Not so long back, a sales representative carrying a big bag on her shoulder used to go door-to-door selling items to a group of women. At one common point, all the women would gather and buy the items from a limited choice of 15–20 options in basic colours like white, black and beige, with white being the favourite of all – and the item was bra. This is how women would buy lingerie a few years back in India. These sales representatives were the one-stop-shop for homemakers to buy all the intimate and necessity items, from lingerie to sanitary items or beauty knick-knacks. As far as men are concerned, they were loyal to home-stitched cotton underwear. However, with time the lingerie industry in India has covered a long way from its initial days. Today, we not only have major international brands but also MBOs and EBOs to cater to consumers’ demands.
The credit goes to awareness that has transformed the basic white innerwear to pretty looking lingerie. “Today, not only the Indian lingerie market but also the Indian consumer has evolved a lot. From the past six years, the consumer has become aware of their need in terms of design, style and functionality. In fact, they are ready to pay a higher price on a piece of lingerie – Rs. 1,000 on an average,” shares Arpita Ganesh, owner of Buttercups, a luxury lingerie boutique.
Over the years, consumers’ demand for intimatewear has shown major shifts. For instance, women stopped paying attention to the style and design of lingerie. Instead, they paid more attention to comfort and fit. Rahul Gupta, COO, Aviraté says: “Over the years, consumers have realised that innerwear, while being comfortable and perfectly fitting, can also be extremely stylish and fashionable. They are experimenting with different colours, cuts and designs.”
Rajnish Agarwal, President, Rupa & Co. comments: “The key factors influencing the choice of the consumers are comfort, price, brand and durability. Comfort plays a key role in the choice of the consumers followed by price and brand name.”
There are several factors behind this awareness and change. For instance, the dressing style of women has revamped and outwear influences one’s innerwear. Denim to skinny jeans, T-shirts, feminine tops, dresses, etc. are the basics of one’s wardrobe; and a single style of innerwear cannot suit all the outfits. This led to one of the prominent concepts of T-shirt bra because women need different types of lingerie that not only serve the purpose of functionality but also look beautiful and stylish. T-shirt bra is designed with limited or no use of raised seams, hooks or any other element that can be seen beneath the outer garment. It gives a tight and smooth fitting that compliments outfits like T-shirts, feminine tops and light fabric outfits.
On the other side, ethnicwear such as salwar-kameez and sari have become more glamorous. There are different kinds of innerwear that help avoid fashion faux pas. Hence, brands like Daisy Dee and VIP launched salwar-kameez bra. Another reason is women are entering the professional world that demands a range of formalwear. Women are also growing as health conscious individuals and opting for gym and fitness activities. This further popularises the demand of sports bras and briefs that suit the sporting activities.
Over the years, many innovations have taken place in the innerwear segment to fulfill the demands of Indian consumers. In 2010, celebrated lingerie brand Amanté was voted ‘Product of the Year’ under the lingerie category in the largest independent consumer survey carried across India. It was for the product Silicone Floss, which has a no show panty line and wrinkle-free fabric. These comfortable bikini briefs with silicon floss bonding around the legs and waist are designed to be worn under formalwear and well-fitted dresses. It avoids the panty line to highlight beneath the outfit of a woman. “The brands have evolved from giving basic products to seasonal trend products. Having worked with the best western brands as a company, we provide the Indian consumer with an international product at unmatched value. Our design houses across countries work to bring the international fashion trends to the consumers here,” says Vivek Mehta, CEO, MAS Brands India.
The contemporary influence and prominence of westernwear has also brought innovative concepts like stick-on bra and shapewear in India. Stick-on bras complement backless dresses where it is difficult to hide the strap.
The latest emerging category is shapewear garment that helps to hide flabs and plunging figure and make women appear curvier. It is an elaborate category that includes products such as high-waist briefs, long-leg briefs, tummy tucker corsets, cleavage enhancer bra, etc.
Hanes has recently launched a range of unique concealing Petals bra. It has petal-shaped reinforcements placed inside the bra cup at the apex to provide protection where you need it the most, without adding bulk. So, nothing shows through clothes.
Innovations in innerwear are not limited to women’s section only. Jockey introduced 3D innovations for men that take the meaning of comfort to a new level. The special innovative 8-way stretch fabric provides stretch allowing a fit that flatters one’s shape and provides superlative comfort throughout an active day. This unique 8-way stretch, which has 90 percent cotton and 10 percent spandex jersey fabric, was introduced for the first time in India. It allows body contouring and enhancing, and has chiselled fly construction on brief, midway and boxer brief; anatomically angled leg openings; tag-free T-shirts and high lift sleeve design on T-shirts for ease of movement. Last year Zoiro, Italian innerwear brand, launched denim intimates for men. The collection includes designer briefs and trunks for men and is inspired from men’s love for denim. Made with denim-like fabric, it has a digitally printed, belt-like thick elastic. The Zoiro denim intimates are knitted with spandex yarn that offers enough stretch to make one feel comfortable.