Home Fashion Young Turks of Ethnicwear

Young Turks of Ethnicwear


The population of children in India under the age of 14 has been increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.5 per cent over the past 10 years to reach 36 million. Also, in the past few years, children’s perception of what to wear has changed due to a greater exposure to new styles of clothing.

At any given kidswear store, children pick and decide for themselves the clothes they wear for every occasion. The ever growing number of double income families further ensures that parents have enough money to cater to the kids’ demands in terms of clothing, games and other accessories.

Growing kidswear market

The overall kidswear market in India is worth about Rs 37,000 crore, or US$ 6.79 billion, and constitutes nearly 20 per cent of the total Indian apparel market. This market is largely unorganised, with only about 10 per cent constituting the organised market. Some of the key brands in the organised market for kidswear are , Catmoss, Lilliput, UCB kids, kids, Mothercare, et cetera. Kidswear can be further categorised into boyswear and girlswear, with boyswear comprising 52 per cent and girlswear making up the rest. Although the boyswear market is larger in size, the girlswear category is expected to grow at a rate of 11 per cent in the next decade. The section of boywswear is expected to grow at a rate of 10 per cent.

Not all games

Most organised brands focus on casual western clothing for kids. However, many children have a complete array of clothing — school uniform, jeans, dresses, skirts, shorts, tops, shirts, T-shirts and ethnicwear. For boys, school uniforms, T-shirts and shirts form the greatest share of their , which is about 57 per cent. For girls, the most common categories are school uniforms and ethnicwear, comprising 53 per cent of the total.

The ethnicwear market for kids constitutes about 15 per cent of the total kidswear market and is estimated to be worth Rs 5,630 crore, or US$ 1.03 billion. Further, it is growing annually at the rate of 10 per cent. Contrary to westernwear, ethnicwear for girls is a larger category, constituting 23 per cent of the girlswear market and growing at 11 per cent annually. In comparison, ethnicwear comprises just 8 per cent of the boyswear market and is growing at 9 per cent.

Across India, ethnicwear as a category has always been relevant for girls as it forms an integral part of their daily cloting. Over the years, the trend has veered towards westernwear, especially in urban India, owing primarily to greater comfort in wearing westernwear and a rise in fashion and trend consciousness among both the children and their parents.

Peer pressure also ends up forcing them to follow the clothing trends prevalent in their school, clique or neighbourhood. However in recent years, with the entry of organised brands and retailers, ethnicwear has again become relevant among girls especially for formal and festive occasions, and additionally, as a fashion statement. Even in the boys’s segment, ethnicwear has found relevance during festivals.

While most apparel are for dailywear and used for wearing at home or while playing with friends or going out with parents, ethnicwear is symbolic with festive seasons and marriages. Most parents also want their children to dress for the occasion — celebrating festivals with families or while going for weddings, which are larger and grander events today. With an increasing focus on multiple rituals, thanks to television shows and movies, the number of occasions to meet friends and family during weddings is increasing and so is the need to dress accordingly.

Even for casual purposes ethnicwear is increasingly mixed with casualwear. For instance, ethnic tops with jeans or leggings are popular among girls.

Why will it be successful

India, being a diverse country, has multiple, region-specific, product categories as far as ethnic clothing is concerned. While in northern India, the salwaar-kameez-dupatta (for women and girls) and kurta-pyjama (for men and boys) are more prevalent, in southern India, saris and lehenga-choli (for women and girls) and dhoti or lungi (for men and boys) are more common.

With economic liberalisation and better access to information, trends and products, ethnicwear has grown beyond the centers of consumption. Subsequently, in southern India, the salwaar-kameez-dupatta and kurta-pyjama or sherwani have become popular, especially in urban centers, while in the north people are increasingly wearing silk saris during festive occasions. Thus the market for ethnicwear categories such as salwaar kameez, churidar, sherwani has also widened due to penetration into new markets.  These categories have also percolated down to kidswear with the result that we see — adults and kids wearing sherwanis and fashionable salwaar kameez even during southern weddings, which was not the case earlier.

A largely unbranded market

From a manufacturing perspective, ethnicwear is a more complex category compared to westernwear, as it requires more design work and skills. It is therefore priced higher and, correspondingly, positioned at the premium end by organised brands. Some of the popular ethnicwear brands, including Fab India and Biba, are also catering to the ethnic kidswear segment. There are other brands such as Kilkari, Infancy, Jonez, Kindi, Raja Sahab and others who have made recent forays into the organised market.  Most of these brands are positioned in the mid-to-premium price range. However, over 95 per cent of the market is still unbranded, with local retailers catering to most of the ethnicwear demand. The kids ethnicwear market is largely untapped by organised brands and there is significant potential for brands to grow in this segment.

Ethnicwear has always been a major category in India, but with times changing and exposure of the Indian woman to western clothes, this category had nearly vanished from the daily use wardrobe of urban Indian women. Due to ethnicwear’s rich design heritage, ability to meld with trends, and the influence of popular programmes, it has metamorphosed from being merely traditional to being fashionable; from just being another thing one wears daily to becoming an item also worn at special occasions. Children’s ethnicwear is following a similar trend and will continue to see a higher demand in the future. With organised retailers and brands increasing their focus on this segment, this space will be exciting to watch.


is currently working as the Senior Vice President, Apparel Operations at . He has over 14 years of experience in apparel manufacturing. His key skills include operations consulting with domain expertise in apparel operations, with on-the-ground experience in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and China.