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Fusion wear and its growing popularity in India

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The emergence of fusion wear has revolutionised the Indian fashion industry. Women, today want contemporary styles and vintage charm to blend and thus the Indo-western wear is fast catching up. An overview on the dynamics of this category.

Sometimes it is lovely simply sitting on the fence. You not only save the trouble of offending someone but you also get to observe and enjoy the best of both sides. You may be wondering why we are discussing this in a fashion article but the topic calls for it.

Fusion wear – a mix of Indian and western wear celebrates the beauty of both the worlds. The emergence of fusion wear has revolutionised the Indian fashion industry to such an extent that top notch brands today have an element of the same in their collection, though we still have a long way to go if we consider the market potential for fusion wear in India. We take a quick look at the dynamics of this category in India.

So, let’s begin by looking at what is fusion wear? Anything that amalgamates Indian and western wear – so it could be something as simple as wearing a spaghetti top with a Kashmiri stole and Rajasthani print skirt! Fusion wear leaves ample room for getting as creative as one can be with their choice of clothes. It allows the person to break away from the shackles of set clothing norms and mix and match the top and bottom and if getting it customised even mix and match the cut and style of an outfit to have a heavy western as well as Indian influence in one outfit.

Reiterating the growing popularity of fusion wear, Director, Shree Balaji Ethnicity Retail for brand Ethnicity, Ameet Panchal shared, “The shift from traditional ethnic wear to Indo-western is increasingly becoming the order of the day.”

Elaborating on what truly constitutes fusion wear, he explained, “The traditional salwar kameez has long or short sleeves. An Indo-western design might forego sleeves altogether, or replaces the sleeves with spaghetti straps, resembling the style of a tank top or halter. There are also poncho-styled tops and one-sleeve designs that follow contemporary western trends. Indo-western kurtas and salwars tend to be much shorter than those traditionally worn, so that they resemble western-style blouses. Some Indo-western tops are available with plunging necklines, in contrast to the traditional styling of salwars and kurtas. Fusion that Indo-western clothing represents includes wearing jeans with a choli, salwar or kurta, adding a dupatta to a western-style outfit, and wearing a lehenga (long skirt) with a tank top or halter-top. For men Indian traditional kurta with sports shoes and scarves.”

Tracing the growing emergence of fusion wear

Tracing back the origin of fusion wear to the time when we were under the British rule, Chief MD, SHR Lifestyles (Shree), Sandeep Kapoor explained, “As per history with western colonial invasion in India, the change in social arena affected Indian women’s lifestyle and that influenced their fashion sense as well. Today, Indian women have adapted to changes in society and we have a huge population of working women as against times when women were usually home bound. These changes together have led to an evolution of fashion to suit their changing needs. Influence of western elements in Indian ethnic wear is vivid in a woman’s wardrobe today.”

To take Kapoor’s point a bit further, it isn’t uncommon to see ethnic prints like kalamkari, bagru, ikkat, etc., being used beautifully to create western outfits like long gowns, smart tops, etc. In fact, women today are seen to opt for traditional prints and have the fabric stitched to suit their western outfit needs.

Director, Kalki, Nishit Gupta makes an interesting statement saying that fusion wear is an apt choice to make one stand out in the crowd. “To be in vogue is to go Indo-western! Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and fusion style suits the purpose perfectly,” he said.

While Panchal added, “The major segments in women’s wear include sarees, salwar kameez, innerwear, winter wear, sleepwear, tops, shirts, trousers, skirts, denim, t-shirts, etc. However, apart from the distinctive segments, another major category is ‘fusion wear’ or the Indo-western wear. The segment primarily stands as an amalgamation of ethnic and western style to offer an innovative solution to the changing fashion taste of Indian women. This genre basically refers to silhouettes that are inspired by western fashion trends and patterns and yet rely heavily on Indian fashion sensibilities in terms of prints, fabrics and overall styling. Catering mostly to young, fashion conscious, free spirited women between 22 to 32 years, fusion wear is a critical market where brands need to balance the fusion of ethnicity and western influences and yet provide exclusivity to customers in terms of design. While the domestic front looks highly promising, the fusion wear segment is also gaining popularity overseas.”

Director, Pret Study by Janak Fashions (Study by Janak), Vandy Mehra attributed the growing popularity of fusion wear to the need to looking good without compromising on the comfort factor. She shared, “For the women of today, apart from looking good comfort is also another key factor. They want today’s style and vintage charm to blend and thus the Indo-western wear is fast catching up. A classic example is gown saree, which is a hot selling cake only for its traditional value wrapped in modernity.”

Leading the race

Let us take a look at the leading lines of fusion wear being offered by the brands. According to Kapoor, the most popular fusion wear ensembles that are best selling today are maxi dress, kurta with trousers, palazzos, capes, dhoti with kurtis, etc.

According to Gupta, “Some of the fusion styles that are making the rounds in the fashion industry are draping saree with an off-shoulder blouse, pairing a flared palazzo or dhoti pants with an embellished crop top, lehenga in a jacket style and wearing a kurti as a dress.”

He further said, “Tassels and capes are turning lot of heads this season. Along with that, crop top lehengas are another newer version that we see having a good demand at Kalki.”

Crop top lehengas are basically a modern version of the traditional lehenga choli.

At Ethnicity, the fusion wear that is doing well includes long maxi with collar (thread embroidery)and hanky hem, cold shoulder maxi, skirt, crop top, heavy duty cape, etc. Panchal shared his observation on other brands and said, “From the portfolio of Global Desi, tunics, maxis, halter tops with embroidery, sleeveless long spaghetti kurta are doing well. While at Biba long kurtas with front open, flared long maxi with paisley motif, cape, etc., are in great demand.”

The way ahead

Where we do have brands offering a mix and match concept, it still remains to be seen which brand will take a lead in offering a complete range of fusion wear. So far, we see brands offering a mix of both. So we would have an ethnic wear brand like Biba offering smart tops and Fabindia offering western wear with a touch of Indian ethnic fabrics. But we are yet to see a brand with a complete portfolio of fusion wear. Going by the dynamics of fashion as seen today, fusion wear has made deep inroads in our wardrobes. And yes, this applies to men as well. It is not uncommon to see men sporting rugged pair of jeans with an ethnic kurta and mojris as their preferred footwear option!

Panchal concluded, “The fusion wear segment is showing fast forward growth. With only a handful of branded players in this space, stakeholders see a huge potential ahead. Fusion wear is seen as fashionable, bold yet not too western, which matches the sensibilities of India women.”

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