Allen Solly not only introduced the Friday Dressing concept but also redefined the very personality as well as the wardrobe of the urban Indian working man.
In the history of brands and communication, there are times, when a brand, its positioning and communication create magic. Allen Solly, did exactly this with its ‘Friday Dressing’ campaign.
The market for men’s western wear in India picked up in the early nineties. The launch of Louis Philippe in 1989 was followed very quickly by that of Van Heusen. This was a market where Arrow, Zodiac, Park Avenue and a few others were the key players. The market, defined by occasion, was split broadly into formals at one side and denim on the other. Denim in fact stood for casuals. By 1993, the liberalisation that the Rajiv Gandhi government had launched had started making some fundamental changes in the Indian consumer’s world as well. A generation, which was being brought up in a more liberalised country was seeing matters in a different light. Several new-age industries boomed, one of which was advertising. While there was a streak of rebellion in the air, the mood could broadly be termed as upbeat and full of optimism.
It is at the same time that Madura Fashion and Lifestyle decided to launch their fourth brand – Allen Solly. In a classical marketing case of trying to create a new market based on a latent need, Allen Solly positioned itself as relaxed formals. The launch advertising which was conceptualised by the creative agency – Ogilvy and Mather (Bangalore) epitomised Allen Solly’s spirit of non-conformism. The personality portrayed was extremely confident, yet relaxed and not aggressive. The protagonists wore clothes that would be considered unconventional – for example a formal trouser and an indigo shirt teamed with a bright patterned tie. The message exhorted consumers to do things their own different ways.
The brand head of Allen Solly at that time was Fazle Naqvi and the President for Madura Fashion and Lifestyle (then Coats Viyella India Limited) was Sriram Srinivasan. At Ogilvy the creative team was headed by Ramesh Ramanathan and the Bangalore office by Sanjay Naik. Allen Solly was at the time owned by the company William Hollins & Company Limited, England and was operated under license by Coats Viyella India Limited. So successful was the launch that it spawned a new usage based fashion genre—‘Smart-Casuals.’ This instantly captured the imagination of the consumer and then within a couple of years, O&M came up with the iconic term – ‘Friday Dressing’. This embodied the soul of relaxed formalwear even better. The phrase caught on like a wildfire, as it seemed to signify a critical change in the attitude towards work wear from gear for the serious work week to dress code of the relaxed easy achiever.
The first Friday Dressing ad was released in 1995. Over a period of time, Friday Dressing and Allen Solly became synonymous with each other. The key words now moved from the campaign message to an identity tagline. Also, as the market and acceptability of wearing casuals in India grew, the mood of Allen Solly’s Friday Dressing campaigns also became more and more relaxed. A key aspect of the merchandise offered was that the fits were very relaxed or loose too. The campaign not just created a new segment but also clearly established Allen Solly as the premier brand in the smart-casuals space.
The market for smart casuals has continued growing rapidly ever since, however the trend of formals was still strong and therefore the market size was smaller. In the first decade of the 21st century, more and more new-age professions and businesses had started springing up and consequently by around 2010, the market saw an even larger shift into casuals. On the other side the smaller towns in India had also started becoming more prosperous. Corporates were no longer defining work wear preferences and informed individual fashion choices saw smart casuals de-rigueur totally. This was also a very different generation from the original and much more internationally aware and in touch with trends. Hence, slimmer fits, smaller collars, design elements, and other aspects of trends entered the market. This phase of growth saw the preference for smart casuals really boom. The period saw the entry of hitherto formal brands (Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Arrow, etc.) into the smart-casuals space. This new market also encouraged other international casual brands – Celio, US Polo and premium brands like Tommy Hilfiger to enter the Indian market.
In light of the much more competitive market, in the year 2012, Allen Solly started a process of re-branding. The new logo–the ‘Stag’ (the symbol of the city of Nottingham) was introduced; a new retail identity which brought alive both the culture of its heritage and the ethos of a modern brand was implemented; a new, changed product line in line with the new consumer was worked upon and introduced; and a series of communications announced the change with the Color lab campaign of Spring Summer 2012.
By 2013, Allen Solly completed the most critical phase of the changeover. Today, nearly 85 percent Allen Solly brand stores are in the new retail identity. The new ID and the new logo were warmly welcomed by the Allen Solly cult. Allen Solly has also decided to carefully evaluate its overall stakes in the casual market.
Allen Solly had launched its woman’s wear in 2001 and the brand is quite well entrenched. By 2013 it was time to up the ante in the junior’s business as well. At the same time in menswear Allen Solly saw huge opportunity in jeans and sportswear. Consequently, in 2014 January Solly Jeans Company was launched and this brand has scaled up rapidly.
Solly Sport was launched as a tennis inspired sport lifestyle brand, typically led by the polo tee as its lead core line. To meet multiple goals of cementing the association, to give the Solly Sport consumers an upscale and a value-added differential experience, a strategic and exclusive tie-up with the most prestigious tennis event in the world — Wimbledon has been inked. This exclusive licensee partnership with Wimbledon will make available the lifestyle apparel and non-apparel lines to Indian consumers.The line was designed in collaboration with the leading French design firm – Groupe Carlin International to bring cutting-edge on and off court tennis fashion to the Indian consumer. The Wimbledon line through its partnership offers Indian consumers a chance to experience the essence of The Championships and is being distributed in more than 200 Allen Solly stores today.Today, the process of building Solly Jeans Company’s exclusive store chain has also taken off. The first two stores have opened in Phoenix Market City – Pune and Brigade Road – Bangalore.
In the third decade of its operations in the Indian retail market, and in the pioneering spirit that Allen Solly has always stood for, the brand has been growing at a CAGR of nearly 30 percent over the last several years and stands poised to hit the Rs. 1,000 crore (@ Retail) turnover in FY2017 across all its brands.