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Women’s Denim Segment: Market trends, growth drivers and innovations

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India is the fifth largest destination in the global retail space, making the Indian apparel industry the second largest contributor in the retail industry, and according to industry statistics, denim is the single largest leading segment in the fashion industry.

Somewhere in the mid-90s, the apparel industry in India began to get more organised. During this time there was a radical shift in fashion and men and women both became more experimental with their choices. The shift from formal wear to the more casual denim was gradual but firm. Growing awareness among the educated, working class and an increasing affinity for global fashion were the chief factors which led to this change over. As the popularity of denim among the younger population, the fabric became a symbol of modern culture.

Today, denim is considered one of the most versatile fabrics, with multiple applications over casual wear, work wear and everyday wear, and the Indian denim fashion industry is at an exciting place with huge growth opportunities ahead.

While the men’s denim category enjoys the largest share of the retail pie and is poised to grow at a high CAGR of 14 percent over the next decade, the women’s denim category is not far behind, with the segment expected to grow the fastest at the CAGR of 14.5 percent over the next 10 years to reach Rs 39,651 crore by 2021, and Rs 77,999 crore by 2026.

Akhil Jain, Executive Director, Madame, says that while women’s denim started in India as a fashion trend, but now is considered a daily essential. Women across different age brackets and spanning all shapes and sizes prefer denim over other fabrics owing mostly to the fact that it is comfortable, functional and durable. The fabric is also gaining popularity in the women’s athleisure category owing to the comfort provided by stretch denims.

Sameer Patel, Founder and Chairman, Deal Jeans, says that women – especially and those who come from traditional backgrounds in smaller towns – have taken to wearing jeans by pairing them with ethnic Indian kurtis. “This mix-n-match style is likely to further fuel the growth of the women’s denim wear segment.”

He further states that western lifestyle and western fashion has accelerated the trend of casual dressing across the globe. “This trend has boosted the consumption of casual fashion apparel like denims, dress shirts, tees, casual shirts among both men and women consumers in all the developing countries including India,” adds Patel.

Another reason for the growth of the category is the strong and technically sound production foundation that has evolved through the export base of garment manufacturers. Also, the design sensibility of Indian brands is at par with international brands and the ability to produce well-designed denims at affordable prices, the strength and forte of Indian brands.

These brands are exploiting the available opportunity and positioning themselves in the middle of the consumption pyramid spanning across metros, Tier I, II & even Tier III towns to gain scale – something that premium brands continue to struggle with in India.

The Indian Denim Market

Denim has always been one of the leading segments in the apparel industry. Factors like young population demographics, rising disposable incomes, high spending power, booming Internet retail and the growing influence of Western trends in the country is fueling the growth of this segment.

Currently the denim market of India is worth Rs 30,000 crore and in the current scenario is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15 percent by 2023 amounting to approximately Rs 54,000 crore, where the men’s denim contribute 84 percent to the denim market and the remaining 10 percent and 6 percent contribution come from the women’s and kids denim wear market.

According to Sameer Patel, the value share of denim market is skewed in favour of mega metros and metros which account for almost half of the total denim market share at 49 percent.

“Though the markets of other urban areas and rural India contribute high in volume, their combined share in market value is only 51 percent. As the penetration of denim category and the awareness of denim quality increases in the cities and rural India, their share in market value will start increasing with more number of consumers willing to pay premium for the quality, design and fit,” he says, adding, “the Indian market is believed to be one with lot of untapped potential for women’s denim segment.”

Akhil Jain agrees saying that the sale of denim in smaller cities is still a big challenge for brands in India, where as the sale of denim is much higher in metropolitan cities. He adds that India is price sensitive and consumers are always looking for quality and quantity at the cheapest rates.

“Most good denim brands are expensive which is an issue and creating a specialty brand in women’s denim is difficult. One way to deal with that is to introduce jeans for different occasions – casual, formal, occasion-based.”

Denim Trends

Blue denims have been a wardrobe staple and a fashion essential for decades. The denim market in India is on a roll due to ever-evolving fashion trends and urbanisation. For majority of Indian youth, denim is not just casual wear but a fashion statement as well.

In India, global denim wear brands Only and Vero Moda offer a wide range of denim essentials across various product categories thus catering to different requirements of women including which are staple for women to the ones that are trendy and in vogue.

Since their launch in India, Only and Vero Moda – a part of Bestseller– have become synonymous with contemporary fashion and designs, which young women across the world desire. The brands off er a range of fits, textures and washes when it comes to jeans, so that their consumers have an ideal option to choose from for various occasions–right from casual wear to work wear.

“In India today, women are moving toward experimenting with new styles and trends. Denim being an essential piece of clothing in women’s wardrobe, they look at stocking up styles that are new and add the freshness to their personality. Only being a leading European brand in the market, we look at adding new styles every season off the global street style for easy access to the consumer in India. The flared and boot cut denim are the best example of the global styles which was well received in the Indian market,” says the spokesperson of Only. “Be it work wear to casual wear, Only ticks the box for every women looking for different styles. Today Indian consumer is well travelled and is aware of international trends. The acceptance of denim at the workplace has definitely led to denim becoming a quintessential item in every woman’s wardrobe. Tier-II cities are aspirational in nature and consumers there like to add the trends that are popular in urban metros to their wardrobes.”

Apart from classic jeans and popular skinny fits, a lot of women today are experimenting with different styles and cuts. Various washes right from deep indigo, to acid washes, to stone wash jeans are high on trend. This season, Only has added a few new styles to their collection which can be worn for both work and casual events.

A key trend in Vero Moda’s upcoming Autumn-Winter 2019 Collection of casual denim wear is the indigo story.
This collection is inspired by Japanese trends like Indigo washes and patch prints like Japanese crane motifs and serpent skins. Right from Schiffl is (machine made lace) and embroideries to different washes and textures, the brand includes all denim essentials to kick start the season.

“Denim is a classic fabric. While jeans have always been a staple denim wear product, other product categories like denim jackets are more seasonal in nature. Product categories like shirts, dresses and skirts are trend inspired categories,” says the spokesperson of Vero Moda

“In recent times fashionable fits such as boot cut, flared and slim-fit jeans are stocking out soon along with basic light and distressed washes are complimenting fits. Essentially the fabric nowadays preferred is light weight and comfortable wear considering the much flustering lifestyle and weather conditions. Hence fabric is which is sweat repellent and comfortable for long hours is most searched for. One of recent trends such as crop length flare jeans has taken a turn to every wardrobe,” states Sameer Patel.

Again, Indian brands aren’t at par with their global counterparts, but domestic brands are surely getting closer. While a lot of people in India do wear denim, most people think jeans when they think denim. “I feel Indian players should start making some more styles of denim wear – like jackets, skirts etc.,” states Akhil Jain

The Future

Despite the lack of styles, Jain feels that there is immense scope of growth in this category if efforts and styles are improved. Patel too says that the denim wear market in India is expected to witness very impressive growth over the next decade. With India’s booming economy, expanding consumption, urban population and growing middle class income, denim wear has a huge opportunity to grow.

“Millennial today are inclined towards and opt to purchase branded denim. Denim has become a wardrobe staple and consumers are purchasing denim products not only across the classic jeans category but also experimenting with other denim product categories like jackets, shirts, skirts, etc. This category shows great potential and we at Only continue to explore new markets in Tier II and III cities,” the spokesperson of Only concludes.

(With inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)

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