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Men’s bottom wear market coming out on top

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When it comes to bottom wear for men, it’s usually a tug of war between trousers and the good ol’ pair of jeans. Where jeans as a category has always been witnessing a substantial growth owing to the ‘casual’ tag attached to it, the trouser category too has had its fair share of increased patronage. Credit for this goes to the category expansion which includes khakis and chinos that can be worn both casually and formally. Does it then look like trousers will convince men to retire their jeans for good? Here’s a quick look at the market trends and demand for trousers in India.

Citing the emergence of ready to wear trousers and its growing acceptance, Sangeet Kishore, Brand Head – Blackberrys Casuale says, “A few years ago, the trouser market was dominated by local tailors; given the diversity in height and girth, Indian men opted for custom stitched trousers primarily for their fit and, needless to say, their price and wearablity. But today, however, there has been a marked shift in trends as younger consumers seeks alternatives for trials and dull, tailored looks which are better in quality and save a lot of time and capital involved.”

Kishore attributes the growth to the hard work put in by the “smart and organised players”, stating, “They have played an important role in converting consumers from preferring tailor-made to readymade trousers by giving a plethora of options in terms of fits and colors.”

Citing numbers to accentuate the size and growth of the category, Kishore states, “Today, menswear is the biggest segment within the apparel market and is estimated to increase at a CAGR of 9 percent to reach US$ 39.6 billion by 2023.The trousers market in India is growing annually at around 30–35 percent; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8 percent, from Rs 23,290 crore in 2013 to Rs 50,730 crore in 2023. India’s domestic apparel market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 percent.”

On the market dynamics of casual trousers in India, Akash Manwani, Assistant Vice President, D’Cot by Donear aptly explains, “The casual trousers market in India has witnessed many fashion trends and fashion fads in fabric, style and design. Trends have shifted cyclically back and forth over time from regular fit to baggy fit, skinny fit, pleated trousers, chinos, corduroys, flat front trousers with no turn-ups etc. Also in tandem with the global trend of casualisation, the Indian apparel market is also expected to witness higher growth in casual wear compared to formal wear. Consequently casual trousers have started demonstrating higher growth rates compared to formal trousers.”

He points out to a shift being witnessed in the Indian casual trouser market which is now seeing many changes like washed effects having an increased demand.

Highlighting another interesting trend, Pragati Srivastava, General Manager & Brand Head, Parx, says, “The market has witnessed demand for trousers in non-traditional colors like red, green, yellow etc. Khaki will remain an essential part of the trouser color way, But the ratio of the same will not be growing drastically rather following a steady fl ow for the upcoming seasons.”

Accentuating comfort being a major factor in men’s casual trouser market, Praveen Mutha, Managing Director, Bafna Clothing Company Pvt. Ltd. says, “Men are now also open to exploring different colours and styles, as compared to a few years back.” He bets big on khakis since according to him, khakis are an evergreen product and they never go out of style. “They may see a wider audience this year, but much depends on external influences.”

Trending Trousers

While Bollywood superstar Ranveer Singh may make it seem like multi-colour silk trousers are the in-thing, the reality is that men want to stick to basic colours and fits while picking up their pair of trousers – formal or casual – although they are opening their wardrobes to a larger number of chinos and khakis.

Kishore says clean-cut cotton trousers for work wear are the in-thing today. “People at work do not mind sporting chinos. Jeans are yet not accepted but chinos enjoy a huge fan base. Both chinos and smart casuals, are showing significant growth. However, the cotton trousers led by chinos have shown a higher degree of growth.”

Talking about the trending trousers at Blackberrys, he adds, “Khakis are one of our highest selling products.”

Manwani highlights the growing trends of utilitarian trousers stating that they are a big hit in the international market owing to the fact that they are a perfect amalgamation of fashion and function, resulting in utility-based trousers with multiple pockets, secret seams and many more special features.

“Currently, the ‘Relaxed or Wide Leg’ trouser style is trending across the globe, because the ‘baggy’ or ‘capacious’ look is totally ‘in’. Pinstripes and plaids are the popular ones in terms of prints. In India, along with the ‘Relaxed or Wide Leg’ and ‘Utilitarian’ trouser, the current trends also include – ‘Multiple Pleats’ because the vintage look is back in fashion, Printed Trousers (florals, chevron etc.) and Athleisure trousers,” he says.

Samresh Das, Design Manager, Numero Uno is quick to state that, “Though chinos, cargos and cropped trousers are doing well, the category which is catching up is the Performance Trouser category with features that include flexibility, anti-odour, anti-creasing, anti-stain etc. Chinos and cargos are the most favorite and hot selling due to their versatility and timelessness. They have always been there no matter which fad comes and goes.”

According to Kishore, in the international market, trousers that come with features like wrinkle-free, durable press and flexible waistbands are doing well. “In India the current trends and styles of casual trousers in the Indian market include baggy fit trousers for a casual look, skinny fit for a sharp look, pleated trousers, khaki trousers/chinos, corduroy trousers, striped trousers, check trousers, twill chinos, trousers with mid-rise and slim fits and trimmed trousers.”

Manwani adds, “Flat front is the most selling style while 5 pockets casual trousers are gaining momentum as they are available at attractive price points and also offer a denim feel with the comfort of a trouser. Consumers who want the look of denim and still want to try other product, for them the 5 pocket casual trouser fills that gap.”

According to him, in terms of fit, the ‘loose fit’ look will continue throughout for most of the year until winter where the ‘straight fit’ will then witness a rise in demand. In terms of fabric, he shares, “Sustainable threads, tie-dye fabrics, pastel colours along with innovations like moisture-absorbent fabrics, bio-fabrics, textiles made out of food items like recyclable coffee, vegetables etc. shall be trending.”

According to Das, over dyed trousers, micro printed trousers, linen and linen blends, regular light weight twill and heavy twill trousers are doing well internationally, he adds, “In India twills and dobby structures are doing great. Micro printed trousers are also doing well along with fashion colored trousers which are a craze in the Indian market.” He further points out the growing spread of athleisure seeping in the trouser category, “It is something which is engulfing every category in fashion. So we would see lots of hybrid styling in terms of fabric innovation and silhouette as well. The look is a mix of sports-casual fusion.”

Srivastava shares her take on the trends stating, “Though finishes like wrinkle-free treatment, durable press, water resistance, water repellence, etc., have been in the market for a long time, there has been continuous improvement in all these finishes over time. At the same time the market has witnessed the introduction of new finishes like breathability with superior moisture management characteristics and exceptionally good comfort properties. Trousers with flexible waistbands have also started gaining commercial traction.

The Denim Desire Story

The denim story is here to stay and there can be no two thoughts about it. No matter how wide the bottom wear category grows, the charm of position on denims can never be undermined.

Explaining the reason for the size of the denim market which overrides the other categories in bottom wear, Manwani shares, “It is important to understand that denim comes under the casual wear market. Given its versatility, it is popular as a choice for casuals as well as formals. In terms of casual trousers and denims, the latter has a bigger market share because of several reasons which include the fact that denim is worn by men, women, girls and boys – across all age groups. It is a perfect clothing choice for everyone, unlike casual trousers. Secondly, denims have a pan region appeal where people prefer denim because of its durability, comfort and suitability in terms of occasions (since it can be worn as a western outfit or even paired with traditional ones). It is popular in urban and rural regions whereas casual trousers enjoy major market share in urban regions only. Affordability too plays an important role as denims are easier on one’s pockets as compared to casual trousers, be it in stores or on e-commerce portals. Coupled with easy accessibility, it becomes an ideal combination of factors for consumers to take into considering, before making their final purchase decisions.”

Market Segmentation

Like it stands for other categories, in trousers too there are 4 major categories – super premium, premium, mid and economy. Where the super premium and premium have a select clientele, the mid and economy segment is where the major chunk of business lays. Talking about the super premium and premium category, Kishore shares, “Consumers in these segments tend to have an association with the brand image and that is what makes them willing to pay a price for their desired quality. However mid and economy segments dominates the market.”

“The share of ready-to-stitch in these price segments is higher compared to that for shirts in the similar segments. This is because consumers consider fit to be a crucial element in trousers.” Singh further talks about a growing rise in demand for private labels stating, “The consumer is increasingly seeking value for money,” he further adds.

According to Mutha, with expanding demand for semi-casual office wear in India across various income brackets, the market is witnessing the mid segment range well.

Adding Features that Boost Demand A little more is always good. So trousers with additional features find interest amongst their target audience and industry experts unanimously agree that these help boost sales as well. Manwani shares, “When it comes to apparels, or any product as such, performance features always increase its value in the consumers’ minds. While wrinkle-free and wrinkle resistant and stain-resistant clothing are a boon for office goers, the water-repellent, sweat control and other factors are athletes’ first choice. Wrinkle free, wrinkle resistant & stain resistant contributes to 60 percent of casual trouser sales.”

Kishore explains, “Men today seek trousers that are stylishly comfortable to keep them focused and looking impeccably crisp at all occasions.”

He quickly points out to their fashion innovation from Blackberrys Casuale,the travel inspired casual wear brand called Knitalia, which he claims is India’s first 100 percent Cotton Knitted range of Khaki, shirts, trousers and apparels. Adding further, he states, “Knitalia aims to bring out the best of comfort, stretch, sweat absorbance and breathability factors to the wearer. Apart from this, Blackberrys Casuale Khaki trousers are another performance packed product, which is hugely popularly among consumers.”

The Road Ahead

Taking a peek into that the future holds for this category, Kishore highlights the growing demand from non metros and rural markets. “These markets will play a pivotal role in the growth of Casual wear market in India. Other factors including a growing middle class, rising disposable income, increasing brand awareness among the consumers in terms of quality and upgradation of service standards, rapid shift from tailored to ready-to-wear trousers, the growing service sector ensure promising future for casual wear segment,” he says, while adding that there is a dire need to understand that there is a huge scope for product innovation within the casual wear segment which can boost the category to much greater heights.

Manwani is optimistic of a strong growth being registered from the rural and Tier II, III and IV markets. According to him, these markets share drive the casual trouser wear category in India in terms of volume, while the need of quality wear clothing shall drive the value market.

“Many new brands entrants on regional or local space will play in the economy segment who would offer value for money trousers that consumers could trust for quality. The national and international brands will continue to strengthen their position in super premium, premium and mid price segments and it is interesting to see that many of them have already started their product offering to economy segment of smaller cities as well,” he says.

He also minces no words when he states that the future growth of casual trousers in Indian market shall depend on brands ability to offer innovative products at right price points and their ability to expand their reach beyond the metros and Tier I towns.

Das, meanwhile, says that that the top performing place in trouser are smaller cities where fashion aspirations are stronger and thus experimentation.

Srivastava’s forecast for the next 5 years is high on the value market. “The need of higher quality shall drive the value market. The economy segment will also witness entrance of many strong local and regional brands who would offer value for money trousers that the consumer could trust for quality. On the other side the national and international brands will continue to strengthen their position in super premium, premium and mid-price segments of the market; many of them are expected to extend their product offering to economy segment of smaller cities,” she concludes.

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