Women’s western wear in India has moved beyond a pair of bottoms and a top. Where earlier secretaries and receptionists were the only ones usually seen sporting a skirt and blouse, today chic skirts with sexy tops, blouses, gowns, long dresses, etc., are worn to work by many. The country most certainly has seen an evolution of western wear and the market is growing by the day. Images BoF takes a look at the market trends for western wear in India.
Setting the context of the story, Mohammed Rehan Ali, CEO, Global Clothing (Identiti) shared, “From predominantly sarees to salwar kameez to conservative western wear to fast fashion, Indian fashion has undergone significant transformations through the decades. The market for women’s wear in India has probably become extremely lucrative in terms of variety and scope. This has been the key reason for international brands to focus on the immense potential for growth in this segment. The millennial women are very adaptable to changes and they love experimenting with anything that is new and attractive. They are smart buyers and fashion conscious.”
Mohit Bhayana, Head of Retail, M&S Reliance India shared the dynamics of the market with a sneak peek into the growth of this category seen within their brand, “The Indian market has rapidly evolved over the last decade – and continues to do so. There is a much wider range of choice in the market now, and online has radically changed the way the customers shop.
Women’s wear is one of our fastest growing categories, recording 40 percent growth over the last 2 years. We have also seen customers explore a wider range of categories. For example, five years ago, the sale of women’s shorts as a category was very small, but last year we have seen sales of shorts grow by 36 percent.”
The Growth Drivers
Bijit Nair, Head – Retail, AND pointed that the reason for growth in this category can be attributed to the growing population of working women which empowers them to choose their clothing. He explained, “The younger, empowered Indian woman is likely to be the key growth driver for the category.”
Ali added, “The advent of international brands, the growing popularity of social media and e-commerce sites, rise in brand awareness, nuclear families, working women with high disposable incomes are the key growth drivers in the western wear segments for brands in the coming years.”
According to Bhayana, sustainable economic development, a growing middle-class and a good understanding of international brands has made India a strong market for the expansion of women’s wear in India.
Ali made an interesting point stating that the early western wear brands that entered India were largely denim wear and did not have much to offer to the Indian women. He added that the contribution of women’s wear of these brands is still below 25 percent.
Elaborating on this further, he shared, “The economic liberalisation during the early 90’s led to the setting up of IT, BPO, BFSI, work places which in turn led to women entering the work force in huge numbers. The simultaneous advent of cable TV exposed the young Indian women to western fashion. Thereafter the launch of many domestic and international women’s wear brands, exposure to global trends through social handles like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest has further increased the demand for western wear. In recent times the e-commerce boom has also played a major role in this by bringing fashion to their doorstep and making shopping less time consuming.”
However, to sustain in this competitive market scenario one has to be very aggressive. Malini Singhal, Director, Zink London, shared, “Fashion is changing very fast and brands have to be ahead of that change. One has to get the things happen yesterday. For this brands have to have shorter supply chain and bring out new collections frequently.” She further said, “Brands have to establish the stability, sustainability and scalability of their business to further it up.”
New Kid On The Block: Fusion Wear
When a category reaches a saturation point, it is upon the custodians of the category to bring in some innovation. The innovation in the women’s wear category is that of fusion wear. Bijaya Mukherji, head of women’s wear designat Being Human Clothing explained, “Traditionally women’s ethnic wear is more popular in India.
The overall women’s wear market is heavily dominated by ethnic wear like sarees. Casual wear brands are taking note of the rising interest in western clothing in India. So they are coming up with a mix of ethnic and western wear that is the fusion wear to fulfill the dual demand. For example, a denim along with a straight Kurti with a high waist slit to complete the fusion look. Once considered a niche market, the Indo-western fusion wear segment is witnessing double digit growth.”
Ali pointed out that the size of women’s wardrobe has expanded 2x in terms of volume in the last 5 years with more occasions like valentine’s day, mother’s day, friendship day, anniversaries, etc., adding to an increased volume of clothes being purchased.
Talking about fusion wear, he shared, “However, fusion wear with mix and match concepts are gaining currencies, gradually making traditional ethnic wear relevant for special occasions only. Also with the rise in urbanisation and more number of women exploring the world, there is a visible rise in western wear. Hence the market is bound to embrace the changes and evolve with the needs of the consumer which can bring some threat to ethnic wear segment in the coming years, especially in the metros and larger cities.”
International western wear brands have managed to set a strong foot in the country. Though, we cannot deny the presence of Indian brands like And, Mineral and private label brands from Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, etc. In this category which have managed to make strong inroads in a women’s wardrobe.
Ali, while concluding shared an interesting point, “Global fast fashion brands like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M offer a wide range of fashion at affordable prices. These brands are highly aspirational for the young Indian consumers and the competition has intensified. However there are quite a few examples of Indian western wear brands that have been successful. Indian players have to work on their strengths such as local sourcing resulting in shorter lead times, ensuring that the best sellers are never out of stock, managing inventory levels better leading to better GMROI’S.
Further tweaking the product to appeal to the sensibilities of the young Indian women will go a long way in differentiating and not merely being a me too brand. The QSR industry has been quite successful at this.”