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Indian Knitwear Market: Present and the future trends

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The need for speed and the need for comfort have together made way for comfort wear. And today, satiating the comfort needs of customers, the knitwear industry in India has boarded the ship of holistic growth.

The augmenting popularity of comfort wear amongst the Indian population has been noticed both at workplaces and outside.People present, are opting for comfort while wearing t-shirts, instead of going for more of formal wear.

The Speculation

The knitwear industry in India is escalating at a rapid speed. There is an ever increasing demand for knitted apparels. Not only major brands, but numerous designers have also incorporated knits into their clothing lines. Conceivably, one of the prime benefi ts of knitwear is that it perfectly suits the Indian climate.

Describing this growth from the t-shirt perspective, Neha Shah, Head-Marketing, Pepe Jeans said, “From a macro-perspective, the t-shirt, as a category, is very important across all consumer verticals including adults and kids. It is a very versatile segment and is now emerging to be one of the fastest growing categories in India. The knit category includes knit shirts, polo shirts, knit tops, etc., that is dominated by the men and boys’ garments, contributing a huge amount to the market, while the women’s and girl’s segment is growing at a breakneck speed. Comfort characteristics, an affordability and cool design such as slogan tees and graphic print tees have helped further propel this segment as a whole in terms of growth,” she further stated.

However, the only concern is the manufacturing front where the challenges remain, especially for the export market, as competition on price is very high from other manufacturing countries. Saurabh Singh, Head of Design – Menswear, Being Human Clothing believes that there is need for technology enhancement and social compliance for the segment to prosper further.

The Growth Drivers

One of the prime factors of growth in the knitwear industry is the mounting number of organized players. Moreover, with the online marketing boom and easy availability of assorted t-shirts, the market is definitely ceaseless. Customers are smarter than before and majority of the young population is earning more than basic incomes – this is another catalyst of the industry growth.

As Vinay Mehra, Managing Director, Fifty Degree said, “In a market like India, price is a major attribute. According to a study, people choose comfort over extreme fashion. Thus, affordability at a competitive price point, comfort, style and classic designs usually do not fail a product, especially knitwear.”

Providing the best of touch and feel factors, knitted is preferred over woven. Its stretch-ability and assorted designs have attracted the entire market. The best part about knitwear is its versatility. They can be worn formally as well as casually, depending on the mood and place. They also range at varying prices, pleasing all kinds of customers. Moreover, with slogan tees becoming the ‘next thing’, this category has captured the millennial market. People today do not look at t-shirts as basic item of clothing, but something that can express their attitude towards life. From latest catch phrases to comic characters – one can have it all.

The Possible Threats

Though knitwear is an ever-evolvingsegment, yet there are certain threats as expressed by the brands and manufactures. Market analysis stated that major concern is the quality retailspaces in tier -II and -III cities. This has to some extent aff ected the sales. Another concern is the competitive market. At present, customers have thousands of choices with wide array of designs. Apart from this, the manufacturing prices and quality issues are few points that brands are focusing to put right.

On being asked about the challenges faced by the brand, Sanjay Jain, Managing Director, TT highlighted, “Stiff competition with local brands catering to smaller geographies who work on narrow margins and provide personal support are quite a concern. However, the urge to move to bigger and national brands, provides a great opportunity for brands like us.”

From Traditional Woven To Knitted Apparels

With time, lifestyle has changed and thus, fashion and preferences of people have also evolved. One of the prime reasons for this brilliant growth of the knitwear industry is the preferences of the new generation. Moreover, with the ease of wearing and comfort bestowed by this category, people have started opting for knitwear over woven, both while working and relaxing.

Expressing his thoughts on the inclination towards knitwear, Vinod Kumar Gupta, Managing Director, Dollar said, “Despite being strong in woven, the knitwear industry in India is on a double digit growth trajectory. The industry is gearing up for bigger play in the Indian apparel industry. Trade in knitwear fared better compared to woven and there is an increased demand for knitted apparels. It has witnessed strong growth in past one year.”

Elaborating more on the subject, Kuntal Raj Jain, Director, Duke said, “Styles and designs can be changed easily and faster in knitted garments, but not in woven. Also, knit fabric has good elasticity as compared to woven fabrics. The rise in awareness about new trends and upcoming fashion among consumers is prompting them to maintain their wardrobes with the latest clothing trends in the knitwear market. These garments are easy to maintain and comfortable to wear as comparison to those from the woven-market.”

The Share In Indian Apparel Industry

Karan Behal, Founder and CEO, Pretty Secrets and Bobby Arora, Director, Status Quo stated that the industry has accorded around 45 percent to the entire apparel industry.

Speaking on the contribution of knitwear industry to the overall apparel industry in India, Aditya Udani, Owner, Garcon specified that as the market is changing hugely, majority of this country’s demographic is between the age 25 to 35 years. According to him, these people are very happy being more comfortable and spending Rs 400-500 on t-shirts even if it is worn only 4-5 times.

The Global Market

Though knitwear is a booming industry in India, compared to global share, the production and consumption of knitted garments is low. Market analysis states that in India 70-75 percent of overall organized retail consists of formal wear brands, whereas globally, casual and fashion wear has a bigger share of organized retail. Moreover, the demand for knitwear is low as compared to the global market.

Some of the big players of the industry believe that India has failed to cash in on the opportunities that have come its way. There has been no significant growth in exports, while imports have gone up. Plus they also believe that the industry, at present, calls for structural changes and policy reforms in order to reach the next level. India is traditionally a woven based market. The knitted garments segment is majorly dominated by non-branded manufacturers in India.

Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland, explaining the scenario, said, “In India, the majority of regions are still traditionally dependent upon handlooms for their basic earning. People here are more comfort thirsty than being style driven, since always. Indian roots have been strong towards woven, that’s the major reason that knitted fabrics are lagging behind. Secondly, globally, man-made textiles and garments still stand high in demand. But, India is behind as there is lack of man-made fi bers at competitive prices. Low technology level is another reason for low production of knitted garments when compared to global scenario.”

Competition With Global Brands

The competition between Indian knitwear industry and the global brands is heating up evidently.

Defining the competition and the possibilities of the Indian market Bobby Arora, Director, Status Quo said, “Competition was there and will always remain, but the fact is that consumption in India is growing faster. For any brand, if they are focused on their innovations, according to market requirements with regards to styling as well as pricing, there is enough scope.”

Designer Chaitali Giri opined that any kind of positive competition is good for the Indian market. Brands need to realize the fact that international brands are choosing India as a potential market, as the demand is ever increasing. They need to understand what interests the Indian customer. It may vary from different USPs to different designs and identity. Indian brands should avoid copying; rather get inspiration from these international brands.

A point that has been noticed is the increasing prices of cotton and yarn, which is a major concern for Indian brands. Global brands are introducing comparatively cheaper pricing to draw the attention of consumers.

With intent to sustain the market, manufacturers of knitwear in India are promoting new designs periodically. Furthermore, they are adapting innovative marketing strategies to reach out to their target customers and enhance their position in the market. Models and celebrities are being employed to display the wide range of knitwear products by many organized players. Apart from this, the youth of the generation are aware of the latest trends. Therefore, many brands are trying to meet with the aspirations of these desires by introducing fresh and quirky designs, while adhering to quality of the product.

An Age Of Evolving Trends

The Indian market has witnessed tremendous expansion in the Athleisure segment and the future seems to be filled with even more possibilities. The latest trends that customers are opting have turned comfort wear segment into a thriving section. From pop colours to abstract patterns, from stretchable to quick dry fabrics, there are knits for everyone, with all tastes. This category includes cardigans, jumpers, turtlenecks and shrugs, which are made of soft knits. Furthermore, owing to its body-moulding characteristics and new creative technologies such as glossy foil prints and digital prints, there is only an upward motion for the segment.

At Jack & Jones, they believe that oversized cardigans, with light embellishments play a huge role in defining the conversion of trends. Power dressing with knits, light and comfortable joggers comprise the trend forecast for 2018.

“This will be made even bigger with the arrival of the AW’18 collections,” they assured. Sandeep Jain, Executive Director, Monte Carlo said, “Fashion has always been hotbed for innovation. It is forward looking and cyclical. Technology is transforming fashion at a faster pace than ever. Tech fabrics are the latest innovation like cool max, or performance fabrics engineered for a wide variety of uses where performance, not style of the fabric, is the major parameter.”

Additionally, RK Jain, Managing Director, Bonjour said, “The fashion industry has seen enormous growth in the last few years, whereas the knitwear segment has a small occupancy in the fashion industry. The apparel industry in India has overtaken China in exporting garments to the US. Knitwear often witnesses a high demand in the region, where the climate is often cold as the main fiber used in knitting is wool and cotton, which provides warmth.”

Innovations In Knitwear

Talking on current innovations happening in knitwear, Saurabh Singh, Head of Design – Menswear, Being Human Clothing said, “The biggest innovations that are happening currently are in the recycled, ecofriendly fabrics, as more and more global brands are adopting them. From being a niche, few years ago, they are now going big on a mass scale and their percentage in the overall market is only going to grow with each passing year.”

Knitwear, today, is more appealing and attractive compared to before. They have new-age creative technologies such as digital prints. Benefit of technology is the rapid production of garments, with maximum accuracy owing to improved machinery. With the introduction of tailored Athleisure, knitwear has become a sophisticated addition to the existing trend. The category sees rapid growth as it is the perfect mix of casual and formals. For menswear, washes are the key at the moment. Jacquard is another fabric that is gaining popularity. Special and fancier yarns are being introduced to make the actual product look very premium as compared to before. For ladies, indigos, washed knits and linen blends are fast-growing.

Body-mapped and seamless knitted technologies are another focus. There are fabrics in development that are embedding graphic patterns through a sophisticated seamless jacquard weave construction. Thanks to a blend of performance and natural fi bers, features such as odour resistance and temperature regulation can be found in advanced knitted fabrics today.

Discussing about the latest innovations in knitwear, Sanjay Vakharia, Director & COO, Spykar said, “Seamless knitting and seamless fi nishing technology are two of the major innovations in the knitwear world. eliminating the cutting and sewing processes, complete garment knitting provides a variety of advantages in knitting production, such as savings in cost and time, higher productivity, quick response production and more. The industry’s knitting machine manufacturers have centered on increased energy efficiency and waste reduction, moving more towards sustainability”.

“The knitted technology is also been incorporated in footwear with the emerging era knitted shoes. Many major sportswear brands now have an exclusive knitted footwear range. Knitted footwear technology is poised to enhance sustainability and walk ability alike,” he added.

Fabrics Of Comfort

The prime fabrics used in the knitwear industry are blends like cotton-spandex, cotton-lyocell, etc. Manufacturers also focus on 100 percent combed cotton allowing comfort and trend. The Indian youth aspire for a distinct look and this has forced the retailers to explore various dimensions of product design, color selection options, etc.

Explaining the choice of fabric in knitwear, Karan Behal said, “In terms of comfort, modal and viscose fabric is the most sought after fabric. It feels super soft on the skin and is made using re-purposed cellulose from beech trees. It has a high value in terms of the product and is excellent for loungewear and sleepwear. When it comes to trendiness, knits with lurex fibres (in the form of stripes or sparsely distributed) is being sought after. It also adds a touch of glamour in your everyday knits.”

The preference for cotton Lycra jersey is really high, as it is comfortable and lycra makes it look more lustrous and rich. Viscose rayon is quite popular in women’s wear sector for its good drape qualities, whereas, nylon spandex is a popular quality for active wear.

Emerging Categories In Knitted Apparels

Fashion trends are ever evolving and different customers prefer different styles. Apart from t-shirts and poloshirts, Being Human Clothing is bringing forth lot of options in track pants, track shorts, hoodies and vests. They have also introduced a line of knitted shirts, since last few years and are attracting the market with its designs and patterns. On the other hand, at Fifty Degrees, they believe that sportswear and regular casuals could soon emerge as category killers.

Another category – athleisure – is a highly demanding kind. Both teenagers and adults are opting for this category, as they desire both comfort and style. This category has wonderfully blurred the lines between functional and causal, comfortable clothing. The true beauty of this trend is that it combines both the practical aspect as well as wearability. More than a trend, athleisure marks the change in lifestyle, moving towards health consciousness, with relaxed and comfortable outfits. Pepe Jeans has incorporated technology to make athleisure last all day. They have introduced this category in menswearand are hoping to extend it to women’s wear in the coming seasons.

Neha Shah elaborated, “The collection sees a host of colours from the basic blacks, whites, greys, navy’s to brighter shades of reds, blues and greens. The range consists of sweat pants, t-shirts and sleeveless tees. Features/technology that have been integrated in theathleisure category includes Dry Fits Poly, a micro fiber engineered to wick away sweat from the body; it moves thesweat from beneath the surface of the fabric bringing it to the top for quick evaporation. The fabric is stretchable and allows the skin to breathe. Anti-microbial finish treatment – a long lasting formula designed to penetrate each fibre of the fabric. This helps in odour reduction, making it suitable to wear all day long”.

“Another segment is non-denims, which is a key category in the menswear and kids (boys) range. What makes this fabric unique ithat it is 100 percent cotton and also hasstretch properties, which gives a casual trouser look. Highly preferred by our customers, these are made for both seasons – autumn-winter and spring-summer,” she added.

Modernization Of Knitted Bottom Wear

A trend that enables one to move freely and look good is defi nitely a trend that is sure to stay and bottom wear is the apparel where everyone seeks stylish comfort. For bottom wear there are lot of compact fabrics with structures, double faced interlocks, which are being used to make smart knitted pants and are good way to infuse athleisure style into smart and formal wear. Beyond that, new innovations in bottom wears includes cycling shorts, boxer shorts, track pants, lounge pants, etc.

Established players like Jack & Jones stated that in bottom apparels, textured drapes, billowy styled knitwear will be central pieces in the category. The nature of knitwear will keep the look simple yet powerful and make a bold statement. They believe that the bolder the silhouette, the more impactful the overall effect.

Sanjay Jain, Managing Director, TT said, “Leggings have become a major range in the bottom wear knits segment for ladies owing to standardization of size and availability in multiple colors. Also loungers are fast picking up as sought after bottom wear for the youth.”

Therefore, the apparel market is about to experience a huge change in the bottom wear segment in knitwear. Women customers are looking for attractive fluorescent colors pallazos, pants and skirts with tops. For formal wear, people are opting for shades of grey, beige and brown, as they give a more elegant outlook.

Impending Prospects

The knitwear industry in India is poised for a promising future bolstered by strong domestic consumption. With disposable income on the rise, the retail sector in knitwear category is experiencing a rapid growth and is sure to create a distinctive impact in the global apparel market.

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