The Indian fashion market has undergone major transformational shifts in the past decade itself. From the arrival of countless international fashion brands to the opening of promising home-grown labels, the Indian consumer has witnessed a lifestyle change that incorporates both Indian as well as western influences equally. Many feel that the evolution of the middle-class and the exposure to international fashion trends have left a dent in the traditional ethnicwear fashion segment in the country. But the truth is far from that.
According to Statista, the market size of the ethnicwear segment across India was approximately Rs. 925 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach a whopping Rs. 1.7 trillion by the year 2023. This is driven majorly by the recession-proof wedding industry in India, special occasions, traditional festivals and office clothing/workwear.
Comprising ethnicwear for men, women and kids, the domestic market is dominated by players such as Manyavar-Mohey, Meena Bazaar and Neeru’s. Biba, W and Fabindia follow close after. These are also fashion brands that forge the way ahead by effective communication, interesting fashion collaborations and on-trend fashion at competitive price points.
“Ethnicwear is the most preferred outfit for women aged between 16 to 50 years. We believe that being able to experience, the product plays a very crucial role in case of apparel and fashion brands like Biba. As our customers nowadays have certain fixed preferences in mind, it is very important that they find what they are looking for when they step into the store,” Siddharth Bindra, Managing Director at Biba, told Apparel Resources.
The surge in online businesses peddling ethnicwear and advances in product innovation have created a shift in the industry over the last few years. From largely being a market of tailored pieces wherein women used to go to purchase fabric and then get their garments designed by the local tailor, the trend today has shifted to buying readymade garments.
“The consumer market has changed immensely with access to social media. The exposure and information at hand is impossible to compete with! We found better communication, understanding of wedding themes, customisation of outfits and client servicing to be the only way of tapping into and retaining clientele. Good tailoring is also an asset! One must be equally dynamic to survive in this competitive retail world.” – Pratik Pokarna, MD at Kora, Hyderabad
Commenting on the same, Vinay Chatlani, Co-founder & MD, Soch, told AR, “The proliferation of brands in the ethnicwear market has only fuelled expansion in the category. We see unstitched or ready-to-stitch garments being the step up from purely tailored clothing and the preferred choice for many customers who want to direct their own fits but else, there is ample choice in the ready-to-wear market itself, especially at Soch.”
Fusionwear leads the way
India has the world’s largest youth population with the lowest median age across major developed and developing nations of the world. A rapid decline in the age dependency ratio has further increased the buying capacity of the youth and led to an overall increase in their spending on apparel. Owing to the exposure created by the digital age and mass media, these youngsters are brand-conscious and trend-oriented, which in turn, opens up unprecedented opportunities for retailers and brands in the space.
The acceptance of westernwear is fast increasing, and so is the demand for fusion ethnic clothing, where we see an advent of mix-and-match styles which has completely changed the market. Fusionwear can be anything from kurtis worn over simple jeans to saris with crop tops and lehengas paired with shirts and T-shirts.
Top players in the sphere, some direct-to-consumer, check all the boxes of millennial marketing: comfort-first and functional clothing, fusionwear, ethnically diverse women with a range of body types and engaging social media campaigns. Their message is one of empowerment and grace, and at the same time, of affordable fashion.
“Fashion brands and designers are now experimenting more than ever with this trend. Customers are pairing their kurtas with jeggings, dhoti pants, harem pants, etc. 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,” Vinay said, adding, “Keeping in mind the millennial audience, Soch launched its range of ethnic workwear in April 2018. It is important for workwear to be functional, yet not be low on the style quotient. We have always been at the forefront of combining style with comfort and for artfully integrating fashion trends to create a range that would meet the consumer preferences of today.”
The evolving menswear segment
According to Technopak, ethnicwear accounts for 70.7 per cent of the total womenswear market of US $ 21.2 billion, whereas the same accounts for only 6.6 per cent of the total menswear market of US $ 23.5 billion.
Men’s ethnicwear is also becoming an attractive category. Currently limited to occasion wear such as festivals and weddings, men do want to dress in appropriate clothing for such occasions. Increasing disposable incomes, rising awareness through media and Bollywood, increased number of occasions like festivals and weddings are driving such consumption.
Kora by Nilesh and Mitesh is an upcoming brand from Mumbai that has redefined men’s fashion in India. It brings variety to the monotonous dressing being catered to men since ages. With more than 11 stores across India and at emerging retail destinations such as Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, apart from retail hubs including Mumbai and Hyderabad, Kora is rapidly expanding to keep up with market demands. It is also present in Dubai.
“With the rapidly increasing middle-class and advent of e-commerce, brands and retailers are now eyeing Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities owing to the untapped potential these markets pose.” – Siddharth Bindra, Managing Director, Biba
“We have captured a unique yet diverse clientele and cater to every section and event in the society. Since the inception of our first Hyderabad store in 2018, sales have spiked by 10 per cent which has led us to further our expansion in the city,” Pratik Pokarna, MD at Kora, Hyderabad, told AR. “Our range in formal and casual shirts, pants, ethnicwear for every wedding occasion and our exclusive section for suits, bandhgalas and blazers make Kora a one-stop solution for men today. Ethnic kidswear has also seen a huge uptick and is doing great with our younger clientele,” he added. Keeping the seasonality of fashion trends and diverse consumer demands in mind, Kora updates its stock every month. However, the major theme changes three times a year. It is also coming up with its second store in Hyderabad in Summer 2020.
“’Something different’ is the motto for the groom today. Looking at our sales data, we can say that men are now willing to experiment with cuts and colours, instead of playing safe,” Pratik asserted, adding, “Asymmetric cuts, bold and unique colours, semi sherwanis are some of our top performers. Lakhnavi thread work is one of our retail bestsellers.”
The opportunity in Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets
People from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities have been coming to metro retail hubs since ages just to shop, especially during festive and wedding seasons. Seeing the penetration of social media influence, the demand for better quality products and up-to-date fashion trends is continuously increasing, and it is evident that there is great potential in these markets. With the rapidly increasing middle-class and advent of e-commerce, brands and retailers are now eyeing Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities owing to the untapped potential these markets pose.
Ethnicwear comprises the largest segment in the apparel industry, accounting for more than 74 per cent market share in the women’s apparel category. Interestingly though, more than 75 per cent of these are currently unorganised due to the fragmented nature of the industry, differences in preferences and styles across different regions and the demand for more variety.
According to reports, it is expected that the organised ethnicwear penetration is expected to reach 33 per cent in 2020 which is being driven by brands such as Biba, W, Soch, and Fabindia among many other established and evolving labels.
“The purchasing in these cities is largely done via unorganised sectors due to the absence of brand options. For Tier-2 and Tier-3 markets, product quality and affordability are of utmost importance along with the brand name,” Siddharth explained, adding, “We focus on providing best quality products at best possible price points along with a great and varied range of products to choose from. We also introduce special collections keeping in mind the specific target audience.”
Biba enjoys a robust presence with 255 stores in 105 cities and presence in all major retail chains such as Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle and Central.