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Reebok bets big on knitwear


The increasing trend of casual and sportswear along with the modern consumers’ growing interest in exercise, outdoor activities and fitness has provided a major thrust to the knitwear industry in India. Silvia Tallon, Senior Marketing Director – India, of sportswear major Reebok talks to BoF about the increasing share of knitwear in sportswear.

Reebok bets big on knitwear
Reebok is a pioneer of the fitness industry in India

Reebok is a pioneer of the fitness industry in India. The brand boasts a rich storied heritage and connects with the fitness enthusiasts wherever they are and however they choose to stay fit – whether it’s training, running, walking, dance, yoga or aerobics. Championing its ‘Fitness is Life’ philosophy and representing ‘Tough Fitness’, Reebok defines strength, fearlessness and will power. Through its innovative product range, strong assets, robust marketing plans and smart associations the brand has
successfully connected with consumers and have strengthened Reebok’s position as a leading fitness brand. The brand is present pan-India with over 172 stores in 85 cities

Walk us through the success and the milestones that the brand has achieved as of yet.

The most defining campaign of the brand has been the ‘FitToFight’ initiative. Launched in 2016, ‘FitToFight’ celebrates the struggles, dreams, and triumphs of unsung real life ‘women heroes’ who have overcome physical, mental and social barriers. The brand’s strong connect with women helped develop this campaign and endorse their empowerment. The initiative introduced actor and powerhouse Kangana Ranaut and witnessed countless powerful and motivating ‘FitToFight’ stories from women across the country, including Paralympian Deepa Malik and Bollywood stunt woman Geeta Tandon. Concluding this endeavour, these brave hearts were awarded at the first ‘FitToFight’ awards hosted by Reebok.

The overwhelming response gave us the impetus to build the ‘FitToFight’ platform further with the GirlsDontFight campaign in 2017. With the prevalent socio-cultural context, our aim was to create a compelling narrative that challenged gender perceptions with a fight against prevalent societal evils – eve teasing and inequality in pay. We also reiterated how physical fitness translates into strength of the mind too.

Reebok has been awarded over 30 industry awards for ‘FitToFight’ campaign in 2017 across several categories. Recently, Reebok released a film on this women’s day by the name ‘Bruises Can Be Good’, it was a digitally lead campaign that encouraged people to sign petitions online to make self-defence classes necessary for female students in school. Reebok won a gold and a bronze for this film at the reputed CLIO awards.

Tell us about your current product portfolio. Which are your core top selling lines?

Reebok has a dynamic range in its Spring Summer 18 collection with a mix of bold and graphic prints across categories. Catering to the consumer choices, our Spring Summer’18 collection is a fun and edgy take on workout apparel. Ideal for all shapes and sizes, the range celebrates bold prints, neon colours meshed with technology that enhances movement and comfort with style. 2018 has been big on running with launch of our flagship running shoe Flexweave and Floatride. Both these shoes boast the latest in tech for Reebok and have been fast movers at our stores. ActivChill is our fabric technology designed with a texture that allows breathability and ensures a sweat and fuss free workout! While fitness is our priority, Reebok is also going bold in its
athleisure wear with classic silhouettes and style. Our Classic range boasts of some of some recent high end, fashionable launches such as the Workout Plus and Club C Leather that redefine the casual look of the wearer.

What are the new additions you will be making soon to your collections?

We recently launched a brand new upper technology with Flexweave and a new bottom with Floatride. You’ll soon see latest tech from Reebok coming from Liquid factory. 3D printed shoe is also something that you’ll see soon from us.

Tell us about your current retail network. Which are the markets that you are strong in? What is your presence online?

With the FitHub store expansion, we have a strong foothold in the North with wide presence in the Punjab and Maharashtra market making the latest premium fi tness gear available to growing fitness communities in cities. While our predominant focus has been the metro cities, we are gradually penetrating smaller markets with product launches planned in FY 18.

We are also scaling up our business and are heavily focusing on e-commerce. While we have our own channel for e-retail – Shop4Reebok, strategic tie-ups with leading e-commerce players such as Flipkart, Jabong and Myntra that are further accelerating our growth. We are looking at interesting additional associations and partnerships that will help Reebok attain and sustain market leadership. The brand will have varied off erings across all categories in 2018.

What are your retail expansion plans for the next 2-3 years?

We are planning to open more EBOs across India while focusing on non-winter markets like south and west India.

What are the Omnichannel initiatives your brand has initiated? Kindly tell us about the progress and results they have brought?

We launched the Shop4Reebok website in December 2014 and the platform to serve as a one-stop destination for all fitness requirements ranging from Running, Training and Walking to Studio activities such as Dance, Yoga and Aerobics. Shop4Reebok also offers consumers free shipping on purchases with fast and free returns for a hassle-free and smooth shopping experience.

Tell us about the causes/ issues your brand endorses or special marketing alliances with celebrity endorsers/ movies, etc.

Reebok has a fleet of ambassadors globally and are well complimented by some of the top names in India. With Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, and Malaika Arora, we are talking to the Fitgen in the athleisure space.

Textiles industry is a key industry in India. How do you feel is it growing?

The future for the Indian textile industry looks promising, encouraged by both strong domestic consumption as well as export demand. With consumerism and disposable income on the rise, the knitwear sector has experienced a rapid growth in the past decade with the entry of several retail chains like GAP, Zara and H&M among others in the Indian market. With higher disposable income, we see a demand for products creating a huge domestic market. The domestic market for apparel and lifestyle products, currently estimated at US $85 billion, is expected to reach US $160 billion by 2025.

According to you, what are the major growth drivers in the knitted wear segment?

A surge in the fashion consciousness of today’s consumers has spiked growth in the knitwear segment with a growing urban and cosmopolitan culture, the market has seen a huge infl uence of Western trends on fashion in India. We see a splash of varied prints, colours and styles dominating the otherwise conventional knitwear segment with many brands catering to the Gen Z’s savvy choices in fashion.

Traditionally, India is a woven-based market, is the market changing for knitted apparel?

The Indian apparel industry has been seeing rapid changes specific to consumer needs and preferences. While traditional weave is an intrinsic part of the apparel segment, knitted garments are seeing an increase in demand owing to changing styles. Knitted apparel brings together a range of colours and design that are great in comfort and style.

With global brands coming in, what is the competition like especially in the knitwear wear segment? How are Indian players coping and scoring?

The Indian knitwear market is a budding one, the caveats to this are geographical in nature, since the knit material works best in dry and relatively cool regions. Indian companies are focusing on expanding this materials market in the north regions with a greater push during the winter season. Global corporations are also entering the Indian market, which is increasing the competition in the retail sectors. One means being used by Indian corporations to mitigate this is by collaborating with these international brands to provide knit solutions with an Indian twist.

Please elaborate on the current trends in knitwear segment.

With our rapidly evolving and fast paced lives, fashion has seen a major transformation. People need clothes that are versatile and easily adaptable from night to day. In comes Knitwear, with its body hugging and sculpting properties this new fabric has taken the world by storm. Emerging as a new caveat in high street fashion with the hottest actors and actresses dipping into this region of comfort meets sexy. This is a trend we can expect to see stay for a long time!

What are the innovations that are currently happening in knitwear?

21st century fashion is all about comfortable yet sexy. The best tech in this field creates pieces that provide support in all the right places while amplifying and toning the body. All of this comes wrapped in a comfortable, breathable material that you can work out, take naps and chill in.

Which fabrics are the most sought after for knitwear considering the comfort and trendy-ness?

Diff erent varieties of fabrics use different kinds of natural fibers. The kind of fabric depends upon the degrees of built-in stretch, if they unravel or get wrinkly or a tendency to shrink. The different kinds of fabrics include jersey, double knit and sweater knits.

Apart from t-shirts and tops, what are the new emerging categories in knitted apparels?

Knitwear is currently expanding into outerwear — jackets, shrugs, caps, gloves, etc.. The focus is to reinvent colloquial pieces that have been relatively static with respect to the material they’re made of and add a knit twist to them, elevating them to the next level.

What are the new emerging innovations in bottom wear in the knit segment?

Some new innovations being made are: Incorporating seamless technology into the production of knit pieces. This, along with working on polymer integrations into the knit fabric to help make the material more sweat wicking in nature and hence more adaptable to humid and hot regions are some of the most anticipated innovations in this field.