Bespoke Occasion Wear: The Sunshine Market

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Images Business of Fashion talks to a trio of veterans in bespoke fashion on the unique dynamics of the bespoke occasion wear market. COO, Creyate, Tejinder Singh; Partner, P N Rao, Ketan Pishe; and Co-Founder, SS Homme, Sandeep Gonsalves share their experiences and insights on this fast-developing market.

The Indian consumer tends to shop more frequently today. The new breed of shoppers are redefining what it means to shop for occasion-oriented lifestyle and as a consequence, bespoke fashion is gaining momentum.

Co-Founder, SS Homme, Sandeep Gonsalves expresses, “Indians have certainly started shopping much more regularly, keeping in mind the occasion they are dressing for.”

He further explains the trend, “Technology has advanced and social media has become an integral part of life. Every celebrity, influencer, blogger and brand looks to social media to share their taste in fashion among all other things they do. This plays a major role in influencing the common man. They may not always use the trend as it is, but they do certainly take the trend into consideration while looking for occasion needs. The rise in the number of successful fashion bloggers is a testimony to the fact that the audience is more aware of the trends and wants to use to for specific occasion.”

The age of social media and smart phones has spurred a digital-led lifestyle charged with a stronger influence of visuals. People want to leave an impression in all their images on social media. Growing groups of fashion bloggers have also introduced a culture of experimental looks and theme-based dressing, encouraging people to shop more looks regularly. Rising disposable incomes have augmented consumption of lifestyle, digital products as well as services. It has bred aspirational lifestyles and people today want to express themselves.

COO, Creyate, Tejinder Singh explains, “The reasons may be defined by the 3Ps – Posterity, Prosperity and Proximity. Finally, thanks to technology the world is shrinking and this digital proximity is making people more aware of international trends. The occasions themselves are no longer limited to weddings and pujas in India. People opt for specific looks for every possible celebration.”

On another front, Partner, P N Rao, Ketan Pishe feels that in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, certain sections of the society have always been exposed to domestic and international trends and always shopped for world-class fashion irrespective of the occasion.”

His brand P N Rao has been positioned as a premium-to-bridge-to-luxury brand. They have a rich heritage of over 90 years. They are one of the very few family-led suit-making corporations in the country that has stood the test of time.

Why Bespoke?

Elaborating on the core customers that act as the key drivers of this trend, Pishe shares that it is largely the young entrepreneurs, people who have started up on their own. These are young achievers moving up the ladder. The consumer class is more prominent in the metros that are home to hundreds of startups with millennials taking reigns at the workplace.

Singh feels that when it comes to ethnic wear, people look for designer wear. However, when it comes to western wear, the demand for custom clothing always rises, more so in the menswear section.

“A sense of reliability works very strongly here, combined with the innumerable choices of fabrics, designs and details one can choose from. Occasions are the ideal opportunities for people to stand out in the crowd, so they become even more selective about their attire. Especially while choosing garments for weddings and festivals, Indians become very selective about colours, fabrics and styles. That shows an immediate effect on the demand for custom-made occasion-wear,” he adds.

He further explained that people who look at occasion-specific custom clothing mostly belong to a mature group of globally evolved clients. The modern individualist always seeks to make an impression and stand out in the crowd, whether at a formal or informal social event.

“So, he always looks to make that personal statement that only customisation can provide, with premium fabrics, specific designs and a quality product with tailored finish,” he shares.

Talking about the deciding factors, Gonsalves says, “There are multiple variables that go into this decision. It depends on the occasion they are dressing up, the amount they are willing to spend, the aesthetics they are looking for, etc. For example, a groom, looking for an outfit for the main event would prefer going to a bespoke brand as he would want the garment to be made to his perfect measurements and wouldn’t want to compromise on the comfort factor. He wouldn’t mind spending the extra buck if that would mean getting that perfect garment. Whereas the groomsman or relatives of the groom wouldn’t mind shopping at a luxury brand with ready sizes. Most of the grooms and their groomsmen come in looking for a new-age garment which breaks away from the cliché garments available in the market.”

Increase in Demand for Bespoke Occasion Wear

The majority of the sale and shopping for an important occasion like a wedding in particular happens in the month of October to December.

Commenting on the evolving market scenario, he says, “There has been an increase in sales over the years. The reason being, people are becoming more conscious of what they wear. Wedding trousseau has always been a lavish affair for Indians. At present, the demand is getting bigger as the audience is ready to splurge on the garments and want something unique and unusual.”

The shopping experience at Creyate stores is much more involved incomparison to buying off-the-rack.

Singh says, “Key elements being choice around fabrics, styles, fit, measurements amongst others, all of which result in making each ‘creyation’ is a special buy. Creyate’s psychographics reflect on a majority of tasteful urbanites that like to make an impression everywhere they go, be it office, party, casual brunches or even a ceremonial event. Occasion turns up for such customers every other day.”

For Creyate, occasions win them a lot of organic visits from customers that constitutes almost 30-35 percent of its annual sales.

Talking about the contribution of occasion wear, P N Rao’s Pishe says, “Our occasion wear segment’s contribution to the overall sales is over 80 percent. Although it will take a while for this trend to catch up in the South states. At a national level, taking into consideration the metropolitan cities, occasion is the biggest growth driver where Indians largely consume it.”

Occasions Indians shop for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and festivals are the main occasions that prompt occasion wear sales in India. But today, people also buy for a lot of other occasions such as various wedding rituals, events, photo shoots, etc.

With globalisation and ethnic blurring, the term ‘occasion’ has also gone far beyond the traditional festivities to encompass a wider range of events. “So even if it is not the wedding season or family celebrations, it is the white-tie and black-tie occasions, Sunday brunches, and vacations that encourage people to opt for new looks,” says Singh.

According to Pishe, “Business and travel are the other two occasions when our clients shop. Business events have distinct requirements, therefore, at P N Rao, we recognised that need and created business and casual-business wears to fulfill the changing consumers need. Also, factors like attending an interview call, a client meeting over lunch or dinner have heightened this new trend.”

Occasion Wear: The Phenom and Key Influences

With the newer generation coming in and their heightened sense of fashion, it is only imperative for such a change to take place.

“The whole trend starts from cities like Mumbai and Delhi for they have always stayed close to the international and national fashion trends and it spreads out to rest of the cities thereafter. Today, a lot of Tier – II cities consume bespoke fashion too,” says Pishe.

On fashion influences Pishe shares that a lot of customers come to them after looking at trending fashion on Instagram and other social platforms. Bollywood is a huge influence on people. They tied up with a designer who designed signature pathan suits for Shah Rukh Khan in the movie Raees and had a similar catalogue at their stores, which had great traction.

Singh acceded that a drastic exposure to social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook have shed a light on fashion influencers across the world. Citing examples such as red carpet looks from the Oscars to the Grammy’s and even Hollywood films like The Great Gatsby have now become inspirations for ceremonial dressing.

Influencers play on the minds of the population and everyone wants to wear the best. People certainly follow celebrities as an icon and would want to follow how they dress. There are trends which gain tremendous popularity after a certain influencer or celebrity wears it.

Key Trends and Preferences

On a broader front, there is a remarkable shift in the men’s trends when the current is compared with past. People have started shifting from completely ethnic to western wear.

“While there are certain occasions for which they prefer only ethnic wear, for most of the occasions, people want an outfit which can be utilized more often, and hence a shift to western outfits. People are becoming bold in colour choices and styles too, which makes the journey of custom-made occasion-wear even more exciting,” said Singh.

He further said that in terms of fashion preferences and references, people are glued to latest trends and their style stewards guide them through. “People want to have the ecru selvedge denim or a peak lapel check suit or the crisp English spread collar dress shirt. Buying decisions are also based on a wardrobe solution perspective, wherein they want new looks to complement what’s in their wardrobe already,” he said.

“Men usually opt for something subtle with sharp cuts and crisp detailing. Some of the men want intricate detailing on their garments with a burst of colours. While, some would opt for a quirkier look with different cuts. However, we at SS Homme customise it for customers according to their sensibilities,” shares Gonsalves.

SS Homme is a reputed brand that specialises in sharp cuts, European silhouettes, contemporary designs and crisp detailing. It is a one-stop destination for the man who wants to look distinguished. Through their three sub categories, namely SS Homme Bespoke, they cater to customers who prefer classic looks with minimal aesthetics; SS Homme Couture provides everything from clean cut sherwanis to embroidered suits, catering to every one’s wedding needs. Every garment is handcrafted to fit the modern customers taste; SS Homme SSentric caters to the customer who isn’t afraid to experiment with printed suits and quirky silhouettes.

Over the years, apart from the festive season, men purchase their formal wear and regular wear.

“SS Homme Bespoke is what they usually opt for. The bespoke process is what differentiates the brand from others in the market,” he says. According to him, in terms of Indian wear, Achkan cuts and Angrakha’s are the current trend. However, sharp clean cuts are always in mode. Clean silhouettes with minimal details, hand embroidery, bright coloured ensembles and thread work are also what you can see in their collection ‘Mozaik’.”

Pishe also believes that the subtler or understated look is what men are looking for. And for him “Elegance” is the key word in men’s occasion wear segment. Accordingly, in their offerings in this segment, there is a lot of variety in terms of colours, cuts and designs. Similarly, their autumn/winter 2017-18 collection which is themed as ‘Infusion’ highlight colours – Green and Purple.

“Use of jackets is largely accepted when they are matched with fashionable formals. A wide range of jackets are available at all our P N Rao stores in semi-formal and fashion formal wear with different hues, cuts, colours and fits,” Pishe added.

Singh further explained that, in terms of design and trends in occasion-wear, people usually prefer peak and shawl lapels to the classic notch lapels.

“They also look for contrasting trims for the lapels from the same colour family as the base fabric, but in different textures like dobby, complex structures or different designs of jacquard (from geometric to ornamental). Furthermore, customers tend to use these contrasting trim fabrics as a base fabric for the vest as it gives the ensemble a more thoughtful and differentiated look. The silhouette of the blazers is usually preferred to be slim with a front cut as the cutaway style. This gives it a more modern approach. To make the inside of the jacket also interesting people choose printed linings, even if it’s at an upcharge,” explains Singh.

“Trousers are also preferred to be slim with the bottom hem as a shoe cut design which allows it to drape better on shoes. Colour preferences usually vary from the classic black to different shades of blues as they are always a safer bet and ideal for people who prefer not to be too noticeable or too insignificant. Pink is the most selling colour after the usual blue and white. However, some customers who are bold enough to carry more flamboyant looks go for jewel tones like lilac, burgundy, SS Homme dark green, etc.,” Singh concluded.

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