India is a vivid land of occasions, especially in contemporary secular times, when even regional occasions and festivals enjoy pan India popularity. Hardly a calendar month goes by without at least one day dedicated to some occasion. For the fashion industry, these times spell a fortune for they act as powerful stimulants for fashion consumption in India.
Consumer behavior and spending patterns are shifting as incomes rise and Indian society evolves. People are spending on new clothes for all sorts of occasions – birthdays, parties, business events, weddings and festivals. If it’s an occasion, Indians need something new to wear.
“People as individuals have started celebrating life every day. It’s not limited to the defined festivals. The lifestyle includes travel as another crucial aspect, and people have become fashion conscious. It is true that they have started shopping throughout, but the response during festivals always takes the lead,” says Suvarna Kale, Head of Design, Blackberrys.
And as occasions transcend borders and traditions, a generational transformation has been ushered into the fashion market in India — the average Indian’s wardrobe is shifting from need-based clothing to occasion specific dressing along.
With the boom in retail in the last few decades, urban India has embraced consumerism and the occasions for consumption has grown manifold. In the recent past, the growing awareness of global fashion trends has been fueled by the proliferating penetration of the internet and the fashion and lifestyle media. Higher disposable income, nuclear family set up and being fashion conscious have further brought immense change in the spending pattern of modern customers.
“Unprecedented growth of retail, coupled with an increase in disposable incomes has largely fueled consumption in India. The growing middle class has a larger wallet today, and is open to spending it in a different manner, spread across newer occasions and contemporary needs. The industry in turn supports such consumption levels and customer needs by tailoring its offerings to specific occasions,” says Kumar Saurabh, Chief Business Officer, Manyavar and Mohey.
“Other than the weddings and festive season, people shop for occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, housed warming parties, new year eve, holidays, every year students who are (20-25 year old) shop for their graduation day. People also shop for gifting purposes as it is one of the easiest items to pick up and can be exchanged,” says Shachi Singhania, Brand Manager, Turtle.
Various brands and retailers have ensured that there is plenty of choice available for the consumer across various categories, which was not the case traditionally. Most brands have extended the product offering to capture a higher wallet share, making it easier for the consumer to find a product suitable for a specific occasion.
Traditionally, the occasion wear market in India was catered by either the unorganised players or the high-end designers. But, today, this segment has emerged to be an attractive market for the middle class as well. “Today, all consumers are target customers for occasion wear. The rise in the popularity of social media as well exposure to international trends and self-image has meant that it is not only the affluent consumers who are going in for occasion wear but also the young middle class, armed with higher disposable income, which is fuelling the demand in this category,” says Vinay M Chatlani, Director and CEO, Soch.
Industry sentinels have also noted that it is the young demographic, with a greater proclivity towards ‘looking and feeling good’, who are amongst the core drivers of this phenomenon. “In my experience consumers between the ages of 18 to 35 make up a considerable number of occasion wear shoppers. This is a relatively young demographic whose members strive to look their best and often compete amongst one another in this respect,” says Surya Suri, Founder, Steele Collection.
Traditionally, although metro cities have always contributed more towards occasion specific sales, with the flow of information and easy access to wide range of brands, non-metro towns have emerged as parallel contributors of this market as well. “The consumers of Tier II & III cities are increasingly following the latest trends and wants to be in sync in as far as fashion goes of their counterparts in metros and Tier I cities. And with availability of proper infrastructure of malls and high streets, it has now become easier to gain foothold in these markets,” says Pratikh Rajpuria, Director, Manish Creations.
Every occasion/festival calls for its own style and product categories. Under the men’s wear segment, sherwanis, jodhpuris, bandhgalas reign as the top demanded apparels in the ethnic wear segment. While party shirts dominate the western wear segment – generally reserved for formal occasions – suits, mandarins, tuxedos, zoot suits, shirt coordinates, etc., enjoy a healthy demand.
Under the women’s segment sarees, lehengas, suits, western wear, fusion wear, party gowns and dresses, gym wear, yoga clothes and travel wear are some of the popular segments in occasion wear.
“Kurtas and kurta jackets find maximum focus during small occasions and festivals. For grooms wear, Manyavar sherwanis are an evergreen choice. The Indo-western category is also finding its own loyalists amongst consumers who love to experiment and mix and match. For example, a sleeveless jacket paired with a shirt enhances the entire ensemble. Amongst women, lehengas are the go-to category. At Mohey, we channelize our expertise with handwork and combine it with the latest trends to craft our lehenga ranges,” says Kumar Saurabh.
Currently, a number of major players are attempting to redefine this category, and the teeming opportunities has lured in many premium brands to enter the occasion wear segment by enhancing their existing product offering to cater to this market. In the years to come, the occasion wear market is expected to transform into a more detail-oriented and fashion conscious segment along with the rising aspirations of the Indian consumer.