Invista has led the global fashion industry with its technological edge in delivering a new era of comfort and shape to its consumers worldwide. With its iconic brand Lycra it has major plans for India. Images Business of Fashion speaks to Paolo Briatore, MD, Invista, South Asia.
We hear that INVISTA is looking at India in a much bigger way now. What is going to be the crux of your strategy for India?
India has emerged as a key global opportunity for domestic business development for INVISTA. There are some key growth drivers for apparel and LYCRA fibers. Firstly, India is a young country with a growing population of over 1.2 billion, with an average age still at 25 years. Secondly, almost 2/3rd of the population is in the working age group with an increasing number of women seeking employment. The third and most important socioeconomic and socio-cultural trend is the emergence of the middle class in India with
a substantial purchasing power.
There is also an important attitudinal trend among young India which is that it has no baggage of the past. This has resulted in a lifestyle change with the emergence of new value propositions like fashion, convenience and comfort rather than merely price. Apparel is the most accessible tool to help them live the upgraded lifestyle. We believe that LYCRA fiber is most suited to meet their quest of their desires.
We also believe that emergence of organized retail will add fuel to the growth of apparel with LYCRA fiber as it will allow a young consumer to experience the benefits of garments with LYCRA fiber. The crux strategy of INVISTA in India could be identified in two levels: downstream and upstream, which is to be the most innovative and highly profitable business promoter, with differentiated offering, and a strong partner across the apparel and textile value chain.
We also hear that denims are going to be a critical focus area for INVISTA. What according to you is the single most important thing that a denim wearer looks for?
Denims have evolved in terms of fashion and today the consumers are looking for different factors like quality fabric, trendy styles, and value added functions like moisture management, perfect fit and recovery. Consumers looking for emotional feeling delivered by fashionable brands are always more linked to performance and benefits delivered by the garment. Factors such as comfort, resilience, durability, shaping and fit, all in a mixed form of sensation are able to achieve the conclusion that ‘this garment makes me feel good’. And, this is something which can be met with our technology platforms and products. Fit is a subjective value, therefore it is unique.
The capacity to offer jeans which meets the maximum span of a class of consumer’s within that desire in fit will be a top seller. That is why, while top brands may differentiate their collections based on looks, trends, consumers’ age group, etc., they always keep the focus on one critical element – the FIT. To meet the fit challenge, many variables have to be kept in consideration; one of the most important is comfort. Our LYCRA fiber technology platforms and brands deliver the perfect match to consumers’ desires, which may be as varied a skinny or boyfriend fit jeans.
As per your observation what all are brands trying internationally in order to achieve great fit?
Denim is probably one of the most active, innovative and exciting apparel segments. In the first look it may not always be clear that what has gone into the making of a pair of jeans in terms of R&D and innovation. This is more embedded in the performance and process used in production to create the final look presented to consumers. Consider this, to get a final look and fit as we finally see in a store, a jean has moved through an incredible number of steps including mechanical, chemical and manual to get to final result of being unique. Treatments in industrial laundry are always more up to date in technology and R&D, starting in most of the case, from handmade trials to be exclusive and then engineered to industrial level with robots and lasers enabling to achieve big volumes.
Basically stretch is a must have in denims. How big is the global stretch denim market?
Global denim market unit growth was around 4.5 percent in the period of 2008-2013. It must be considered flat due to stagnation as a result of crisis that happened in the two main drivers for consumption USA and Europe. Taking that into consideration, we have figures which states that in the period 2014-2020, unit growth will be about 12.5 percent reaching the total consumption of 2360 million (Source: Just-Style). The stretch penetration is about 60 percent for women and 30 percent for men; stretch growth in terms of unit is around 3-4 percent with men segment always adopting more stretch jeans. (Source: INVISTA analysis).
What are the key advantages of LYCRA fibers in delivering stretch perfection?
When we think of stretch fabrics, we often think about how much it elongates. But the critical part is how quickly and easily it comes back to its original shape. Almost all fibers will stretch, for example a steel wire. But LYCRA Fiber has great recovery, which means it has ability to bring the garment back to its shape.
LYCRA Fiber is the pioneer of stretch denim since the seventies when designers were approaching the denim fabric with a new concept of comfort and close to body jeans. The prominent designers in that era were discovering the innovative performance delivered from a fiber called LYCRA which was born in late fifties and early sixties.
In future it became the reference of innovative solutions for matching women’s desire of getting jeans which are comfortable, trendy, appealing, functional and authentic, and lending meaning to the historical look of a traditional denim.
INVISTA, with different LYCRA fiber platforms has been supporting and helping to anticipate consumer market expectations and unmet needs. For say, LYCRA XFIT fabric delivers a 360° comfort using a bi-stretch fabric construction. On the other hand, LYCRA DualFX fabric creates a superstretch jean with more than 40-50 percent elongation while keeping shape retention to initial size even after washing. And, LYCRA TOUGHMAX fabric delivers a perfect comfort fit with a long lasting performance in specifically rough and men oriented working/hobby segment.
What you have mentioned seems great news for women. What about men–are they also getting fit conscious over their denims?
Men have always looked at denim with a rough, wild and traditional view, but since denim became a fashionable, trendy and full time used garment, they changed their mind. They are still looking at denim with the previous needs of ‘being tough’ but appreciating the comfort and performance that has grown dramatically in all level of consumer ages.
Elasticity and performance in men’s is growing even faster than women’s segment of denims. The benefits of LYCRA fiber technology platforms such as LYCRA T400 Fiber or LYCRA DualFX fabric or TOUGHMAX LYCRA fabric, has helped not only to consider stretch denims as ‘feminine’ but also ‘macho’ in terms of being masculine with the comfort of wearing a jeans in almost every occasion.
Is the men’s stretch denim fabric different from women’s?
We normally identify the difference between women’s and men’s jeans from the washing and finishing look and aesthetic and higher or lower elasticity. Today, we are seeing raw fabric before finishing, used for both genders, because everybody wants performance and comfort/elasticity benefit. Having some specific high stretch fabric (50-60 percent) could be the indication that it is being used mainly for ladies skinny fit collection. But today, this type of fabric is also used for men’s collection by specific top brands. Therefore, we can say that today there is a more ‘finishing aesthetic look’ differentiation rather than fabric differentiation.
What other innovations do you think are going to be winners in India?
We are getting more demand of what we started calling ‘performance jeans’. What does it mean? Thanks to our specialty fibers, we are able to offer our partners and to downstream brands and retailers, the perfect combination of comfort, recovery and shape retention after washing. And, the benefit of thermo regulation of body temperature with our COOLMAX fabric platform helps to manage the moisture created by the body through the specific fibers which are able to quickly drain the sweat and make the wearer feel dry and cool. Also, in opposite direction with THEMOLITE fabric platform, the fibers will help to keep the warm temperature created by body in cold situation. Since INVISTA is always very focus in value creation for the business as well as for the society, with our sustainability program we have developed a new fiber derivate from recycled PET and branded as COOLMAX ECOMADE fiber, delivering same performance with 100 percent recycled fibers.
As a keen observer of fashion and a man privy to the latest developments internationally, what other tips would you like to share with Indian denim brands?
Denim is an innovative, exciting and fashionable opportunity for all markets growing in their economy and social development. It can be used as basic entry level as well as top trendy and luxury offering. Today Denim producers looking for growth in this segment identify the right partner who is always up-to-date in innovative fibers, technology and platform supporting their growth against strong competition rising everywhere in emerging market or already existing locally.
Differentiated offerings, innovative platforms, new fibers, consumer’s insight, marketing strategy and global network is what INVISTA can offer to keep our partners on the top rank list of Global Denim producers and helping to consider not only volume increase but also, most importantly, a long term value creation for their business and for the society.