Home Fashion Brands keep formal ethnic wear relevant in India

Brands keep formal ethnic wear relevant in India


Everyone is a global citizen today thanks to a world without borders – at least on the world wide web that is! Globalisation is often synonymous with westernisation, so when it comes to the way people want to be seen dressed, western wear by default is the most sort after – either because of its easy availability or owing to the aspiration value it holds for most in non-western countries. In times like these, it is interesting to know where Indian wear stands and what the action plan is in place by brands in this category keep Indian wear relevant.

A walk into any department store/MBO reconfirms the prevalence of an impressive section dedicated to western wear and in fact within the Indian/ethnic wear section too, one can notice how brands are gearing up to off er their customers cuts and silhouettes that are a fusion of Indian and western wear.

The advent of leggings led to the popularity of mix-and-match where Indian women decided to ditch the salwar suit ensemble and started filling in their wardrobes with a host of colourful leggings that they could mix-and-match with different kurtis. Thus, was born the concept of fusion wear. This didn’t mean that the three-piece salwar suit vanished from their preference list, but it had a strong competitor now which paved way for more and more women experimenting with western wear.

Keeping all of this is mind, would be it be right to state that Indian wear is losing its relevance? The players in this category strongly disagree.


Karan Berry, Creative Director, Karleo shares, “Indian wear will never take a setback and women will still want to have 70 percent of Indian wear in their closet and 30 percent to be a mix of other pieces. What is important in all of this is to keep reviving it. We as designers make sure to keep on applying different techniques and materials to the Indian silhouettes, working more one the artworks and the elements than the silhouettes.”

Vinay Chatlani, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Soch adds, “Despite the popularity of western and fusion wear, ethnic wear (salwar suits and sarees) still remains biggest category in women’s wear segment in India. Much of this is attributed to the rise of women workforce in the country. We see this segment as continuously rising in the future.”

He adds, “Though there has been a rise in demand in the formal western wear segment, especially in Tier I cities, formal ethnic wear still remains the go to option for most women in the country. The Indian market is largely dominated by the women’s ethnic wear segment.”


Within the Indian wear category, what has kept the category alive besides its unbeatable place during festivities is the mix-n-match concept. Also, the fact that brands in this category are going all out with design innovation to match the expectation of a patron who is aspiring to fill in her wardrobe with more of western wear is allowing Indian wear to remain relevant.

Aarti Ahuja, Head – Marketing, TCNS Clothing says, “The consumers demand pattern in the past few years has undergone a drastic change and TCNS focuses on understanding the changing fashion requirements of the woman. We try to stay ahead of the curve keeping Indian wear relevant for women in India. Season on season, we come up with new concepts while adapting global trends making Indian wear more relatable to our ever-changing never-changing modern women. Gypsuit, Kaleidokurta and Yolo dresses are some of the key concepts that were well accepted by our consumers.”

Elaborating further on the design dynamics that keep Indian wear relevant, Chatlani states, “While a large segment of the market looks at traditional silhouettes for formal wear like sarees and suits, the younger audience is looking towards fusions styles and new-age silhouettes.

The advent of mix-and-match has completely changed the ethnic wear market. Customers pair their kurtas with knit chudis which are comfortable and trendy. Many young consumers also mix-and-match with jeggings, dhoti pants, harem pants, etc. Due to this, ethnic wear is finding greater acceptance with more and more consumers.”

Highlighting another interesting point Chatlani adds, “Brands are also constantly evolving. From being a pure ethnic player in the initial days, Soch has today transformed into a stylish designer brand that retails fusion products such as tunics, palazzos, fusion suits and stoles, apart from traditional staples such as salwar kameez, kurtis and sarees, at affordable prices.” ‘

Designer Vandana Malhotra points out towards the contribution of designers in keeping the category relevant and aspiring to. According to her, a lot many designers have successfully experimented with Indian wear giving it a rather western look and feel that makes it easy for women to wear at work.

“Indian wear, because of its versatility, can be mixed and matched to look chic and ethnic and at the same time and not look out of place when worn for a formal occasion or as office wear or simply for a casual evening out. One can pair a kurtis with denims and a pair of sneakers, one can wear palazzos with short tops and even a simple dupatta can be draped to give it a lot of a saree. The options are endless now,” she says.

Berry adds, “Over the past few years Indian wear has seen a rapid increase in its overall presence with regards to design. The use of traditional concepts in the modern age has made it more versatile for it to be used. There’s been a tremendous transformation in the kinds of fabrics being used besides the traditional ones. This has made Indian wear design more edgy and dynamic in approach.”

Malhotra’s pick is a straight line kurti which she thinks would never go out of fashion and would always be an important component in keeping Indian wear relevant, “A straight line kurti with a self-print or a lightly embroidered kurta in pastel hue is going to remain evergreen as these can be worn to work and can be confi dently carried for a function during the day as well when paired with a palazzo and some fl oral embroidered juttis.”

Ameet Panchal, Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ethnicity interestingly points out on the contribution of Bollywood in making Indian wear desirable, saying, “Indian wear has broken the stereotype of being occasion wear and has now become a staple in women’s wardrobes for work-wear owing to the varied styles and fits readily available in the market these days. Ease and comfort mixed with complementing silhouettes and designs make it an easy choice.

Not only that, mainstream films and movies also see celebrities rocking Indian wear in everyday life making it easier for women these days to take style inspiration from that source and implement it in their looks.”

“Indian wear has undergone a huge transformation today due to its increased demand that is constantly peaking. Ethno-fusion dresses and gowns have been one of the most liberating style statements for the Indian woman. Colours have become more earthy and muted, silhouettes more relaxed and high quality of fabrics have become sacrosanct. ‘Sustainable Fashion’ is the new buzzword as women become more ‘aware’,” he further states.


A few years ago, one would have thought that sarees would probably become extinct, but off late it isn’t uncommon to spot young women in sarees wearing them confidently at and after work as well.

Malhotra reasons this out saying, “Sarees can never go off because designers have started making fusions with sarees, semi draped sarees, ruffled sarees and lots of design innovation in blouses too!”

Chatlani adds, “Sarees have gained momentum amongst with several young consumers opting for it and also experimenting in terms Indo-western looks.”

“The whole six yards can never lose its charm. It is the epitome to the Indian design community. The saree has seen such a transitional growth and has gained international recognition as well. Designs textures, prints have been evolving over the years make it even more desirable,” says Berry.

Accentuating the prominence a saree occupies in a woman’s wardrobe, Panchal shares, “A flawlessly draped saree is what a well-cut suit is to a man. It can be worked with in multiple ways, can be worn in the traditional style or be tweaked to look more edgy. It’s the one garment that is flattering for all body types. The charm of the saree has also been kept alive with the legacy associated with it. Women even today, care for their sarees and consider it as family heirlooms to be passed down from one generation to the next. A lot of our important customs and rituals involve wearing sarees, which also makes you wonder if it might even be sacred! I could go on and on, but cutting the long story short, the saree is evergreen and classic, and its charm remains intact, regardless of times passing.”


An excerpt from a blog on the website of Ethnicity for an Instagram campaign aptly sums up the efforts being put up by the brand – and more like them – as custodians of Indian wear, thus helping keep the category relevant.

It reads, ‘The way people dress represents a huge part of their identity and culture. However, along the years, borders have disappeared, and barriers have reduced, tradition and ethnicity are no longer the same. Some aspects are coming across the country symbolising a sense of unity while some aspects are individual to every person on the planet. Ethnicity is diverse and very unique in its own way. We wanted to drive individuals to discover their ethnicity by going back to their roots.’

On a concluding note, Chatlani states, “While the options for women are endless today, each segment has its appeal and customer base. The ethnic wear market holds the largest share and we believe this trend will continue in the future. The trends going forward include a revival of traditional techniques in printing and embroidery – consumers are looking to reconnect with their roots. There is also a large emphasis on style with comfort, and brands that are able to give their consumers this balance will win share of wallet.”