Indian Tailoring Industry Going Bespoke

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The majority of Indian population has historically been brought up on tailored clothing, as the garmenting industry was restricted to smallscale manufacturing until the late 1990s. Also, due to lack of size standardisation in apparel, there were few ready-to-wear (RTW) options for consumers, who preferred to buy ready-to-stitch (RTS) fabric and then tailor the garment according to their size. With the entry and expansion of international and domestic apparel brands in the early nineties, the RTW segment increased in popularity, especially in urban centres, and ever since, the segment has grown rapidly and outpaced the RTS segment of the apparel market.

The present tailoring industry of India can be segregated into three distinct segments. Firstly, there is a traditional market of local tailoring for the general masses. The tailor in this market is a skilled person or groups of persons catering to local orders. They have minimal exposure to fashion trends, technology and product-specifi c knowledge.

However, they manage to satisfy the needs of the local consumer of small towns and rural areas who wear basic products. Currently, around 80 per cent of the market comprises mass tailors. Secondly, there are growing numbers of organised apparel brands that are offering tailoring services in their fabric retail outlets. The tailors are trained to handle delicate and specialised fabrics and they take extra care to ensure the right fi t and look of the tailored products. This segment comprises around 15 per cent of the market.

Thirdly, there is a premium tailoring segment comprising fashion designers and bespoke or luxury segment. Such fashion designers have their own tailoring functions that cater to the requirements of the fashion-conscious elite sections of society. They ensure that the tailored clothing suits the personality, social status and occasion of the client. This segment comprises around 5 percent of the market.


Over the last decade, we have witnessed a big market share shifting towards the RTW apparel category. There has been a visible migration from tailored clothing to readymade garments due to the launch and expansion of several Indian and international apparel brands. Factors like easy availability, variety of colours, and range available gave consumers enough reasons to shift their preferences.

Currently, the RTS segment is estimated to be around `39,820 crore (US$ 8 bn) comprising approximately 20 per cent of the apparel market while RTW fabric constitutes the balance 80 per cent. The share of RTW is expected to increase in years to come. However, the demand for RTS is still large, and it is growing at an annual rate of 5.5 percent.

Majority of RTS growth is coming from tier-I, -II and smaller cities, where consumers have still not entirely shifted to RTW and continue to buy RTS fabrics. Currently, only 16 per cent of the market is organised. However, the organised market is growing at a high rate and the share of this market segment is expected to increase up to 23 per cent in the next fi ve years.

RTS fabric for shirts, trousers and salwaar-kameez-dupatta (SKD) comprise the majority share of RTS market. Shirting comprises the bigger share of market currently compared to trousers and SKD. Other categories include coats and kurtapyjama. THE KEY


  • Growth of major RTS consuming population of > 40 years and middle-income households
  • Growing plus-size population
  • RTS fabric as a well-established gifting option for special occasions like weddings, birthdays, etc in large parts of India
  • Growing consumption in rural markets, tier I, II and smaller cities
  • Increasing women workforce and increasing penetration of SKD and related ethnicwear to southern parts of India


The overall RTS shirting market is estimated at Rs12,890 crore (US$ 2.6 bn) in 2012 and growing at 3.1 per cent annually. Around 34 per cent of the shirting market consists of cotton or cotton blend shirting. The market is expected to grow at a slower rate as compared to the overall RTS market due to:

  • Higher shift towards RTW
  • Less stringent fi t requirements
  • Increasing casualwear
  • Easier purchase process and more options in RTW

Cotton or cotton blend shirting is expected to grow faster than the overall shirting market – due to the growing preference of cotton amongst consumers because of higher comfort and quality factors.


A large segment of consumers still prefers their trousers stitched, as they are generally more particular about their trouser fi tting. The overall RTS trouser market is estimated to be around Rs11,560 crore (US$ 2.3 bn) in 2012 and is growing at 4.1 per cent. The RTS trouser market is expected to grow at a faster rate as compared to shirting market due to:

  • More stringent fi t requirements in trousers
  • Growth of PV-based fabrics for trousers
  • Lack of standard sizes (waist and length) in RTW trousers


A large part of the SKD market comprises tailored garments. The need for tailoring for SKD segment is greater due to the higher variety of designs and tailoring requirements of consumers. Even though RTW segment for SKD is increasing, there is still a general lack of options in case of RTW and hence, consumers prefer to buy RTS or semi-stitched garments.

The overall RTS SKD market is estimated to be around Rs11,840 crore (US$ 2.4 bn) in 2012 and is growing at 7.9 percent annually. Cotton or cotton blends comprise around 40 per cent of the SKD market, which is expected to grow at a faster rate as compared to the overall RTS market due to:

  • Higher preference for RTS in SKD, due to requirements of better fi tting and design variety
  • Increasing women in workforce Also, cotton or cotton blends SKDs are expected to grow faster than the overall SKD market due to:
  • Higher comfort and quality aspects of cotton SKD
  • Increasing focus of branded players on cotton fabrics


The Indian tailoring industry is thriving and growing despite the growth of ready-to-wear and branded segment of the apparel market. While majority of consumers in major cities have slowly graduated to branded apparel over the years, there is still a significant population that prefers RTS fabric due to certain inherent benefi ts for specifi c segments like salwaar-kameez or suits and trousers, etc. Also, RTS segment is still popular in smaller cities and is growing at a steady rate.

Till the time that RTW segment becomes strong in terms of standard sizes across all the key categories of women’s ethnicwear, suits, and trousers, the tailoring segment will continue to be in demand and will continue to grow.


In pre-medieval Europe, clothes were merely functional objects serving the purpose of covering and protecting the body. Bespoke tailoring developed in a slow but steady manner from the 12th to the 14th century. When the Renaissance, celebrating humanism, transformed the world of arts and culture, tailoring also became a way of accentuating the human silhouette.

Clothes, which were earlier made from a single piece of cloth, now began to be ‘tailored’, rendering a ‘fi tted’ look and highlighting the contours of the human form. From being a practical necessity, clothing metamorphosed into a form of expression, as the aristocratic attitude to clothing changed drastically during this revolution. Tailoring skills increasingly became much sought after and created the market for bespoke clothing, as we know it today. It also marked the beginning of what is known as ‘fashion’. It was in the 18th century that bespoke, or made-to-order, clothing was popularised by the tailors of Savile Row.

Customised for individual body types, and using the fi nest fabrics, these tailors spent more than 50 hours of manual labour for a two-piece suit. For clothing to qualify as bespoke, it had to be an ‘exact fi t’, made in a size specifi c to the client’s measurements. In addition to this, the patterns were designed from scratch instead of using pre-designed ones. Even the stitching, done by hand, was specifi c to the taste of the client.


The Industrial Revolution saw the birth of mass production. Manufacturing became a predefi ned process that came with quality mandates and fi t standardisation, making fashion more accessible for the bourgeoisie. The aristocracy, however, continued its love affair with personalisation, and ‘bespoke clothing’ sustained its status symbol.

Parallel to the bespoke concept is ‘Haute Couture’ whose usage is regulated by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris (Paris Chamber of Commerce). Made from superior fabrics and stitched with great attention to detail, haute couture is also made to order. For a fashion house to qualify as couture, it must employ at least fifteen people and exhibit to the French media a collection equaling or exceeding thirty-five runs, comprising evening and daytimewear, every season.

Today, the market for bespoke or made-to-order clothing continues to be elitist and reserved for a select few. While Hong Kong, Dubai, New York and London are popular destinations for bespoke suits, the market in India is still young. Apart from internationally renowned brands, which offer bespoke services in India, there is also a pool of talented, skilled tailors with generations of experience in ‘bespoke’ tailoring. Vaish Tailors, Grover Tailoring House, Syed Bawkher & Co., Emm Aay Tailors, Vadehra Menswear and Kachins are some of the legendary tailors in the country who find their roots in colonial India and consider bespoke tailoring an art.

The fraternity of Indian fashion designers has a forte in Indian ethnicwear and thus tends to leverage and focus more on this category whilst also offering bespoke services for both men and women.

Bespoke allows for a differentiation in the products of an otherwise conservative market for men’s formals. Consumers have a choice of playing with the lining, lapels and collars, and personalising them as per their individual tastes and preferences. Over the years, the emergence and popularisation of new product categories has led to bespoke services being extended to shirts, jackets, overcoats and even dresses for women.


The size of the Indian luxury industry, which encompasses bespoke tailoring, is approximately US$ 4.3 billion, with a nearly 20–25 per cent contribution from apparel (US$ 850–1100 million). Presently valued at US$ 260 million, the market for bespoke clothing is growing at an impressive 15–20 per cent.

While bespoke clothing accounts for 30–35 per cent of the total luxury apparel market, it is as yet dominated by menswear. Bespoke options for women are limited in India with few tailors offering this service. Also, women are traditionally shoppers of customised and personalised ethnicwear whereas most of the designers are positioned within the super-premium range.

The growth of this segment within the Indian subcontinent is largely due to the emergence of the nouveau riche and the High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs). This section of society possesses an increased disposable income along with a keen desire for exclusivity. Apart from celebrating their personal and professional achievements, the owners of bespoke clothing often also see the exclusivity offered by a bespoke suit as an extension of their own personality.

This hunger for excellence and grandeur has resulted in the creation of the organised market for bespoke clothing, which is largely dominated by master tailors and fashion designers.


Despite being extremely occasion-specifi c, bespoke clothing is the preferred choice when consumers are headed for board meetings and client interactions. Festivals and weddings that call for large social gatherings are important occasions where consumers like to fl aunt their bespoke ethnic attire. While in the formal businesswear space, men are the key contributors to the success of bespoke clothing, in ethnicwear women tend to contribute a larger share.

Recent years have also seen the emergence of ‘made-tomeasure’, a modern version of bespoke clothing, within the organised space. This form of tailoring is a hybrid of bespoke and mass production, and is rapidly gaining popularity among the growing middle class of India. Like bespoke, made-to-measure allows for customisation in terms of fabrics, fits, colours and styles but, unlike the former, the patterns used in the designing of a made-to-measure garment are not unique to each consumer. Brands have standardised patterns and designs, and the fi nal garment alone is modifi ed to suit the consumer’s needs.

Arvind Brands and Raymond are leading brands in the fabric and suiting business that are already extending this service to customers. Focusing only on menswear and offering customised tailoring solutions at affordable prices, these brands are taking the newly evolved form of bespoke clothing into dailywear. These products are typically priced at a rate 20–25 per cent higher than an off-the-shelf garment and are progressively becoming popular with working professionals.

Even regional and online players are entering this space, thus offering customers a wider choice of fabrics, cuts, colours and styles. Brands are taking this privileged experience a step further and extending personalised home services to customers; this translates to customers having the option of selecting fabrics, colours, styles, having measurements taken and even receiving the finished product at their doorsteps.

While customers typically start with single shirts and trousers, they soon move on to complete suits depending on their compatibility with the brands. An increase in the disposable income of the middle class, coupled with their rising aspirations, makes made-to-measure extremely lucrative to this section of the populace. Made-to-measure  offers a platform for personalisation at affordable rates, while giving the consumers a taste of exclusivity.

Young adults are particularly attracted to this segment, because of the extent of customisation it offers. A range of options, in terms of contrasting collars, buttons, cuffs, monogramming, etc. makes this otherwise homogenous category an exciting space.

The sizing advantages of this option cannot be ignored by a generation that is extremely self-aware. Consumers are being pampered with fi ts that complement their body type and since many readymade garments suffer from inappropriate sizing, made-to-measure offers immense opportunities in building brand loyalty.


While bespoke clothing has always been perceived as the pinnacle of luxury, made-to-measure offers consumers a better dailywear option whereby they do not have to compromise on the fitting. Satisfied customers are bound to return if the fit and quality match the higher price. Fulfi lling consumer needs will therefore be an important success factor for brands that will also have to design their go-to-market plan cautiously, identifying key pain points and ensuring that a superior experience is offered. Additionally, focusing on too many product categories can be detrimental and so, brands need to concentrate on their product strategy.

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