Need for comfort is slowly seeping into formal dressing as well because comfort is the most elemental form of being ergonomically sound. A recent study by Storm line, the foul weather gear producers, found 61 per cent people being surveyed had a negative perception of any company that enforced a strict dress code, and believed they would be more productive when dress code is relaxed. Along with that, there was a sense of commitment promised towards maintaining a decorum as 78 per cent respondents said even without a dress code, they’d still make an effort to dress well and would make a clear distinction between ‘work clothes’ and ‘non-work clothes’.
In short, work-wear that looks formal but provides the comfort of any casual attire promises is the need of the hour and nothing resonates with conformance and comfort as knits do. The stretch and ease they provide is what made them intrinsic to the ready-to-wear casual market and thankfully, the world of corporate clothing is now inching towards inclusion of knits in their production. Not just limited to turtlenecks and jumpers, these knit fabrics are now being used to make formal garments like shirts, pants and even suits and blazers.
Innovative companies are figuring out ways to incorporate knits in formal wear. In line with this, Arrow and USPA are ready to launch their first edition of knit shirts and pants for Autumn/Winter 2018. Abhilash Ankit, sourcing in-charge, Arrow, says the market reacts well to the comfort of knits, using them effectively in making shirts, pants, and suiting, would make office hours a little more productive. Louis Philippe became the frontrunner by launching clothes for their S/S’18 collection in India. Louis Philippe got the idea from the Polo T-shirts and easy semi-casual knit pants. Companies like these are now devoting 20-25 per cent of their production operations into making such knitted formal clothes.
Most commonly used fabrics are 100 per cent cotton 20 gauge knitted fabric, or mélange fabric for shirts, 11 Rayon T/R fabrics for blazers, suits, etc. and heavy cotton knits for pants. For summer-wear, cotton and polyester viscose pants are used. The fabrics being used for these garments have to be of higher gauge equivalent to 22 gauge to give a structure to the garment and the finesse a formal garment demands. These high-quality fabrics are thus sourced from China and imported via Bangladesh. Fabrics for formal jackets and blazers are imported from Shishi, a small city in the Fujian district in China. Ningbo in Zhejiang is the hub for fabric imported for shirts, waist coats etc., while the Shenzhen city is the destination for lighter but high-quality fabrics required for women’s wear formal clothes.
Companies are working on this non-stop to give consumers what they want. For instance, Arrow Autoflex pants feature an adjustable waist-band that can conform to the wearer’s changing waistlines throughout the day (pre- vs post-lunch, morning vs evening) to make the bottom-wear provide more ease yet have aesthetics of formal pants. Several new knitted accessories are also coming into shape like elasticated cuff-links by Arrow and silk knit ties, which have a characteristic open-weave texture that gives them a structural finish while keeping the weight on the lighter side.
Additionally, developments are happening to make shirts ‘stitch-less’, that is, bound by fusible material that is elastic in nature and further studies are happening for lining that is stretchable for the knits as well as woven shirts, providing ease in tension areas like the arm-holes to enable the professional to work with maximum mobility while performing tasks such as typing, using computers, writing, etc. These linings also add more value to the over-all quality of the garment as compared to the previously used taffeta linings.
While companies are painstakingly making efforts to offer comfort to consumers, are we as consumers and employers ready to take the plunge? These high-gauge knit fabrics being used for the work-wear attires are yet to come to the knitwear hub of India, Tirupur, which is why China is gaining popularity as the sourcing destination for the knitted ‘casual’ work-wear. This means that the MRP of these clothes would be higher than their woven counterparts, which makes these producers a little hesitant in completely expanding this sector because along with comfort, cost also needs to be borne in mind.