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The Ethnicwear Market in India


The ethnicwear market of India stood at us$ 13,100 million in 2013 out of which the contribution of men’s ethnicwear is only 3 percent, contribution of kid’s ethnicwear is 9 percent and that of women’s ethnicwear is 88 Percent. The ethnicwear market is expected to grow at a cagr of 8 percent To reach us$ 19,600 million in 2018. , SVP – fashion (textile & apparel) and Kanti Pakash Brahma, principal consultant – fashion, share more insight on the ethnicwear market.

The apparel market of India was valued at US$ 41 billion in 2013, and is projected to grow at 9 percent CAGR for the next decade. In this huge market, the menswear category contributes 42 percent, womenswear 38 percent and kidswear 20 percent. The ethnicwear market of India stood at US$ 13,100 million in 2013, out of which the contribution of men’s ethnicwear has been a mere three percent; the contribution of kids ethnicwear has been nine percent; and that of women’s ethnicwear a whopping 88 percent.

This market as a whole is expected to grow at a CAGR of eight percent to reach US$ 19,600 million by 2018. In this segment, the market has largely been driven by women’s ethnicwear as it comprises 74 percent of the overall women’s apparel market with a market size of US$ 11,500 million. It is a large part of women’s wardrobe and will continue to grow at a promising rate of eight percent.

Unlike in the past, when ethnicwear was restricted to being an apparel of choice, it has transitioned into a fashion essential for the college going girl as well as for the elite socialite. India’s fashion legacy lies in its vibrant colours and traditionally available artworks. Handwork and handprint techniques, Rajasthani prints, Kashmiri work, Kutch work and mirror work are some popular traditional methods employed to existing fashion ranges. These style mixes present countless choices of dresses that reveal the background of a particular place. This explains why, in spite of the growing popularity of casuals, traditional ethnicwear continues to hold strong ground especially during festivals and other occasions.

Today, many designers use traditional handwork with fervour to bring exciting fusion to appeal to the younger masses. These trends are no better showcased than in ethnicwear offerings from new entrants in the market. Ethnicwear has maintained a strong position in preferred fashion choices of shoppers mainly because it is attributed with qualities of convenience, comfort, conformity with Indian values and fashion quotient at the same time. Saree, lehenga, salwar-kameez and kurti form the spectrum of traditional outfi ts. However, among all else, saree is the most popular traditionalwear for Indian women.

Salwar-kameez and kurti are the most admired outfi ts for women owing to the versatile look they offer. Hence saree, although forming a major portion of ethnicwear (51 percent), remain a regional choice. While women in North India prefer salwar-kameez for everydaywear, they opt for saree for select occasions like festivals and family functions. On the other hand, women in South India mostly prefer sarees both for regularwear and special occasions.


The ethnicwear market space is largely populated by unorganised players. Each region of the country has strong players but at the same time very few brands have presence across India. Almost a decade ago this was a completely unorganised category with no brand presence. It was a space mostly driven by local retailers and tailors. The maximum  design innovation used to come from local ‘colony tailors’ only, who offered very limited options in terms of design variation. Even fabric design innovation had become stunted
due to lack of competition and complacency in the market.

However, the entry of brands infused a new life into ethnicwear and we see a lot of activity happening in this segment. It will not be farfetched to say that ethnicwear is the new in-thing in the fashion space.


The economic empowerment of women has been one of the most remarkable  achievements of India’s growth story and consequently growth of women in workforce has led to a good rise in their disposable incomes.

It is noteworthy because of the extent of the change: millions of women who were once dependent have now taken control of their own economic affairs. Besides contributing to the household, they have much more discretion over where to spend their own money. Consequently, it is observed that consumers are now spending moderate amounts on ready-to-wear (RTW) salwar-kameez with a higher frequency of buying.


Retailers such as , , Lifestyle, , Max and have seen partial success in fi lling the market gap of value segment. At the same time, presence of several national and regional brands is presenting the choice across various fashionable product offerings.

Brands like Biba, Anokhi, and are helping women in choosing fashionable ethnic options. Because of the arrival of organised players the ethnicwear market has been transformed from tailorstitched to a ready-to-wear category.


Despite being a very promising segment, women’s ethnicwear still has seen limited number of big brands playing at a pan India level. Desi Belle, Nikhaar, Soch, and W indeed are some brands that are up-and-coming, but experts are of the view that it is difficult to build on a brand in women’s ethnicwear segment. Women’s ethnicwear segment, owing to its very nature, witnesses very fast moving fashion. Shoppers in this category are mostly impulsive buyers and they make decisions based on design rather than a brand. Hence, one has to be exceptionally good in terms of recognising and catering to their changing tastes.


Several traditional dresses are always in trend but the ones that are enjoying the most popularity include patiala suits, tights, tunics and kurta inspired by western styles like upturns. Women are also widely seen sporting sharara and gharara for festive seasons.

Traditionally available ikat, block prints and colours have always been intricately used by designers and are still attractive to all age groups of shoppers. For party occasions, salwar-kameez in heavy embroidery, bead work and innovative prints are in. Anarkali suits are much in vogue and majority of women love to wear them for wedding and reception ceremonies. Ethnicwear undoubtedly exhibits elegance, beauty, ethnicity and personal style. These ethnicwear designs not only honour our historically appreciated taste but also embrace our present heritage and culture.


Indian fi lms undoubtedly have also bolstered ethnicwear. Bollywood is acknowledged as the biggest trendsetter and whatsoever is happening in movies is very well received by most of us. The costume designers make it a point to add glamour to ethnic dresses. For instance, the traditional Anarkali salwar-kameez is patterned into long length fl ared Anarkali commonly known as Indian one-piece dress, an Indian answer to the Western one piece.


One cannot ignore the role played by soap operas in strengthening the essence of ethnicwear clothing. It is inevitable to fi nd any household that does not indulge in these slow moving, high-pitched television series every evening.

The heavy dosage of household drama served invariably on all channels, has boosted the psychological need to identify with the show’s characters. This trend has undoubtedly played the role of a catalyst in bolstering the sale of trendy salwaar-kameez and saree.

Consequently, it is also not uncommon to fi nd outfi ts for various TV shows sponsored by retailers. We also fi nd apparel ranges, similar to the ones worn by actors and actresses in shows, on stands in retail stores.


Interestingly, ethnicwear has risen above the age and sex barrier and everyone is looking to own a piece of the Indian tradition. Though women are the primary consumers for ethnicwear, the men are not far behind.

Retailers are progressively turning their attention to clothing men in ethnic attire these days. Manyavar, which is among India’s most valued menswear brand today, was one of the earliest companies to step into this segment. And now this retail space is also being populated with several new entrants with easy access to the market through e-tailing. Today, it is not diffi cult to fi nd men wearing short kurta in vibrant colours, some with motifs emblazoned on them.


Fortunately, India is blessed with a calendar packed with festivals. One can spot bright lights, beautiful colours, lively decorated markets and womenfolk on shopping spree almost every other day. Fashion-wise festivals are a wonderful time to dress up. One needs no excuse to go shop as these festivities call for hordes of compulsive shopping needs as tradition. Most people prefer going ethnic while celebrating the festivals. They are the perfect choice for festivals, wedding and any traditional occasions. For instance, Diwali, Eid and Dussehra automatically translate to shopping for new clothing.

The celebration is incomplete without new clothes that go with the contemporary fashion taste as well as the traditional values. Chic colours in suits, lehengas and sarees all blend along to honour the occasion and to show the festive yet fashionable spirit.


Nowdays youngsters in the age group of 18 to 25 are opting for ethnicwear as a preferred college and offi ce attire. Girls experience the Indo-Western look with trendy kurti. The combined benefi ts of comfort, fashion quotient and conformity make ethnicwear a top choice among women. Anyone can go ethnic wearing designer kurti or salwarkameez. They are increasingly becoming the latest fashion attire among the conservative and contemporary women.

They can be paired with various bottoms such as jeans, leggings, jeggings, capri, etc. The versatility of kurta is being widely exploited by mixing and matching.


India’s new-found love with online shopping has benefitted all retail spaces, including that of the ethnicwear. People for whom shopping is no more than a regular chore fi nd it very convenient to browse through hundreds of product offerings, without the nudging interference of sales staff. While expectations for the shopping experience are now exceedingly high, not everyone has access to or rather inclination for that intensive shopping experience. Instead of visiting individual shops and spending time and effort in trying out different attire, shoppers are fi nding it much easier to log in to the Internet and buy clothes online from credible shopping stores. Owing to this shift in buying habits just like all other retailers, leading ethnicwear brands are also foraying into e-commerce as a natural progression of their existing business.


Owing to the strong growth in offl ine and online sales private equity (PE), fi rms are showing healthy interest in ethnicwear brands. Some cases in point are Biba, AND, and W, who have received PE funding in the last 2-3 years of time. Summing it up, Indian ethnicwear resembles the culture of the country and additionally makes a person look classy and elegant. Ethnic outfi ts are being designed with new cuts, styles and patterns by the experimentation of designers. These fusion fashion sensibilities are in with the times and are being picked up by women most adoringly. With more and more women having discretionary income to splurge on them, this segment is bound to see rapid growth in the years to come.

Lastly, this market still has opportunity for launching ethnicwear brands with a pan India presence. There is a huge potential in contemporising traditional fashion sensitivities from several regions and offering Indo-western apparel specifi cally targeted at working women.