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Innovations that work in style

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Park Avenue, India’s first formal ready to wear brand was launched in 1986. Since its inception, Park Avenue has striven towards making the life of its consumers easy by offering winning functional innovations, and is today available in more than 1,000 stores across the country. Park Avenue looks at itself as a young, fashion forward, workplace apparel-and-accessories brand for both men and women. Park Avenue provides interesting “dressing up” solutions in the often monotonous formal wear category through its functional innovations, premium fabric play, high visual appeal, and newness in style and colour. Images Business of Fashion talks to Hetal Kotak, Brand Director, Park Avenue on the wear to work fashion category in India.

EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
Give us a brief synopsis of the evolution of the global wear-to-work apparel market and Indian wear-to-work market.
Hetal Kotak (HK): Two decades ago, work-wear, within corporate wear in general, was completely different from other forms of apparel. This was not only in the styles, colours, patterns, but also in the way it was sold. However, changing workplace dynamics have caused a shift in the market for traditional work-wear. No longer is formal attire required in many offices and dress codes are becoming less common. Casual wear is not only acceptable, but has become the norm in many workplaces, resulting in increased demand for easy dressing work wear. This transition has already started reflecting in the Indian wear-to-work market, today there is a wider colour and style palette for consumers to choose from. Also at many work places the younger generation is taking up key positions, so the mindset in dressing up stiff is fast fading away.

What is your opinion on the hypothesis that stiff office wear is changing and smart casuals are the choice of this generations clothing sensibilities? What has caused this change?

HK: It is true that the stiff work-wear culture is changing and customers are migrating more towards smart casual dressing. Change in customer’s mindset, and change in corporate cultures have propelled this change. Customers are now well travelled and they have better exposure to international fashion. Exploring world, culture and connectivity through social networking sites is the trend globally, which is making the world a smaller place to live in. Social media tends and flow of information across the world has impacted the fashion trends too. People are getting more health conscious and sports attire is influencing hence. They want to wear something a bit more relaxing, youthful and sporty in day to wear. At the same time, they are ready to experiment with colours.

What percentage of apparel shopping do you think is influenced by the wear-ability to work factor?

HK: Men’s wardrobe is still dominated by work-wear apparel which is roughly around 70-80 percent with a 20-25 percent share in dress or smart casuals and a limited percentage in evening wear. So this is indeed a major factor.

Do brands tone their collections on the perspective of wear-ability to work, or they create specific collections with this in mind? What are the percentage shares of each of the above two types your total range?

HK: Yes, there is a specific percent of core business or work-wear collection offered by us which constitutes approximately 40-50 percent of our offering. Additionally, this range has now started accepting more colours, styles and fits. A major share of our offering is in formal fashion.

What are the kind of functional innovations you have tried for wear-to-work apparel?
HK: Since its inception, Park Avenue has always focused on delivering functional innovations that makes the journey of a corporate guy easy. These innovations were introduced keeping in mind that you no longer have to spend time taking care of your garments. A significant amount of time was spent to make a shirt look wrinkle free, two decades ago. The shirts were starched and then ironed using heavy ironing machines so that it looks crisp. Consumer’s life was also made easy by the introduction of innovative products such as wrinkle-free shirts, non-iron shirts and super crease trousers. Auto-fit shirts are our award winning latest successful innovation that were specifically designed for professionals who have to wear a necktie seven-eight hours a day. Business travel has now become a vital entity and in order to support that zero-gravity suits and jackets were introduced by the brand. These suits are ultra-light weight, easy to carry and are wrinkle resistant. These are some of the few functional innovations from the brand. We endeavor to make our customers happy by offering at least 3-4 such innovative products every season.

Can you please describe the movement in colours, designs and styles being innovated by brands over last two seasons.

HK: The biggest change we have seen are the Indigo colour influences and shades of blues moving from calm blue to electric blues. Bright colours were hitherto never accepted and consumers often hesitated to pick such colours. One of the examples is green colour which were always a no from the trade partners. But this colour has now done exceptionally well in large format stores. Consumers now prefer to wear a distinct and different look from their colleagues. On the fits side the trend of slim fits that came in trend two years back has started fading now. People now prefer to experiment with new textures and designs. We have seen also great movement in cross tones.

Can you please predict the trends in colours, designs and styles that you expect to grow over the coming seasons?
HK: Like I shared, indigo colour line is coming up very strongly in market. This has already been introduced by Park Avenue in its springs-summer’15 collection. This colour line is anticipated to catch even more eyeballs in the next season. Slimmer fits will most likely completely fade away and consumers will go back to comfort fits. There could also be an emergence of fits that are a blend of comfort and slim.