The need to holiday at different locations, international job assignments, and exploring the non-commercial changing lifestyle has titillated fashion sensibilities of the Indian consumer towards resort and beachwear. India is expected to be the second largest market for this industry. Although the market is still at its nascent stage, it is nevertheless showing a great potential for the growth of swimwear and resortwear in the country.
Back in 2007, the late Betty Mahindra, while on a holiday in Goa, realised the need of luxury resortwear for women and launched an interesting boutique concept – Turquoise & Gold (T&G) – over the Calangute beach market. The idea was to cater to vacationing foreign travellers visiting the state as well as the affluent Indian tourists. There was a huge unoccupied and unexplored market for swim- cruise- and resortwear for the Indian luxury holiday connoisseur at that point in time with only a few brands and designers trying to push their way up. Besides, there was no swimwear brand as such in the country despite having a vast coastline to its credit. Shivan and Narresh, who established one of the first Indian swimwear brands in 2010, targeted affluent women with an option of customising their swimsuit to their body type.
Since then, the trend to shop for crush-free, breezy fabrics like silk, lycra-silk, chiffon-silk, crepe and interesting blends has seen an upswing. According to a research body in 2012, casual clothing is becoming very occasion-specific and hence beachwear and resortwear are emerging as niche yet promising subcategories within the casualwear segment in India. Many designers feel that resortwear in India has a very stereotypical image of being casual, and this notion has to change with versatile pieces that blend luxury, couture and casual chic. Exposure to international destinations on job assignments and on holidays has made the Indian traveller conscious about the right clothing for the right occasion. In 2013, approximately 15 million Indians travelled the world. According to the Flip Flop Report 2013 by Expedia.com, 71 percent of Indians took a beach vacation in the past year, ranking third behind Malaysians (77%) and Brazilians (73%). The highest likelihood for beach vacations over the next year also comes from Indians at 95 percent, closely followed by South Koreans at 92 percent. Travellers from Denmark are least likely to take a beach vacation (44%).
Foreign tourists at Indian beaches, increasing preference for beach destination weddings, etc. are also emerging as a market opportunity for Indian beachwear designers making the resortwear market a strong and independent industry today. Being a non-seasonal industry, demand remains throughout the year with surge in vacations and summers.
Changing consumer sensibilities towards the right kind of beach- and resortwear is making Indian designers and brands launch their own Indianised versions of dresses, bikinis, sarongs, gowns, cruisewear, maillots and party clothes, etc. Considering that the Indian climate is hot and humid in most places almost all year round, the market for resortwear with light fabric, trendy look, soft texture, and high drape is gaining momentum among Indian urban consumers. A growing number of designers like Pria Kataria Puri, Shivan and Narresh, Rocky S, Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor and Wendell Rodricks and brands like American Swan, Nautica, Gant, etc. have managed to showcase their creativity by blending western resortwear designs tuned to the taste of Indian consumers.
Shivan and Narresh’s line of bikini saris and resort saris is a perfect example of blended Western-Indo creativity. The resort sari is a tailored sari made of Italian jersey that does not require pleating or ironing, has pockets for a cellphone and sunscreen, and runs through a trail of a yard-and-ahalf of georgette or crepe, which can be draped. This can be further teamed up with a bikini for a ‘beach to bar’ look. “We have come up with special swimwear T-shirts and shorts, which are 100 percent poly and can be worn both in the water and on the beach. The swimwear have high functional value as they dry up quickly and give a cool effect when worn in scorching sun on the beach. Many of our customers also wear them while running and jogging,” says Sumeet Dhingra, business director, Gant and Nautica brands.
Resortwear is not necessarily beachwear and much more than flip-flops. One can wear this on various occasions across different locations like Cannes, a holiday to Goa or in the mountains, a destination wedding in Bali, a yacht party in the Caribbean, etc. ranging from flamboyant gowns to a playsuit or silhouettes fi t to body figure with flowing fabrics and flirty hemlines. Considering that Indian women are still shy when it comes to displaying their bodies in revealing clothes, especially when it comes to swimsuits, resortwear often works as an elegant, dressy cover-up over a swimsuit by the pool or at a beach party,” says Avnish Chhabria, CEO, Stylista.com.
Designers like Versace, Missoni and Christian Lacroix have made holidaywear, particularly resortwear, a must have for holidaying consumers. “A growing trend I have noticed is that Indians love to shop right before going on holiday. We see clients coming in and buying even 3–4 pieces at a go just before they jet set across the world,” says designer Veda Raheja.
NEW COLLECTIONS WALKING THE RAMP
Every year, players come up with their collection in new textures – from digital prints to colour blocking to embellishments to cut-outs to tie-and-dye to hand paint. Veda prefers, “Lightweight chiffons and georgettes and for more causal looks mul and other lightweight cottons or linen do the trick. Most of my collections have a few key pieces that fall under the resortwear category. I usually try to mix it up and try to do a collection that fi ts multiple occasions and events – ranging from day time resortwear to eveningwear.” She believes that there is a huge market for made-to- measure in this country because that is a tradition that has been followed for years now. Many women today prefer to have the garment fitted to their size, especially when they are looking at high-end luxury clothing. Nida Mahmood at Maalgaadi says, “We do easy and relaxed silhouettes, comfortable fabrics and simple yet stylish cuts in flowery fabrics, which are easy on maintenance, light and breezy. People love the quirk and colours we offer every time to bring that fun element into their beach holidays.”
“Skimpy tunics, halter or cut-out dresses and tunic blouses always work well on the beach,” says designer Puja Banthia. Her collection includes kaftans, wraps, tunics and more. Designer Rajdeep Ranawat believes, “There is no hard and fast rule for dressing up for resortwear, though beachwear is totally different. Printed ponchos, drawstring tunics, shirts, stoles, cropped pants and skirts are comfortable yet trendy.” He has added an element of fun into the shades he uses that range from crèmes to canary, lime, red, blush, and aqua with black and indigo. Printed stoles and scarves that could be added to mix and match with plains made in light by using voiles and lycra cotton twills is the preferred trend in resort and beachwear.
Neutral colours like white, ecru, crème, taupe, beige and pastels like mint, aqua, blush, pale yellow and peach are ideal. Nautical colours like indigo, red, etc. look great for cruisewear inspired by yesteryear sailor dressing.
American Swan recently launched swimwear and beachwear clothing collection in its lifestyle category, which epitomises cool, classic Americana inspired casualwear. It makes for an ideal outfi t for any summer break destination,whether it is the beach, a dip in the pool or for a hip poolside party in vibrant colours with cool international styling and signature details. Both the brands – Nautica and Gant– showcase resortwear and swimwear with a restricted range in Gant. “Our swimwear category is not very speedo, but represents both functional and lifestyle quotient in interesting blends of cotton and nylon. Colour stories and sensibilities are similar for both brands and they use a lot
of red, white, blues yellows, greens and nautical colours like coral. There is an extensive use of nautical elements across the range displaying anchor, nautical hardware, dive helmet, compass, etc., which I believe forms the resort wear,” says Dhingra.
INCREASED STORE SALES
Resort has become an independent fashion season that will rival a spring or fall season in the coming years. Close to 60–70 percent of sales are witnessed by a store in the peak selling period that can stretch from late October until June, encompassing high-volume, holiday-shopping periods. Where sales at a few designers have risen to 60 percent for resortwear in the holiday season, business has been more than double since last year with Nautica selling a larger line of swimwear. “It is a 350 percent increase, which is 3.5 times but the same-store growth sale is 208 percent in terms of quantity for swimwear,” says Dhingra. There has been a surge in online sales for both the brands with only 5–8 percent for Gant and 15–18 percent growth in sales for Nautica. A clear-cut reason for increased sales for these players is that there are very few brands serving these two segments and secondly, this season does not extend sales and discounts, and hence is less prone to early markdowns. However, private designers and brands are facing increased competition from value chains, which are also expanding their collections in terms of clothing and accessories. It is estimated that 40 percent of the items purchased for holidays are now through the values sector or discounters and supermarkets. They form a stronger chain in the holiday market for kidswear than in the case of men’s and womenswear, as they account for 53 percent of the holiday market in kidswear.
RESORT AND BEACHWEAR ACCESSORIES
In the resortwear category, cover-ups and accessories are the growing end of the business. Also popular are items that can be customised to particular resorts – kangaroo prints for Australia, jungle setting for Africa, bright prints for Asia and so on. “Funky tote bags and lots of fun printed scarves and brooches are something that go well with both resort and beachwear,” says Mahmood. “Obviously anything that is bright and cheerful adds to the fun, holiday vibe of such garments. So the entire colour spectrum works when it comes to shoes, bags and jewellery,” says Chhabria of Stylista.com. “We do a lot of resortwear accessories. For instance shoes, which are water inspired, called sailor shoes are sold under both brands. We also make belts that are water inspired, with both functional and designer looks; belts with resin and leather straps, which are water resistant, etc.” Though Indian spending on leisurewear is increasing gradually, the market size is still quite small.
“We are seeing this uptrend not only in our brands but we are also witnessing a broad range of brands talking about nautical lifestyle especially in the summers. For instance, department stores like Lifestyle since the last two years have inspired their windows by displaying nauticalwear. Brands like Louis Philippe are talking about French Rivera – Mediterranean Sea inspired and nautical in nature. This combined with the consumer’s inclination to buy more sportswear is where we are seeing growth,” says Dhingra.
Nevertheless, some still believe that though today’s generation has become modern enough to fl aunt bikinis, mod dresses or sexy gowns, the nation is still bound by the age-old culture and traditions with resortwear and cruise collections. Though players are seeing this as an emerging segment, there is a strong belief that a large chunk of Indians will continue to stick to regular casualwear even at beaches as a result of the socio-cultural traditions followed in the country.