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What Women Want: Western wear that’s trendy, yet comfortable

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India is home to nearly 1.2 billion people, of which 48.5 percent are women. Out of this, 48.1 percent live in urban areas. A large chunk of this comprises of working women, who have a sizeable disposal income which they tend to spend on clothes that match their corporate image.

The growing purchasing power and the need for western clothes for both work and play has led to a massive demand in the Indian women’s western wear segment, with the segment itself transforming into a youthful, chic and classy choice of clothes for contemporary women. Aside from the ever-present dress, the segment has broadened its spectrum to include shirts, skirts, trousers and blazers in sub-segments like formal, semi-formal, smart casual, business casual and business formal.

This high potential market is gaining ground in India due to factors like rapid globalisation, increased brand awareness and surge in fashion consciousness among women consumers, aside from heightened demand from confident and independent working women.

According to Apeksha Patel, CEO, Deal Jeans, the women’s western wear market has evolved beyond the regular top and bottoms.From predominantly sarees to salwar kameez to conservative western wear to fast fashion, Indian fashion has undergone significant transformations through the decades. The market for women’s western wear in India has probably become extremely lucrative in terms of variety and scope,” she states.

Manjula Tiwari, CEO, Cover Story supports this saying, “The business has definitely moved beyond a pair of trousers and a shirt. Millennial women are very adaptable to change and love experimenting anything that is fresh. They are smart consumers and fashion conscious. While ethnic wear and Indo-western wear segments are still leading the charge of this growth, one can see a growing increase in the demand for western wear by women that follow global trends.”

According to Akhil Jain, Executive Director, Madame, the women’s western wear category has always added to the Indian apparel market.

“The women’s western wear is broadly made up of casual western wear and formal western wear. The casual western wear without fail has been ruling the stores but now with increase in the number of working women, the formal western wear is taking a hike. Now, women like to go for smart western wear,” he states.

Market Size

As per McKinsey’s FashionScope report, the Indian apparel sector will be worth US $59.3 billion by 2022, making it the sixth biggest market on the planet, equivalent to the United Kingdom’s (US $65 billion) and Germany’s (US $63.1 billion).

“Women’s wear contributes almost 42 percent to the overall apparel market and the women’s apparel market is projected to reach over `2.9 trillion in Indian in 2028. As compared to previous statistics, the market for apparel in India grew at a CAGR of 13.8 percent,”s tates Patel.

“The branded women’s apparel is set to grow to 6X in the next decade from the current level,” adds Tiwari. “The western wear market has been growing at 17 percent in the last few years. While men’s wear dominates the Indian market in terms of sales at 42 percent, women’s wear is not far behind at 37 percent and is set to grow even more over the next decade.”

The women’s wear segment has seen the entry of multiple players in the recent decade propelled by demand side drivers of several shifts in consumer behaviour and an increased number of working women.

Indian Players v/s Global Leaders

A growing fashion consciousness among Indian women has turned thewestern wear segment into a lucrative and highly evolving market.

“Going by the market insights and opportunity, global brands find it extremely promising to be present in the Indian market, while the Indian players have leveled up their game to keep up with their international counterparts. Better fashion forecasting and more intense research on fabrics, which people prefer to wear, will further help Indian players survive,” says Jain.

“Today fashion trends change within the blink of an eye and to cope up has been a concern for brands, mostly because the time required in designing and production is longer in comparison with the pace of the changes. However, brands are now making the effort to understand international trends and make them available in the Indian market within a short span of time,” explains Patel.

“Indian brands have a great mix of things to offer such as designs, colours and fits. Our London-based design team brings in a new collection every week. We curate designs keeping in mind the Indian body type and preferences while maintaining the global trends,” adds Tiwari.

The penetration of internet in Tier I, II, III, IV and beyond along with the influence of celebrities and social media has given rise to an increasing appetite for international trends. Brands – both domestic and international – are focusing on providing excellent quality at competitive prices to attract discerning customers, whether through physical stores or online.

“The demand is such that many homegrown brands are only operating through the online space to retail their products,” explains Tiwari. “The e-commerce platform has provided an easy and less time-consuming option in today’s busy times. The increasing number of working women, with less time to shop has found an easy mode of purchasing. The online market is one of the major reasons in the growth of this category in semi-urban and rural markets.”

Current Trends: Fast Fashion v/s Sustainability

Women today want comfort clothing and minimal designs. Current trends are simple, clear with fl owing fabrics, bold stripes and prints.Women now go for comfort clothing and minimal designs. Western wear is no longer restricted in metropolitan regionsonly, the Indian women consumers are now well versed with global fashion and aspire to wear a very similar look in Tier I, II and III cities.

“With the rise in the number of working women in India, there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for smart clothing like trousers, formal shirts, blouses and skirts,” says Tiwari.

“Globally, a lot of innovation in fashion is taking place especially in the fabrics that are being used. Hence forth, efforts should be made to use recycle/up-cycle or eco-friendly fabrics to reduce any negative impact of the environment. There is an effort from brands to innovate in materials and processes so as to create a balance between consumption and preservation.”

Patel also believes that fashion is no longer seen as just about trends and innovative design, it is a means to encourage dialogue on sustainable choices. The low-priced, quickly produced and designed for obsolescence, fast fashion encourages consumer detachment from issues of sustainability.

She says, “Sustainability often means environmentally conscious clothes. Every brand is contributing with unique processes, i.e., slow fashion cycles, opting for natural fibers and dyes, and committing to recyclable styles.”

The sustainable fashion market in India has seen a significant growth in the recent past. A lot of brands are switching to manufacturing eco-friendly clothes which do not cause harm to the environment. Brands like Madame are working on a minimum waste policy and eco-friendly fashion products in women’s wear. Madame is all set to launch its eco-friendly collection in stores with fabrics like hemp, linen, bamboo and ramie.

“Opportunities ahead are blooming as contribution of brands are extensively increasing. Shoppers increasingly prioritise convenience over-conservation, creating more practical and economically sustainable solutions for these dilemmas. With the rise of the sale and rental fashion market, there are signs that 2019 marks a turning point in the way that sustainable fashion makes way in stores and wardrobe,” concludes Patel.

(with inputs from Gurbir Singh Gulati)

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