The business of looking good is as old as humanity. This manifests itself in what people put on themselves, wear or carry. India’s ethnic diversity has lend itself into various types of ethnic apparel and accessories – with earliest artifacts of these found as old as 5000 years ago, from the Indus valley civilisation. These accessories have evolved from a way of looking good to being a vital element of our culture – on many auspicious occasions, these accessories hold munificent importance.
These ethnic accessories are inherently Indian – even when borrowed from other cultures, they have been adapted with Indian elements brought in. Synonymous with meticulous craftsmanship, every Indian piece of accessory has been created to a subtle sense of opulence. However, the various styles of their making have been practiced locally – keeping the market traditionally unorganised. And like the ethnic apparel, the ethnic accessories industry is on the move – fusing & blending to adopt to the new requirements.
Types of ethnic accessories
Accessories maybe worn or carried. Further categories are:
Apparel Accessories: Apparel accessories are largely made from fabric and serve as a natural extension of the garment worn. They could be shawls, scarves, stolves, dupattas, safas (groom’s headgear/turban). These accessories too come from different regional needs – in Kashmir, for example, shawls are invested in and valued as jewellery, and their designing and making has been explored in a lot.
Jewellery: Indians have been using jewellery as an adornment since centuries. The jewellery making techniques range from the meenakari and kundankari, setting of precious stones in gold and silver, jadau jewellery, lacquer jewellery, pachchikam jewellery and navratna jewellery, just to name a few. Traditionally, Indian jewellery has been made out of heavy and voluminous gold pieces, but recently jewellery is made of silver, platinum and other metals which have become more popular among people. To make jewellery more attractive, it is topped by diamonds and various types of gems.
Some of the jewellery adaptions, specific to the Indian ethnic context are:
Bridal jewellery: An Indian bride is considered incomplete without her 16 adornments and jewellery forms an essential part of these adornments. A specially unique piece is the maangtika, is worn on the forehead by the bride.
Bangles: Bangles are the symbol of the nuptial rituals. A traditional and regal jewellery item which has become a fashion statement today.
Rings: Rings are now in trend. They are created of different metals instead of having just an old gem stud which is in the shape of animals and birds. The other form consists of an adjoining finger rings to the armband and a two piece ring.
Anklets and toe rings: Anklets and toe rings are usually made of silver as gold is not worn on the feet. They are available in intricate designs, decorated with works of meenakari, kundan and beads, silver.
Antique jewellery: Antique jewellery in new forms include includes spiral bangles and rings, glass beads, strung on nylon, chunky tribal jewellery, surgical steel jewellery, ornaments with symbols and messages, charm jewellery, such as mood rings, charm bracelets and others, tattoo jewellery, chandelier earrings, sterling silver jewellery, studded with artificial stones, abstract jewellery and body piercing jewellery.
Bags, belts and wallets: The traditional potlis come close enough to bags. Bags and clutches have entered Indian ethnic domain with design adaptions to show Indian motifs and elements of metal or stone work. Even the western belt has been adapted into a waist band worn on the waist, over the saree or the lehenga, and now even as a belt over pants, dresses, skirts, etc.
Footwear: The mojdis and chappals are ethnically Indian. Like with other accessories, even western boots and shoes have entered the ethnic realm with traditional elements brought into it.
Timewear and eyewear, still not core to and capturing very insignifcant part of the Indian ethnic accessory market.
The Indian accessory market is undocumented. Reports have estimated the entire accessory market to be around Rs. 20,000 crore in 2014, estimating a growth of 12 percent CAGR over the next few years. Jewellery makes up a dominating >60 percent share of this market. Apparel accessories add upto about Rs. 1,500 crore, and bags, belts and wallets >Rs. 2,000 crore.
Breakup of this market into the ethnic component is hard. We estimate ethnic products to make up most of the overall jewellery market, a good share of the apparel accessory market, and only a small part of the bags, belts, wallets market. Non-brands make up 95 percent of the jewellery sales and 57 percent of apparel accessory sales is by unorganised players. More than 78 percent of jewellery stores are local and independent, with 17 percent being regional chains and only 5 percent being national chains.
Like ethnic apparels, ethnic accessories have been undergoing a revival due to the following:
Increased disponsable income and exposure to fashion. Average disposable income has increased, reflecting in higher retail spend per household. The new customers have better exposure to culture and fashion, perhaps also due to televion and internet influences. Ethnic accessories blend in culture and fashion – a more aware audience is more likely to go it.
Design elements have been blended, to cater to this new young buying audience (about 50% of Indian population is now under age 25). Unlike in the past, ethnic apparel or accessories have transitioned into being a fashion essential for college goers and socialites. Traditional handwork and handprint techniques, mirror and stone work, metal work and enameling are now being used in exciting fusion.
Easy access to retail. Accessory retailers have mostly been non-branded, and the stores and locations hard to navigate for the uninitiated. Malls and growth of e-retail have made shopping an easy experience. E-retail, though only two percent of the overall retail, is growing rapidly – and has allowed even small sellers to get online without investing much into offline stores.
Emergence of brands. Customers are more willing to spend, even if they do not understand the nitty gritties of the jewellery or the fabric well to judge it technically themselves. Brands, proxy for trust and quality, are emerging or taking roots in India. Some of the international accessory brands such as Carlton, London, Mango, UCB, Zara have already entered the accessory market strongly, and some Indian brands such as Baggit, Lavie, Kara, Hidesign have focussed on accessory expansion. Even amongst the ethnic apparel, retailers like Westside, Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Reliance Trends and Big Bazaar continue to expand their ethnic accessory offering, and brands like Biba, Anokhi, W and Meena Bazaar are offering more accessory options.
Fashionable accessories have become highly essential to match perfectly and complement different outfits and attires. Wearable works of art are hitting the verge of ethnic fashion accessories in 2015. Product innovation and fusion, diversification of companies from related categories into and emergence of brands will define the ethnic accessory industry in the years to come. These trends also mirror the ethnic apparel industry, a market estimated to be about `80,000 crore. Within it the ethnic apparel industry should grow much faster.
Italian Trade Commission, “The Fashion Accessories Industry In India Market Research 2009” [http://italiaindia.com/images/uploads/pdf/market-research-on-accessories-in-india.pdf]
Rajni Pandey, “Growing market of fashion accessories” [http://www.indianretailer.com/article/sector-watch/fashion/Growing-market-of-fashion-accessories.a361/]
Troika Consulting, “Handbag Industry Profile” [http://www.slideshare.net/troikatalks/bags-and-accessories-industry-profile]
Amit Gugnani, Kanti Prakash Brahma, “The Ethnicwear Market in India” [https://www.indiaretailing.com/article-detail.aspx?aid=12503]
About the author
An alumni of DPS, RK Puram (Delhi) and IIT Kanpur, Arvind Saraf has done his masters and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. Arvind joined Google India’s Bangalore office as an intern in 2004 and later became a full-time employee in early 2005. At Google, he worked as part of engineering teams in improving search result quality, worked on Google’s acquisition Dmarc’s team in generalising the Radio Ad platform and taking it to India market, and then with Youtube team in introducing them and migrating them to the Google platform.
He left Google in 2008 and with his two classmates, co-founded Swasth India that aimed at providing healthcare for the poor in India. As part of Swasth founding team, Arvind was involved in defining the Swasth India and Swasth Foundation’s vision, mission, governance structures, led the development of Swasth’s core MIS and was co-consultant on project with ICTPH. In 2012, he returned to Surat and joined the family’s textile business, Triveni Sarees.