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Trouser Traction

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Images Business of Fashion talks to some of india‘s foremost trouser experts who share their insights on the evolution of trouser category and the unique place it holds in fashion.

“A shirt builds a category while a trouser builds a brand,” says Bhaskar Kelkar, Brand Director, Park Avenue. The above statement does not only set the context of this story but also speaks volumes about the state of trousers category in India, which has taken a 360-degree turn in the last decade. In what may be called a giant leap, trousers have moved from made-to-measure to readyto-wear.

In fact, trousers in the last couple of years have moved away from their usual classifi cation of being formalwear to a healthy range of semi-formal and casual category. An average Indian, especially the male, is today spoilt for choice when it comes to picking up trousers to suit various occasions and moods.

Images Business of Fashion delves deep into this category to learn more about the existing and evolving changes being witnessed. Kelkar shares some numbers of the market size from a Technopak research: “In 2005, the men’s market for trousers was `8,230 crore, which moved up to Rs19,389 in 2012. On an average, the growth witnessed by this category is about six percent year-on-year, which is considered quite positive. Though not explosive but it gets rated as a growing category.”

Based on the feedback from his brand, Park Avenue, Kelkar highlights that it is not only the young generation that has contributed to this growth but there was tremendous increase in the demand for ready-to-wear trousers between the age group of 40 and 60 years.

He further states: “Gone are the days when the female wardrobe was a thing of envy. Today, men too like to have a strong mix of articles in their wardrobe. They too want to look powerful at work and hence it becomes imperative for them to dress well every day. From here, the need for better looking and better fitting trousers arise. Earlier, people looked at a fixed set of colours like black, blue, brown and grey. Today, we have trousers in new colours and with different fi ts and cuts.”

Kelkar believes that men are adopting the European look in the trousers category. Nidhi Raj, creative director-design and visual merchandising- feels that trousers around five years ago were never seen as a garment that would define someone’s look and was esentially an accessory for one’s shirt. In Bottoms category, the lead role was always played by jeans and not trousers.

He said: “West is experimentative but largely formals are in demand, South is mostly traditional and North and East are more open to latest trends. India has a large young work force where dressing norms have been relaxed but one still needs to look sharp and dressed down. Chinos allow fi ne balance that jeans or a formal trousers cannot provide. Also, the fi t, style and quality of chinos being offered in the country by many brands have improved manifl ods over the years. Cargos are going to take a significant market share in youth fashion.”

Raj added, “MTM is slowly taking shape in our country and many players are entering this business model. A new generation transforms its outlook from an inherited to a created personality. Made to measure will become imperative for all brands. In fact, exclusive MTM i.e. solo players would emerge going forward.”

DRESSING DYNAMICS

Kelkar believes that today dressing has changed dramatically. “In current times, barring the boardrooms, people at work do not mind sporting chinos. Jeans are yet not accepted but chinos have received a huge fan following,” he states. Sharad Walia, Brand Director, Parx, supports Kelkar on the preference of chinos to office.

He shares: “Clean cut chinos for officewear are becoming the in-thing.” Talking about the evolution of the market for trousers, Walia shares: “If you take the horizon of three years, you will notice a major change in fi ts. Five years back, regular and comfortable fi ts had a huge market share of about 60–70 percent, which has gone down to just 20 percent in the last couple of years. People have taken to slim fi t dramatically. Here the observation is that people in the age group of 38–42 years too opt for slim fits.” For Parx, 60–70 percent of their sales come from slim fits.

According to Walia: “We are witnessing so many cuts because people have become more conscious about their body type and they are choosing trousers accordingly. In the pleated category, today the double pleats have a small percentage and one pleat and reverse pleat are gaining traction. On the other hand, newer brands are quick on gauging the market needs and are offering apparels that suit the time and demand.

On behalf Celio, shares: “Trousers are evolving into a major style statement from being largely utilitarian (need-based) product. Men are trying new fits (slimmer), colours (bright and off-beat) and styles (flats, worked upon, washed, etc.). While fashion was the exclusive domain of denims until some time ago, pants have slowly but surely replaced it. Fits in particular have undergone a massive makeover. With more fitness conscious men, we see a huge tilt towards slimmer fi ts. Surface treatments like peaching and washes have provided more innovative look and feel. In a small way, customers are experimenting with prints (tone on tone) and fabrics like satin.”

Known for its formalwear, Van Heusen as a brand has created a huge fan following in the Indian market. Citing the changing market dynamics witnessed by the category of trousers, , COO, Van Heusen says: “Both formals (especially with a fashion edge) and chinos, known as smart casuals, are showing considerable growth. However, the cotton trousers led by chinos have shown a higher degree of growth.”

Citing the market overview as witnessed, Jacob John, Brand Director, opines that there has been an increasing traction towards clean and smart cotton trousers over the last two years and it continues to be strong even today. Talking specifically about , he shares: “Within the sub-brands of , the share of cotton trousers in the portfolio has increased manifolds during this period. Within cotton trousers, coloured chinos caught up very fast as a trend and very soon comprised a significant share of offering in almost all known brands in the country. The demand for this trend, however, is on the decline and is waning at almost the same pace at which it caught up. Demand for clean cotton chinos continues to be strong though; key being the various forms of slim cuts in most of the competing brands’ offering. The market of formal trouser category, on the other hand, made from wool and woollen blends, polyester viscose blends, wrinkle-free cotton trousers, etc., has grown albeit at a lesser pace.” Blackberrys was one of the pioneers to launch slim fi t trousers in the Indian market. This strengthened Blackberrys’ reputation as a fi t specialist. Sandeep Khapra,

Design Head, Blackberrys says: “We have sold more than 5 million slim fit trousers by now. Coloured trousers were another popular trend that Blackberrys successfully  launched in the Indian market. We have been witnessing more and more men opting for slim-fit styles. Denims are clear favourites for a semi-casual dressed-up look. Suits and dress line trousers are still in vogue for the evolving male demographic.”

PREMIUM MADE-TO-MEASURE IS HERE

“As per our observation the OTC of PV is high in tier II and tier III cities and the sale of RMG in Tier-I cities has always been high. The consumer acquires the benefit of touching and checking the feel and finish of the fabric. It basically fulfils the requirements of the customer,” N. Gangadhar, Vice President Marketing, Ltd.

Commenting on the otherwise overall slacking of traditional made-to-measure, Bhopatkar believes: “The ready-to-wear segment is definitely on a growth trajectory. The consumer today has more options in terms of variety as well as fi ts to choose from. However, for large sizes and in certain cases due to fit issues, they opt for made-to-measure but this still remains a small segment. The made-to-measure preference arising out of premium fabrics or craftsmanship is more confined to suits and to some extent, shirts but it is low in trousers. We have plans to address this segment (sizes and fi ts) through a unique solution called ‘MyFit’, which is a bridge between ready-to-wear and made-to-measure.”

John of Louis Philippe feels that there is a slow but steady increase in the demand for made-to-measure amongst the discerning set of customers who are willing to spend their money on trousers. MTM trousers are exclusively designed for customers keeping their taste and preferences in mind. He quips: “That the consumer gets to design his product by combining various elements of fashion under the able guidance of the brand representative is enough to enfranchise the customer into the brand. Elements like fabric selection, customised fi t, styling elements, monogramming on products, trims selection, door delivery, etc. are key aspects that are luring the customers to trudge the made-to-measure route. This surely is a big opportunity for brands to encash additional sales, lock the customer in for long and create entry barriers for customers at higher strata. The deterrents include the lead time (nearly two to three weeks) to service products through made-to-measure, and this is a setback for the consumers.”

REGIONAL VARIATIONS

India being a land of many cultures, it goes without saying that regional preferences in apparels well exists in the country. Talking about trousers, Babu Ayar, founder and owner of trouser brand Challenge says: “Each region has a different body type and it is important for a brand to keep that in mind. Not all brands can cater to the regional differences. We can do so considering Challenge only offers trousers and nothing else.” According to Kelkar, where people in south prefer more of comfort fi t, in north super slim fi t is in demand. East and west are basically a combination of all the fits and cuts. Commenting on the variation within India, Nair from Celio agrees with Kelkar on the preference of slim fi ts in north India.

He explains, “North India shows a higher tendency for adopting fashion early. Coloured chinos and slim-fit adoption was largely in north. South markets prefer a regular fi t and are less edgy in accepting fashion. Markets like Hyderabad are very strong on worked upon cargoes.”

Adding a valuable bit of information, John shares: “Northern Kerala sells more of slim fit trousers while the southern part sells more of regular ones. Having said that, if we were to look at the younger audience, we fi nd that there is a clear preference for slimmer fi ts while mature customers prefer comfort fi t. In Tier-II and -III towns, the acceptance for casual cotton trousers is far more than pure formal ones.” Khapra makes an interesting point based on regional preference: “Narrow opening trousers, which are widely popular in the rest of the country, do not go well with the sandal-wearing south Indian customer; they still prefer regular leg openings.”

“Various factors such as climate, taste and style quotient of an area play an important role. For instance, the customer from north-east India is more fashion conscious compared to the rest of their counterparts. Apart from the occasionally acceptable coloured segment of trousers, well fitted and comfortable trousers with stylish details have always stood their ground,” says Rajnish Sethia, Director, Success.

TROUSERS FOR WOMEN

With no second opinion, Indian ethnicwear still has a huge fan following when it comes to women’s work formals. However, with retail revolution in full swing and online shopping taking the nation by storm, western formals in womenswear seem to be fast  catching up. The market for women’s trousers in India still remains untapped to a large extent. According to Ayar, the technicalities for women’s trousers are more complicated since women tend to put on and lose weight more often than men. But if a brand gets it right, there is immense potential in this category. As per Kelkar, women’s trouser category has witnessed a double-digit growth since last year and owing to casualisation of work place, the chinos are doing better in the women’s trouser category.

from Spykar shares his view on the changing dynamics of womenswear as far as workwear is concerned. He says: “Earlier Indian ethnicwear, suits and sari were more common amongst working women and they have shifted to trousers only in the last fi ve to 10 years. As the percentage of working women has increased in India so has the demand for trousers and denims in India. Many offices now insist on a dress code consisting of trousers and collared shirts. For us at Spykar, the womenswear category has grown significantly. The younger generation prefers wearing trousers to the traditional dresses or long skirts. Metros and ‘A’ towns have shown a great acceptance, hence registering an incredible growth in this segment.”

Talking from the experience of operating in women’s western formalwear category, Bhopatkar reveals: “Tier-I cities have always been a good contributor in terms of trouser sales for women. However, we also see an upswing in sales in Tier-II cities for both the formal and casual fashion space. In Van Heusen, we have already established ourselves in the formal space and are now building on other spaces. Over the last few years, trends like detailing, colours beyond grey, black and brown in formals, super tapered fi ts and ankle-length trousers have emerged. Trousers have also started moving away from woven bases to knit and stretch bases.”

This season women’s old slim cigarette pants, kick fl ares or straight cuts are reinvented by palazzos, Jodhpur pants and splicing pants. “Women want to dress with an edge, be adventurous and innovative. Working women, especially, look for comfort fit. They now
prefer something like dhoti pants, which can be teamed up with shirts. From college girls to corporate honchos, the change is clearly visible,” says Suvarna Gupta, fashion designer.

BRAND OFFERINGS

With a plethora of brands available in the market, it remains important for each of them to distinguish themselves from the competitors. Where brands have categorised the in focus options from formal, semi-formal and casuals; each of them still makes it a point to accentuate the niche it has to offer. For Park Avenue, the mandate was clear: They were looking at bringing out a collection that would make the boring offi ce space more interesting for the Indian consumer. Kelkar shares: “Park Avenue is built of three key building blocks – innovative, youthful and stylish. It is quintessential for a designer in our team to view or conceptualise the garment through any of the three lenses or a combination of the three. The kind of trousers we offer caters to three genres essentially – business, leisure and evening. Where the business category revolves around offi cewear, fashion formal for the young and trendy, and pure classic formal for boardroom; the leisure range takes care of the travel-driven kind of consumer need. The eveningwear again has a relaxed look and feel to it.”

The business trousers offered by Park Avenue include proper offi cewear trousers and super crease trousers under the Platinum Collection, which is made of wool rich fabric. This range is targeted towards the upper-middle and higher management. Then there is a sub-brand from Park Avenue which, according to Kelkar, is super-premium for absolute boardroom attire from super fi ne wool blends. Under the leisure category, the brand thrusts on innovation. Kelkar adds: “We have trousers that have zero gravity. They are extremely light and ideal to wear on a long fl ight and ideal to carry because of their light weight. The brand also offers auto-fit trousers that are apt for those who have a tendency to gain or lose weight.

For the young consumer, we have the Park Avenue Dress Casuals. They are trendy and light made with 100 percent cotton in a combination of washed and unwashed fabrics that are well accepted in the offi ce culture yet are fashionable for the youth.” Talking about the range offered at Celio, Nair says: “We offer a range of pants for a relaxed lifestyle. Slim-fit chinos and worked-upon cargoes are our forte. A hint of lycra is added to provide a better fit.”

The range offered by Van Heusen includes formals, fashion formals, ceremonial, smart casual and chic casuals. This aptly brings forth the fact that even within the category of formals, semi-formals and casuals there are different ranges to choose from. According to Bhopatkar: “Innovation is the top priority at Van Heusen. We have introduced various products in the past few years like Travelite, Lint Free, Lightweight, etc.

However, the Flexiwaist was the largest innovation in the recent times.” Blackberrys has four collections of trousers – Khakis; cotton-washed trousers for a semi-formal look ranging from wrinkle-free cottons to soft-wash trousers with a great handle; Dress Line Trousers, which is a formal trouser range for business and occasionwear and comes in different fits with the iconic Blackberrys codes; and B91, which is the most fashionable offering made of super luxurious fabrics such as Italian wool, multi-play giza cotton, etc.

Craftsmanship and tailoring details make these collections truly unique. They are also planning to come up with Urban Collection, which will be launched in Autumn-Winter 2014 (available in stores in September 2014). Besides denims, there are fashionable trousers such as dropped crotch brushed cotton trousers, printed trousers, over-dyed trousers, etc.

Louis Philippe caters to all the formal and casual bottomwear needs with their range of business formals, ceremonial, smart and clean casuals. Through multiple fits available across the four sub-brands of Louis Philippe (mother brand Louis Philippe, LP Sport, LP Jeans and Luxure), the brand covers various waist variations like mid waist, just below waist and low waist; hip variations like comfort, regular and slim; and hem variations like straight, regular, slim, and ultra slim.

“With stupendous rise in smart phones, latest trends and travel, consumers today are lot more confident about themselves than ever before. This new found confidence of the Indian consumer is one of the most important reasons for trousers started to transforming into an apparel of intent rather than just an accessory. Today trousers can be broadly categorised as formals, sport, leisure and chinos,” says Nidhi Raj, creative director-design and visual merchandising- Peter England.

TROUSERS ARE INDEED SPECIAL

Nothing could have summed up the feature better than Kelkar’s take on what makes trousers special. He says: “A trouser is something dearer to a consumer than a shirt. Trousers become second skin to a consumer. A shirt does not. Loyalty of a consumer is higher in trousers of a particular brand than a shirt, and fit is the main driver of this loyalty. Based on size, a consumer can opt for a shirt of any brand but when it comes to trousers, based on the waist size, no consumer will blindly pick up a trouser without  trying it out.”