by their ability to respond nimbly to the market needs.
The fusionwear segment is being driven by factors like rising number of women in workplaces, increasing participation in social and outdoor activities, growth of e-commerce and e-tailing, and influence of fashion and entertainment industries, etc. With western elements influencing the fashion market to a large extent, the younger population of the country is embracing ethnicwear by going for traditional styles in modern silhouettes, which essentially is the essence of modern fusionwear.
A hearty welcome by the consumers
While westernwear has become a go-to clothing option for today’s women who look for comfort and style in their clothing choices, there still remain a considerable number of women who prefer ethnicwear and fusion is just an extension of that. Even as we are still discussing the advent of fusion in clothing in dailywear, retail brands in the segment have gone a step ahead and are offering fusionwear for occasions such as wedding and festive celebrations which was mostly dominated by traditional Indianwear in the past. The sheer factor of it being a combination of style and comfort helping the category excel among its discerning consumer base.
Vinay avers, “At Soch, we have seen an increasing trend towards wardrobe modularity – consumers want garments that they can not only wear as a full ensemble, but also the option to take parts of different ensembles and create a new outfit from the same. Our casual segments – including categories like kurtis, kurti suits, bottoms and tunics, along with accessories, continue to rise in terms of contribution to the brand. Our pricing starts from as comfortable as Rs. 698 and goes up depending on the collection or merchandise. At Soch, we do not demarcate fusionwear separately; however, it would be safe to say that nearly half of the merchandise we carry is very amendable to being styled in different ways, and can be fusion appropriate.” For Soch, the target consumers fall in the age group of early twenties to mid-forties, and for Ravissant, the target customers are in the age of 25 years and above, and the average ticket size remains anywhere between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 10,000.
While the segment is proving to be a critical market for fashion-savvy and spirited women in metros, it has not stopped from entering the Tier-2 and beyond areas as well. The segment has very well caught the fancy of women across all demographics, not limiting the trend to urban cities only. Even as Soch and Ravissant have a larger presence in Tier-1 cities, the brands believe that the growing demand from Tier-2 and Tier-3 regions will attract retail firms offering fusionwear options there. Consumers from these regions are aspirational in their fashion choices and this has been aided by the growing presence of social media and online retailing that enables women to purchase products that were otherwise unavailable to them.
Challenges and the road ahead
The most popular ensembles in this burgeoning segment that are today’s bestselling merchandise are maxi dresses, kurtas with trousers, palazzos, capes, dhotis with kurtis, etc. Other styles that are making rounds in the industry are draping saree with an off-shoulder blouse, pairing a flared palazzo or dhoti pants with an embellished crop top, lehenga in a jacket style and wearing a kurti as a dress. Furthermore, tassles and capes are attracting a lot of attention. Even as we talk about the popularity and acceptance of fusionwear category, the point of concern remains the designing of fusionwear merchandise without crossing the thin line between western and Indian clothing. Fusionwear is a critical market where brands are required to balance the fusion of ethnicity and western influences and yet provide exclusivity to customers in terms of design.
“Picking the right trends to take to the consumer, ensuring right product availability in the appropriate micro-market at the right time and winning the consumer away from discount-driven consumption behaviour to thoughtful and purposeful consumption, we believe these are a few challenges that need to be solved for consistently growing,” informs Vinay. These and many other challenges are overshadowing the segment even as it continues to show promising growth not only in domestic but also in overseas market.
“The fusionwear segment is yet to completely gain as much momentum as the other segments in the apparel industry but is a promising one as women have an affinity for the comfort and elegance these outfits offer. The perception for fusionwear has undergone a sea change as women are more receptive to experimenting. The fusion styles have actually revolutionised the industry in many ways as they are a quintessential blend of modern and traditional in a comfortable and elegant way,” concludes Malini, on a positive note for a potential growth of the segment which still has a handful of branded players in place but has a potential for more stakeholders going forward.