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Dynamics of Indian Ethnicwear

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Not long ago, we just had brands like Biba, W, Jashn, Manyavar and a few more catering to branded and authentic Indian ethnicwear. However, now the market is abuzz with many more players though not all of them are new. Most of these players have become active in their branding and offerings thanks to the burgeoning demand for this category. We trace the current dynamics of Indian ethnicwear.

Talk about Indian womenswear brand and the first name that pops up in mind is that of Biba. Brainchild of Meena and , the brand has managed to earn the credit of being synonymous with Indian ethnicwear. The launch of Biba set the stage rolling for branded Indian ethnic womenswear. Until then, people would throng corner tailor shops that catered to the need of this segment and for the occasional- and festivewear, there were niche stores in each city and, of course, there was designerwear catering to the elite.

Coming back to Biba and more so to put in context the growing popularity of Indian ethnicwear (for women), the very fact that there is a constant northward movement in its turnover is proof enough of the potential this category has had. Until 2007, the period when Biba attracted ’s Future Ventures to invest in the company, it was doing sales to the tune of Rs 30 crore. When Biyani’s company exited the brand in 2013, Biba’s revenue had grown to more than Rs 300 crore – an unimaginable jump in number in a period of just 5 years. This is when the brand got new investors in place – Warburg Pincus and Faering Capital, who are believed to have spent nearly the same amount to buy out Future Ventures at 25.8 percent stake. As reported, this deal valued the apparel maker at about Rs 1,000 crore.

EMOTIONAL APPEAL

The basic premise that helps promote this category has its roots entrenched in the fact that it is ‘Indian’ craftsmanship being promoted in its most desirable form for women. The very fact that brands liaise with the rural craftsperson to add a modern twist to womenswear, placing it at par with chic westernwear, has given a great boost to this category in terms of making it acceptable to today’s women. Highlighting the brand essence of Mother Earth, , CEO, Indus League Clothing shares, “Every time you shop at Mother Earth, you participate in preserving India’s heritage of centuries-old art and craft, sustaining it for the future and nurturing the livelihood of artisans. By participating in nurturing the artisan communities, the customer in turn helps in preserving timeless design and culture and also bridges the rural-urban disconnect. We also endorse the belief that if you shop with us, you keep a green and eco-friendly skill alive.”

The emotional connect the brand manages to make with its target audience goes a long way in keeping them loyal to the brand. The entire communication – from the carry bags to the newsletters of ethnicwear brands – is designed to sensitise the customer towards the value they add to the artisan’s life by buying their brand. Adding on how the brand makes an emotional connect with its customers, Aggarwal says, “As a brand we are the forerunner in offering differentiated design, material, techniques and styling. Also, we have a strong story to tell as the brand genuinely impacts the life of artisans through sustainable and ethical sourcing, thereby bridging the urban-rural disconnect. Over 5,000 artisans have been mobilised under our efforts across categories. Our primary suppliers include self-help groups, small-scale entrepreneurs and NGOs.”

Similarly, Vineeta Ganeriwala Gupta, director, Earthwear says, “My brand ‘Earthwear’ deals with natural fi bres and handcrafted techiniques like hand block-printing, hand embroidery and hand woven fabrics. I feel that the biggest challenge that my brand is facing is that sometimes people who like the craft look and feel of my products are not able to understand and excuse inconsistencies in the products which arise due to these handcrafted techniques. They have to be made to understand that inconsistencies are not defetcs but that the beauty of these products lies in the fact that they are created by hand and so cannot be ‘perfect’.”

“However, I feel that the situation is changing, and a lot of people do understand and appreciate Indian crafts now, and accept it with its negatives. We can only overcome this by creating awareness towards crafts and informing the customer of the intense handwork that goes in the making of that product, which is what we do at the store level. The idea is to create a situation where they are they are able to understand and wear our garment with dignity and pride as a ‘handcrafted product’,” she adds.

In fact, Kolkata-based Manish Creations has an interesting tagline that says, ‘The blend of tradition with generation’. Similarly, sharing a strong emotional connect, brand Manyavar has an interesting tagline supporting the brand. Ravi Modi, MD, Manyavar mentions, “The tagline for Manyavar is ‘earn your respect’, which speaks volumes about what the brand stands for. Manyavar is all about taking pride in our culture and respecting and celebrating our identity as Indians.”

He further adds, “Indians have adorned the western form of dressing in their day-to-day lives. However, Manyavar has shown them the way to dress Indian and be Indian. Being the only brand in the category with over 355 outlets including globally, we have been able to cater to the need of every man wanting to adorn Indian ethnicwear.”

While, Delhi-based has created a niche for itself by following the tradition of providing distinctive products at reasonable prices by maintaining the same fixed Chandni Chowk rates at all its retail showrooms across the country, according to , head – business development, Chhabra 555.

W as a brand set the ball rolling for Indo-Western fusionwear for Indian women to make ethnicwear more appealing and acceptable. , CEO, W shares, “Design and fi t are the key strengths of our brand. W is a fusion of the east and the west, a unique example of making the ethnic salwar-kameez an urbane and chic product. That is where we have an edge over our competitors. W was a pioneer in bringing the concept of scientifi c sizing to Indian consumers and since then has always been known for its best in class fit. We have our unique 7-point sizing, arrived on the basis of a detailed anthropometric study, which gives us a clear edge over any other player in the market.”

Mannoj Mehrra, CMD, strongly feels that the opportunity lies in the fact that even after so much globalisation, when it comes to Indian festivals and weddings, one tends to go back to the roots. He highlights, “If I as a brand can keep up the style quotient, bring international fusion fashion to the Indian look, then there are opportunities galore for me.”

Another brand that is fast catching the fancy of modern urban women for ethnicwear is Soch. , COO and chairman, Soch explains the brand essence and the way it has managed to win its customer base, “We want to build a world where Indian fashion is aspirational yet affordable for every woman. We have managed to redefine the traditional Indian outfit for women of all ages, who effortlessly balance work and home while still looking their best. Soch is known for its wide range of designer ethnicwear that is stylish, yet traditional.”

Chatlani proudly claims that as a brand, Soch does not believe in fashion seasons like spring-summer or autumn-winter. Keeping up with the ever changing fashion trends, the brand launches its fresh collections every 20-30 days in the four major ethnic product categories – sarees, chudidar sets, kurtis and unstitched salwar-suits. Fashion has moved from being a domain exclusively for women; it is now also catering to menswear. After all, the metrosexual man of today does not want to be left behind when there is so much to look forward to in terms of fashion.

As , CMD and Bipin Chauhan, MD, Jade Blue rightly explain, “Indian men are consuming fashion in a whole new way. Their changing educations, profession and exposure to the West are providing us with huge opportunities to experiment with products . So, understanding the changing trends in men’s fashion is the key.” With the concept of big fat Indian wedding catching the fancy of the young generation, the demand for occasional or festive ethnicwear is at unprecedented heights. As Ravi Kothari, the man behind the brand Ishan Studio, which specialises in exquisite menswear, rightly puts it, “Opportunities are just absolutely incredible. The industry is
booming and with rising incomes we are witnessing a distinct trend towards opulent and extravagant weddings. What is also encouraging is that customers are now very discerning with their purchase and they prefer designers with a special portfolio of products.”

Catering specifi cally to teenagers, who otherwise are seen opting for westernwear as a craze, Madona Creations from east India is seeing a positive acceptance in the markets it caters to. Sajan Kumar Jajodia, owner, Madona points out, “The casual and partywear market offers prospective growth opportunity as young teenage girls are nowadays conscious of the latest trends. They are infl uenced by the Internet, films, television and only the very best can please them. We  have established ourselves in the ethnicwear category for teenage girls. This year, we are planning to increase our retail network further by tying up with large format stores. By 2015, we would also be present in online marketplaces.”

Talking about east India, another brand that has dedicated customers is Prapti launched in 1990. The brand today has 32 stores across India and has clocked a turnover of Rs 80 crore in FY 2013-14. Though the brand was launched as a boutique concept in 1990, it evolved into an ethnicwear brand in 2010. This was in line with encashing on the boom of Indian ethnicwear. , director, Prapti shares, “When Prapti opened its store in Gariahat, organised retail was largely unexplored and no one in the category specialised in ethnicwear retailing. We were the only retailer that catered to ethnicwear for men and women. Hence, we received phenomenal response. However, we did not think of exploring the category further through organised retail until recently. We started only in 2010, and have seen exponential growth since then.”

TRACKING THE TARGET

The target audience for Indian ethnicwear is diverse. Today, boardrooms as well as high network meetings have women donning chic Indian ethnicwear. Aggarwal of Mother Earth points out, “India’s ethnicwear consumer base can be largely diversifi ed into traditional and contemporary. The multifaceted nature of the ethnicwear industry makes it possible to cater to these consumer bases. In addition, being the most diversifi ed country, India has a plethora of skills in every state, which can be genuinely value added upon.” Citing the greater acceptance of this category in a woman’s wardrobe, Daga of W syas, “An interesting trend emerging in the fashion landscape is consumers’ preference for fusionwear. They are no longer glued to the idea of compartmentalising ethnicwear and westernwear. Mix-n-match is the order of the day and consumers are experimenting a lot more than just go by the established fashion norms. This growing market for contemporary Indianwear, which cuts across all product segments, is a big opportunity and brands which are able to get the best of international trends customised to suit Indian sensibilities are bound to have a defi nite edge. This is one of the biggest opportunities for the Indian brands in the arena.”

EXPANDING BOUNDARIES

Just as the category of ethnicwear has crossed many barriers to cater to the urban women, the branded segment in this category now is taking a U-turn by having stores even in tier-II and -III cities, irrespective of the cost factor. The audience in smaller cities and towns too are opting for branded ethnicwear as opposed to getting them tailored or purchasing them from local stores. One factor that has led to the growing acceptance of this category across the country is the penetration of e-commerce. The sales being generated online through small towns and cities are making the brands open stores beyond the metros.

According to Aggarwal of Mother Earth, “On the retail side, the expansion is aimed by increasing the touch-points through more fl agship stores and also via the e-commerce and franchisee routes.” Explaining in depth the potential that tier-II and -III cities have, Chatlani of Soch says, “Tier-I and -II cities have always had large markets that we, like other retailers, wanted to tap. With the availability of proper infrastructure of malls and  high streets, and logistics, it has now become easier for us to gain foothold in these markets. Globalisation, higher disposal income, lifestyle shifts and changes in consumer behaviour are some of the key drivers for the growth of organised retail in these markets. Bollywood and more recently TV shows have always played a significant role in determining ethnic fashion trends. Better access to entertainment in addition to the explosion of e-commerce sales means that people in cities of any size now have both trends and purchasing ability. We feel smaller cities previously did not have access to many products and brands. These products and brands are now just a few clicks away there. We believe that tier-I and -II cities hold huge prospective and are ready for the entry of big Chhabra shares how the brand Chhabra 555 has been incredibly successful not only in the metros but also in tier-II and -III cities.”

Currently, the brand has 60 EBOs in 25 cities. Besides focusing on metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, they have also ventured into tier-II and -III markets, such as Gorakhpur, Bulandshahr, Jabalpur, Meerut, Bhopal and Sirsa. Chhabra adds, “Our target is to open one store each month as we are getting many business proposals from metropolitan and tier-II and -III cities.”

According to Ganeriwala of Earthwear the educated and informed customers in tier-II and -III cities are now looking to associate themselves with a good brand, they are becoming more brand-conscious. With the construction of good shopping malls in these cities, now they have entered the mainstream and this kind of distinction itself of tier -I, -II and-III cities according to her, is becoming meaningless.

Revealing the plan of action that Ishan Studio has in place for tier-II and -III cities, Kothari says, “These markets are undergoing a transformation and we hope that India’s growth story will percolate to these places. At Ishan Studio, we are conscious of the challenges these markets offer and we are devising a strategy to gain a foothold here. Needless to say, we take these markets very seriously and we do hope to have an early mover advantage here.”

However, Chauhan brothers of Jade Blue are not too optimistic of tier-II and -III cities. They mince no words when they say, “Usually, customers in tier-III cities prefer to purchase ethnicwear, especially for weddings, from metros or big cities as they get a large range to choose from. For the ethnicwear segment in smaller cities, it is a chicken and egg situation.” On the contrary, Prateek Rajpuria, director, Manish Creation sees an opportunity and shares, “tier-II and -III cities have more potential and they offer more competition as people from these cities travel to tier-I cities and metros for their shopping needs. We think it is very easy to tap into this market by creating a niche with quality and style.”

While, Modi of Manyavar opines, “Businessmen often tend to expand their businesses in tier-I cities keeping in mind the scale of disposable income and the exposure towards the ‘brand consciousness’ people have in these cities. In reality, though, if you go down deeper in the tier -II and -III cities, you would understand the actual opportunities there. Due to lack of availability of ethnicwear brands, people move to metro cities for their purchases. Hence, we have ensured that weare largely available in all tier-II and -III cities.”

Elaborating on this, Mehrra of Study By Janak says, “Even if I am currently in the major cities, a lot of my client base belongs to tier -II and -III cities, whether they come through word of mouth or the Internet. There is a substantial potential of premium ethnicwear when it comes to these cities. Of course, you have to be smart in pricing, but then the clients who are travelling, even those based out of these cities, understand what global fashion is all about.”

BASIC BOUNDARIES

Highlighting a striking reality that ethnicwear is facing today, Daga of W shares, “The biggest challenge for pure ethnicwear brands today is their diminishing relevance in everyday dressing. Fusionwear and mix-n-match concepts are gaining currency, gradually making traditional ethnicwear relevant for special occasions only. The market is still very large for ethnicwear but it is imperative for brands to embrace the change and evolve with the needs of the consumers.”

Elaborating on the specifi c challenges that W as a brand has been facing and measures being undertaken to combat the same, he points out, “The biggest challenge has been scaling up the supply chain to meet the ever increasing demands of consumers. We are making signifi cant investments across the supply chain from scaling up of vendors to ramping up warehouse operations to analytics for demand forecasting and inventory optimisation. With all these initiatives in place, we are confi dent of making the brand ready for the future.”

Sharing a bird’s-eye view on the challenges this industry is groping with, in the organisational structure, Chhabra of Chhabra 555 explains, “One of the biggest challenges that any entrepreneur faces is establishing the balance between the level of centralisation and decentralisation, which is essential for any organisation to grow. Substantial autonomy needs to be provided to foster creativity. Simultaneously, appropriate controls need to be set in place to mitigate risks. Another challenge is that with rapid changes in the business and high levels of growth, often the wrong people are hired or the right people are not incentivised enough. In this scenario, the entrepreneur needs to ensure that they are establishing the right culture in order to drive performance. Signifi cant focus needs to be laid upon talent management, which is an area often overlooked by traditional businesses.”

She further says, “One also needs to identify the right metrics for measuring the organisation’s effi cacy. It is easy to get misled by inadequate or inappropriate metrics and figures. For instance, more insightful information might be garnered by comparing different stores on the basis of revenue per square feet rather than just the absolute revenue fi gures.”

When it comes to fashion, aping the west has always been the order of the day. But with Indian ethnicwear making stronger inroads, there is fresh and original fashion to look forward to, although it is not devoid of its own share of roadblocks and challenges. Citing the most common challenges faced, Aggarwal of Mother Earth reveals, “Being an authentic crafted ethnicwear brand, a lot of our work is related to skilled artisans offering traditional crafts. A big chunk of these artisans lie in the unorganised spaces. We work closely with them and help them streamline and evolve their working processes to further streamline the supply chain. We have taken up the challenge of bridging this urban-rural disconnect to improve the livelihoods of rural artisans. The process is continuous and improves as the brand evolves.”

Addressing a problem from the yesteryears that is still pertinent in terms of acceptance of ethnicwear, Mira Sagar, proprietor, Vaya notes, “There is a strong belief in modern society that ethnicwear is meant only for older people because of its traditional look. One needs to change that notion by introducing various styles and designs that are not only conventional but also contemporary and that would appeal to the younger generation. We need to create an interface between traditional designs and modernity and that is where the role of design intervention comes to play.” For those who are not acquainted with the brand, Vaya is one of Mumbai’s fi nest stores dedicated to the handloom industry. The store has been a metamorphosis of handlooms where the collection on display has been developed to suit modern tastes and contemporary lifestyles.”

Kothari of Ishan Studio is of the opinion that skilled workforce is one of the biggest challenges being faced by this industry. He explains, “The opportunities with the booming ethnicwear segment have also thrown up more than a few challenges. Lack of skilled labour in organised retail poses a major challenge. The government needs to offer sops to our industry since it has the highest percentage of manual labour, thereby providing employment to millions.”

He shares that his brand is in the process of transforming itself into a retail powerhouse with a pan India footprint based on the franchise business model. However, one of the major roadblocks the brand faces is that of retail locations for the franchisees. He futher says, “Since we are looking aggressively at an online vendor for occasionwear, there is a serious lack of option in that area.” Rajpuria of Manish Creation says, “The biggest challenge for the ethnicwear segment is that the procurement of fabric is not easy. The second issue is lack of skilled labour. Owing to these two reasons, the production is limited to a certain extent.”

He adds, “To overcome the challenge of fabric shortage and unavailability, we end up forecasting the entire requirement of fabric prior to the launch of the design and this sometimes leaves the fabric stock in hand as dead stock.” Elaborating on the challenges based on fabric procurement, Modi of Manyavar shares, “The ethnicwear market has been plagued by labour problems, raw material vagaries and lack of modernisation including that of spindles. The post fabric stage processing technology has also been lagging but is now coming up fast with infusion of textile processing technology. Small scale industry fi rms perform the majority of weaving and processing operations. The level of weaving technology is of lower order and knitting units do not always possess the capacity to perform dyeing, processing and finishing up to international standards.”

Talking of festive and occasionwear, the challenge without doubt would be that of keeping in sync with the changing trends and replenishing any old stock to maintain the cash registers. Unlike casualwear, formalwear cannot be sold on discount often as the life cycle of the latter remains extremely trend specifi c. Aptly explaining this, Chauhan brothers of Jade Blue note, “One of the biggest challenges in retailing ethnicwear is inventory management. The per unit price being high, even a small ratio of dead stock makes a big dent to the bottom-line. Unlike formals and casualwear, which can be sold at a discount after every season, sale and discount offers do not work in the festivewear segment. Customers demand new designs every few months but these designs become out of date very soon. The sale cycle for each design is very short.”

They further say, “If you look at Indian weddings, a major chunk is spent for the bride’s wardrobe, but the same is not true for men’s ethnicwear. It is considered a one-time wear and men do not want to splurge much on it. While there is huge competition in the regular to premium segment, with unbranded players and copycat versions of sherwanis, kurtas etc., the super-premium category is dominated by designer labels as people want to flaunt names. Hence, pricing and product range become very crucial. Also, the product mix of designer range and regular range is extremely important for MBOs like us, as we cater to both the premium and super-premium segments.”

They further state that since it is more of a seasonal business, manufacturing is also a challenge as manufacturers ask for a regular 12-month work guarantee, which may or may not be possible to fulfill.While, Chhabra of Chhabra 555 elaborates, “The biggest problem in reaching the stage we are at today is the inherent unorganised nature of the industry. Most players fail to follow even the basic accounting and reporting norms. Hence, signifi cant efforts were required at our end to get buyin from all stakeholders including suppliers and dealers for creating transparent systems, which are imperative for maintaining a large network of stores.”

She further shares, “Also the seasonal nature of the industry resulted in frequent working capital crunches in the lean period. In spite of very low revenue fi gures, we had to maintain a large workforce in preparation for ‘season’ time. We have developed innovative methods to tackle these problems and we are looking at infusing more funding into the system as well to reach higher profi tability figures.”

For east India’s well-known menswear brand Khushaal, the major challenge rests with the fact that the market operates on consignment basis Krishna Kumar Agarwal, director, Khushaal shares, “Big buyers take products on consignment basis. However, we do not sell that way.” Similarly, Jajodia of Madona cites, “As a wholesale brand, the biggest challenge we are facing is that of delayed payment from retailers. This is affecting the entire cycle of business.”

ORDERING ONLINE

Chauhan brothers of Jade Blue strongly feel that this category is more apt for being sold via the brick-and mortar format, especially when they are talking of festive or  occasionalwear which are priced higher. They explain, “Although online sales have picked up for formal- and casualwear, ethnicwear has been slow to catch up. Customers like to see, feel and try the product before ordering as it is a high value purchase and one would not want to go wrong with their wedding day attire.”

Contrary to what Chauhan brothers feel, Mehra of Study By Janak says, “There is tremendous opportunity in this area. Gone are the days when the perception was that ethnic cannot be sold online. Today, it is one of the biggest platforms to sell ethnicwear for men and women. We have been working in this space for the last one-year and have a fully functional e-commerce portal, though we keep on updating it. So each time you there, you shall get a fresh look and lot of variety. Our target market is tier-II and -III cities as well as the overseas market.”

With an e-commerce portal that went live in 2012,Chhabra also tied up with online stores like Amazon, eBay and Flipkart to reach out to a larger customer base. But taking the traditional family owned venture online was not an easy thing to do. She shares, “We realised that perhaps one of the biggest problems we were going to face while going online was the inventory blocking it involved. So, we created a system where on our website there is only current stock showing, which is actually available at stores and the system is real time. So, if the piece gets sold off in the store, it gets removed from the website. If it gets sold off from the website, it gets removed from the store. It is a full real-time system. Our biggest motivational force for going online is our huge network of over 60 operational stores. We also have an easy payment option in place. Our payment options include credit card, debit card, net banking, bank transfer and cash-on-delivery. Our online payment gateways minimise late payments, improves billing system and gives complete satisfaction to the customer.”

Witnessing success in the online space selling from fashion portals Myntra and Jabong, Manish Creation is now in the process of setting up their own e-commerce channel. Revealing the reason behind this, Rajpuria of Manish Creation explains, “Online business helps to attract customers with less overhead expenses and it also helps build a good brand image and sales volume. Presently, we are also working with Myntra and Jabong and we also plan to create our own online traffi c by creating our e-commerce site.”

Modi of Manyavar is of the opinion that the opportunities are massive in the online space, especially for international sales as people abroad often come down to India for purchasing Indianwear for special occasions. He adds, “If you study the trends in e-commerece, you would realise that is a booming market now. We at Manyavar have understood the need for being present online and we have already launched our e-commerce portal.” W is practically available on almost all online portals that sell womenswear. For Daga, online sales is not just about increasing numbers. He explains, “As a brand, we are looking at online sales as a part of the much larger canvas of digitisation of business and approaching it holistically. We are focusing on building a strong online community and cultivating right content, which we believe will drive commerce online. We are amongst the top-performing brands across all major portals and are in process of revamping our own e-commerce site, which will be launched very soon.”

IN-TREND

Where the basic feel of Indian ethnicwear is not dependent on any particular fashion forecast (considering it has its own identity), the inspiration drawn is to keep in sync with global colours and styles. The main source of inspiration though always remains the artistic touch extended from local cultures. Revealing the most recent trends in this category, Aggarwal of Mother Earth says, “This year’s inspiration comes from diverse sources and several different regions with the highlight collections ranging from Rajasthan’s natural-dyed Rangrez look to hand-block gold printed Firdaus look. Kutch embroidery from Gujarat to the vibrant Gulabo collection from Punjab’s truck art offers a wider range of crafts inspirations.”

In the ethnic womenswear category, according to Chatlani of Soch, “Plazzo pants are the fl avour of the season. They are contemporary yet traditional and can be either matched with long Pakistani style kurtas or paired with shorter kurtis. For those who prefer the Indian contemporary look, there are kurtis with jackets, ankle-length anarkali suits with ethnic jackets and embroidered yokes paired with fi tted chudidars and long neck-work suit sets that are very trendy. A saree is a classic traditional Indian outfi t that personifi es beauty, elegance and grace. This season netted sarees, doubleshaded pure chiffon sarees and half-and-half sarees are fashionable.”

Adding on what soon shall hit the shelves, Chatlani of Soch says, “We see a strong  emergence of contemporary yet traditionalwear. The market for ethnic gowns is growing rapidly. Besides, long jacket ghagras too are fi nding their way into women’s closets. Both can be worn for dinner get togethers and the lady does not have to wait for an occasion to buy them. Another market that is emerging is the ready-to-wear
saree-blouse market. Women want to have contrasting and fancy blouses to pair with their sarees and hence will end up buying numerous blouses to go with each of their saree.”

Daga of W quips, “A clear trend for the season is teaming up kurtas with pants and skirts instead of churidars and introduction of waist coats and cropped jackets in place of dupattas. The fusion look would be the in thing. As for the kurtas, the longer lengths – anything from calf length to ankle length – would dominate the collections.”

According to Sagar of Vaya, “I think traditional, handwoven sarees are making a comeback. Today, we see many women donning beautiful ethnic sarees, which have been woven using traditional methods but the designs have been tweaked to give them the contemporary touch. I think women are more likely to choose sarees over any other product, so we would see a lot more variation in the draping of a saree, its design, style and ethnic look in the near future.”

Chalking out the changing dynamics seen in the category of sarees, she explains, “For many years sarees have been just casual clothing or regular household clothing for the typical Indian woman. It was a basic garment that women wore with a plain blouse bought from a local shop. Over the years, with fashion and a changing cultural climate, the saree has received a huge facelift and today buying a saree is more about choice  rather than picking out anything that is plainly available. The saree has evolved in style and class with front pleats becoming the norm over the years. The size of the saree too  has decreased from seven to nine yards to fi ve-and-a-half to six yards. Today, we see the saree in a brand new avatar; there is more experimentation with different kinds of yarns which were not traditionally used. In recent years, fashion designers have also launched easy-to-wear (pre-stitched) sarees embellished with sequins and bling, and  well embroidered blouses to enhance the glamorous look.”

To be at par with customer expectations, Jade Blue has ensured that their focus remains on inventory control and strengthening of their sourcing arm. Chauhan brothers of Jade Blue reveal, “Drawing on the experience of two decades, our expertise in tailoring and building a talent pool of in-house designers is helping us in predicting new trends and offering a strong product every season. With these efforts we can cater to the  price-conscious, upper-middle class segment. For the luxury segment we have in-house designers, who can customise sherwanis, Indo-westernwear, kurtas et al. for the discerning customers.”

Talking about formal ethnicwear for men, according to them, people love to experiment with Indo-westernwear and ethnicwear like kurtas and bandhgalas meant for pre-wedding functions. They add, “For sherwanis meant for the big day, those customers who like to play safe and traditional, can settle for the beige or maroon sherwanis. The bolder breed can opt for new colours and styles. We have a wide palette ranging from mulberry, tangerine, chalk pink, poppy red, bottle green and beige as well as new styles like quilted jackets, laser cutting and self-embroidery to choose from.”

Sharing more information on the current dynamics, they say, “This season, jackets are a big rage. Also trending are the bandhgalas, which look sophisticated, understated and elegant. We are offering different lengths of bandhgalas to offer a twist.” Agarwal of Khushaal talks on the demand for Indo-westernwear as weddingwear choice preferred by men. He shares, “We have launched a jacket suit collection this season with stone and zari embellishments. The preferred colours this season are royal blue, deep maroon, grey and off white.”

Modi of Manyavar adds, “The latest ethnicwear trends comprise vibrant colours along with warm pastel combination, inspired from the Raja and Maharaja look. We have experimented with different colour combinations, patterns, cuts, looks, techniques, etc. We have created new silhouettes with long gathered A-line kurtas with sherwani, brocade dupatta and churidar. So, it is fusionwear all the way, which includes smart short pathani, waistcoat and fi tted pencil churidar in a variety of colours.” Sharing details on the trends as seen in the category of ethnicwear preferred by teenage girls, Jajodia of Madona says, “There is demand for fashionable anarkalis in net with beautiful embellishments. We have launched a collection of net anarkalis in vibrant colours with detailing in velvet bornet
and zari work. In terms of style, waist tie-up, asymmetrical hemline, and tunic-style kurtis are in trend.” According to Rajpuria of Manish Creation, the latest ethnicwear trend is  Modi jacket, Pathani suit, Indo-westerns for all purpose, kurtas with the touch up of accessories like jaal-duppatas and also brooches.

A heritage brand in the category of ethnicwear, Sahiba has distinguished itself in the market with having designers on board from India and Pakistan. The brand likes calling itself a composite textile processing and fi nishing house, with all the textile solutions under one roof, which they delightfully flaunt as an ‘in-house’ facility with the best art of technology not only in India, but across Asia. According to Sabby Saluja, director, Sahiba, digital prints have become a new must-have with all the designers across the globe, with Indian designers too adapting the same.

The ethnicwear category, as we witnessed, seems extremely positive. The players within the industry with their brands have their eyes well set on expansion and growth, and fuelling their optimism is the online response. A little support from the government on providing avenues to reach out to rural artisians and also help them to work on their skill sets will only go a long way to take this category forward. Who knows, just as Indians love aping western fashion, a day would soon come when Indian fashion would be aped in the west!