“The annual Images Fashion Forum (IFF) has acquired the status of being the most exciting event in the fashion industry in India,” said Hem Chandra Javeri, president, Madura Garments, at the beginning of his talk on “How do we expand fashion?” Just back from a visit to National Retail Forum, New York, he brought to the forum reassurance about the tremendous interest that world retail is showing towards India. “This forum can truly become a forum for exchange of ideas that will shape the future of the industry in the days and years to come,” Javeri said to his rapt audience of over 500 emissaries from the fashion and retail industry in India as well as delegates from various parts of the world.
As the talk goes nowadays, the focus is gradually and very palpably shifting towards India’s long-languishing heritage in the field of fashion design and creativity. There is immense design and creative talent in the country. Javeri reminded that “the challenge is to bring that heritage back to the fore, and bring in a new sensibility to world fashion.”
The question is, “How do we bring that heritage back?”
There is probably no one answer, and none certainly that is a shortcut. There are three consolidating trends that will have to be considered. And, Javeri warned, these three changes are taking place at the same time, which means that there will be a demand for a lot of thought and skill on the part of retailers and brands to align strategies and larger goals with the changes.
Briefly, these factors are:
Changes in consumer: The country’s sheer size is the main reason attracting companies from world over; but it is a complex mix of regions, demographics and psychographics. It is difficult to understand such a large and diverse group of consumers. More so, there is a young, upcoming generation of consumers who are raising social expectations, as well as redefining social mores. The challenge is for companies to drive their consumer groups and create new opportunities and identities that will fill in the gaps.
Retail explosion: In the 3 per cent-to-10 per cent growth envisaged for organized retailing in India, the share of fashion is an uncertainty, even though it is the largest share today. One has to remember that fashion retail can be nurtured only in the right kind of retail environment. Understandably, developers, brands and retailers must bring in synergy in operations and in the blueprint for growth.
Intense competition: In India, the barriers are very low, particularly in apparel, and the competition is just about beginning. Also, what makes the whole process more intricate and overwhelming is that today a fashion statement can be made through anything, be it fancy electronic gadgets, cars, homes, and so on. There are more categories in fashion now than ever. Fashion has competition from both within and outside!
There is no other way forward for fashion brands, but to create awareness of fashion, and create for the industry avenues whereby its exponential potential can be harnessed and realized. India, concluded Javeri, represents the largest fashion opportunity in the world today. In fact, more than the need for Indian fashion to aspire towards international markets, it would seem more prudent to focus on the domestic agenda. After all, “We have such a huge market right under our nose.”