Somewhere around mid-March, majority of the world population decided to give those formal blazers and collared shirts and those fitted dresses a rest and this was for a long haul, with the nations going on a complete and then partial lockdown, in response to the spreading pandemic. Past forward a few months, we are still mostly confined to our homes and are being asked to work from home and it won’t be totally wrong to say that we spent entire summer, monsoon and now autumn season staying in and this had its repercussions – among many, on our style. The theme for almost the entire year now has been cosy, comfortable attire that one can carry all day and into the night. And so, ever since the ‘Unlock’, people have started shopping for sleepwear and loungewear.
While the overall fashion retail industry, among many other businesses, has been facing the brunt of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the sales in the sleepwear and loungewear category have gone up significantly. Akhil Duggar Jain, Executive Director, Jain Amar Clothing Pvt. Ltd., maintains, “Over the years, the demand for loungewear has increased, not only because it is trendy but also because it is comfortable and brings style to every situation. The already increasing sale in this category just got triggered post-COVID as people are looking for comfort in their clothing. The loungewear is something people are wearing inside and even outside the homes today. It is often considered as homewear; however, it is not just restricted to camisoles and fitted tees, nightgowns and pyjamas these days. Furthermore, work from home has triggered a major change in the consumer buying behaviour and they were quick to adapt to this new category as a main line.”
What’s fuelling the slumber party?
No more formal suits, haute couture or dressy gowns, the year’s hottest trends include pyjamas, stylish yet comfortable tops or T-shirts and everything lounge(y). While the pandemic has already led to fashion retail brands going through a rough phase and to the economy almost going through a recession, the business owners are trying to grab on whatever potential market there is and are entering the segments which are in demand by the consumers. With most consumers staying at home and with no signs of them going back to the old normal any time soon, fashion decided to pivot and this led to a lot many brands either launching or introducing a complete collection or a sub-brand offering sleepwear and loungewear or adding a separate comfort or stay-in section on their websites, in order to cater to these home-bound customers.
Ethnicwear brand Biba has launched its range of sleepwear and loungewear recently and so did fashion label Sarah & Sandeep with its one-of-a-kind drop, ‘SOPOR’ – a fresh take on a multi-utility sleepwear collection for men and women. Others like Marks & Spencer and Shoppers Stop (which registered a sharp rise by 127 per cent through its online channels, with customer inclination towards categories like athleisure, comfortwear, loungewear and sleepwear) added a separate section offering loungewear and sleepwear for men, women and children. Online majors like Amazon India and Myntra too have added separate stores offering these comfortwear. As confirmed to a media company by Myntra, kidswear category is clocking 1.3-1.4 times pre-lockdown sales, while demand for topwear has doubled compared to before the pandemic, and loungewear and comfortwear, home footwear are few categories performing well for the firm.
According to Technavio, the sleepwear and loungewear market is poised to grow by US $ 19.5 billion during 2020-2024, progressing at a CAGR of almost 9 per cent during the forecast period. While the figures are from pre-COVID times, the present situation might just as well have increased the growth of the category courtesy the continuing stay at home days. Siddharth Bindra, Managing Director, Biba, avers, “Frazzled over the pandemic, travel bans, people are staying indoors, working from home, attending office zoom meetings, and all they prefer right now is comfy and breezy clothing which are smart and can be used for multipurpose objectives, and shoppers are comfortable spending on these. Seeing the demand increasing and the category emerging as a trend, we too have unveiled the ideal range for sleepwear and loungewear with best quality and affordable price. Effortlessly breezy and surprisingly easy to style up with elegant prints in the comfiest silhouettes, the collection, made from gently textured cotton, comprises kaftans, two-piece sets, sleepwear robes and gowns and these prioritise comfort without compromising on style. Some of the designs are reversible and can be worn both ways.”
Besides the pandemic, the sleepwear and loungewear segment was growing phenomenally over the past few years with growing awareness among consumers about the significance of right sleepwear. Also, innovative product design, use of prints and luxe fabrics and new subcategories are the key factors that were already driving this category.
Samyukta Nair, Founder, Dandelion (a luxury, bespoke sleepwear label), affirms, “Although sleepwear is at a very nascent stage in the Indian fashion market, people have become more aware of the category, the right fabric, the right fit for their sleepwear options. Today, sleepwear has evolved since the time we forayed into the market and is being used to lounge in style as well that one can wear all day or night. The idea that ‘no one is seeing you when you are home and so wearing old clothes or worn out clothes is ok’ has changed now. Gradually, more people understood that there was a need for this category and with the pandemic, people started giving more attention to the quality and also increased their basket size, which helped us in increasing our average ticket size in the past few months. The rising demand sure led to many more players entering the segment, however, it never created a competition for us since Dandelion is a luxury label and we have a more niche audience that takes sleepwear quite seriously. It’s like a privilege being in the luxury segment because you grow based on your community, on the basis of what you offer, what quality you put out.”
A pyjama party through and through?
One thing that has seen resurgence during the pandemic is the pyjamas. As opposed to most of the fashion apparel, pyjamas has seen a surge in demand, given its multi-functionality in this stay-at-home era and this product category is also best suited for Indian weather conditions. Not only in India, but US too has registered a 143 per cent increase in pyjama sales in March besides other comfortable clothing options. Other than that, velour tracks, duvet dressing, robe dresses are in trend right now.
“Under SOPOR, we offer printed pyjama sets, robes, shorts and accessories like eye masks, face masks and slippers, that are fashioned from a variety of fabrics and weaves such as silk, cotton, viscose, velvet and satin. The entry point for our pieces is Rs.7000 and for the lounge accessories it is Rs.3000. I didn’t want to go toward a generic route, so the luxe loungewear I designed was multi-utility, you can wear our full pyjama set at home and you can also opt to wear our satin shirt with printed shorts or match it with your denims to run an errand and for a quick drive. Our solid pyjama sets are doing really well as they give you a wider scope to mix and match and style them in multiple ways,” elaborates Sandeep Gonsalves, Director & Co-founder, Sarah & Sandeep.
Furthermore, with Unlock stages and relaxations on restrictions, the productions have restarted which is further aiding the industry and enabling it to offer what the consumer demands. While for Dendelion and Sarah & Sandeep, it’s the notched collar pyjama sets and printed PJ sets that’s doing great with their target customers, kaftans are the bestselling merchandise at Biba. Not only apparel brands, e-commerce marketplace like Amazon too has witnessed a growth in demand for its comfort wear range. Arun Sirdeshmukh, Business Head, Amazon Fashion India, says, “Comfort wear has seen a massive spike across genders (t-shirts, shorts, track pants and athleisure in general) and in kidswear category (cotton dresses and pyjamas). There has also been an increased demand for maternity wear and new-born apparel (rompers and clothing sets). At Amazon Fashion, we have brands like Jockey, Max, Easybuy, Van Heusen, Marks & Spencer, Zivame, UCB, aLL Plus Size, etc. offering the best selections of sleep and loungewear at an affordable price point. We remain committed as always to ensuring the safety of our customers and we believe e-commerce is the best way to deliver a wider selection of products while upholding the tenets of safety and social distancing.”
While the segment is fuelling the apparel retail industry in whatever way possible, it’s been noted that Tier-2 and Tier-3 regions have been the fastest to recover from the loss in sales during the lockdown.
The back-end intricacies
The most important point that resonates with the category is comfort and that comes with the right use of fabric. One key differentiator in sleepwear and loungewear category is fabric and so brands use a range of luxe fabrics including cashmere and silk in premium category or cotton and satin among others. However, most consumers demand for easy-care, low-maintenance clothes that can be preferably washed at home. Akhil Duggar Jain says, “We wanted to bring together the best fabrics which are natural, breathable, sweat-wicking and temperature controlling (not to mention multi-climatic), that enhance sleep and look stylish out of the bedroom as well. We intentionally chose fabrics that felt luxurious to the touch and fell on the body in a flattering way, so that even if you’re actually lounging, you can still feel pulled together and ready for anything. On the design front, we focused on factors like cross-category versatility and two-mile fashion, and weighed on silhouette over embellishment.”
For Dandelion, cotton poplin is the fabric of choice and the its design language is inherited by its prints. “The prints for the current collection has definitely taken inspiration from the work from home culture, but its more dependent on the kind of concepts that we want to push out. We have recently launched a collection called ‘Staycation 2020’ since people are staying at home and this includes twinning sets, kaftan dresses, and these are a little more relaxed and can be worn from day till the night, if you have the ability to style it in such a way. We are completely a bespoke brand and our customers mix and match from our collections, in terms of different prints, sizes, etc. Our pyjamas start from Rs. 1,450 and we go upto Rs. 7,950 for pyjama sets,” elaborates Samyukta Nair.
A roaring category or a snooze-fest?
The brands are ensuring that they add value – pleated sleeves, peplums, fringed robes, tapered shirts, eccentric tapes, bold motifs, etc., focus on design details – whether it’s fabric selection, prints or the overall pattern of the silhouette, in order to let consumers warm up to the segment even more. While the category is slated to do great business and bring back the falling business on track, there definitely are few challenges facing this category including the lack of awareness about sleepwear, the unorganised segment, among others.
“The biggest challenge is getting access to the customers and moulding their thinking. People don’t want to spend much on sleepwear and loungewear. Most of them just prefer casualwear at home, but they haven’t been introduced to comfortable style with fashion quotient. Also, this industry is mostly controlled by the unorganised sector even today. Having said that, the growth in retailing and the mounting level of fashion consciousness has supported sleepwear and loungewear shift into a higher market step. In the Indian market, the sleepwear and loungewear market is emerging quickly as a fashion segment, and has, over the last decade, observed spike in sales and demand. Also, people are not due to return to their offices any time soon, which will make loungewear a big part of their work from home wardrobe,” concludes Siddharth Bindra.
And rightly so; realising that the work has moved into the homes for the entire year, why not get comfortable?