Women’s ethnic wear has always been the prima donna of the women’s wear segment, sitting smugly in its invincible hold over Indian women. However, hard western wear might be trying to make inroads into the women’s fashion, Indians have always been, and will be traditionalists at heart. Ethnic wear will always cut across all geographical and age boundaries but now the Indian women’s wardrobe is more unified with a wider range of clothes.
Ethnic wear’s USP is its ‘Uniqueness’
India’s fashion legacy lies in its vibrant colors, exotic embellishments and exquisite handmade designs and handprint techniques. Rajasthani prints, Kashmiri work, Kutch work and mirror work, batik prints and traditional forms of artistry are all used to add the wow factor and an extra zing. These style mixes are a representation of the uniqueness of different states of India and the primary reason why ethnic wear continues to hold its own over the growing popularity of western casuals.
“With the modernization of lifestyle and changing preferences, ethnic wear like salwar kameez have evolved from their truly traditional form to more of revamped avatar with different cuts and drapes. Keeping this trend in mind, BIBA has changed its designs over the years and recently launched a modernized version of sari kurta, gowns and casual wear,’’ explains Siddharath Bindra, Managing Director of Biba.
Unorganized players continue to rule
Ethnic wear market is largely ruled by unorganized players across India. Each region has strong players but at the same time few brands have managed to build a strong presence across India on the basis of ethnic wear alone. And, the entry of big brands has infused new life into this segment. This coupled with the sharp rise of women in the workforce along with disposable incomes, has led to heightened demand of both ethnic and fusion wear in the workspace. Primarily western and fusion wear has impacted ethnic wear as it has helped create a new language of ethnic wear which is less bound by rules, and worn as per a person’s needs and desires.
“With increasing move in this segment from unbranded to the branded segment and its resurgence as a garment of choice I see this segment only growing from strength to strength. We are among the top five ethnic wear players in the country, and our aim is to delight more and more customers and be among the top three in the next couple of years,’’ observes Manohar Chatlani, Managing Director of Soch. He believes a large chunk of consumption in the ethnic wear market will be driven by the movement from unbranded to branded and that there’s enough scope for different brands, retailers and designers to thrive,” he adds.
Challenges facing ethnic wear segment
Although India’s fashion industry is rapidly growing and gaining world recognition, there is a lot of scope for improvement. For consumers, product quality and affordability are of great importance along with the brand name. Making the consumers shift from the unorganized sector and other brands to organized sector and outlets is a challenge. The bigger brands are now relying on high-quality products with good finishes to build consumer trust.
“A constant challenge that ethnic wear segments go through is the increase in western wear in the market. People are more attracted to western clothing than towards ethnic. To overcome this challenge, we continuously try to come up with wide varieties of beautiful and designer ethnic collections that blend feminine cuts and shades in a perfectly graceful and trendy manner,” points out Sanjeev Aggarwal, CEO of Rangriti. The market is overcrowded with local and regional brands of the same category confusing the customer. Having different brands to choose from, with unique styles and themes, can get a little troublesome for customers.
The growth in women’s ethnic wear market has been precise and steady. Change in lifestyle, increase in fashion awareness has lead to significant growth in ethnic wear category. As per a Technopak study, India’s ethnic wear industry is currently pegged at over Rs 82,200 crore and is expected to rise to Rs 1,26,210 crore by 2019.
Premium segment extremely competitive
There is no competition from global brands in this segment, however there are other challenges. “In the past five years of Modi government, a lot has changed in the Indian market. Especially with GST coming in, we all have witnessed the retail market being affected. In the premium segment, everyone wants a piece of the cake that’s already too small. Everyone is facing a shortfall in sales in all segments. Earlier demand was so high, that no one had time to see into other's business. But now it’s survival of the fittest. Buyer’s capacity has decreased, so now one can only survive with having a unique product that’s a true value for money,’’ opines Siddhaarth Oberoi, MD, Sanskriti, a leading ethnic wear manufacturer.
Ethnic wear manufacturers thrive during festival and marriage season as the buying power and enthusiasm is at an all time high. Bigger brands built relationships with customers spanning generations in the event of an upcoming wedding or festival where the whole family visits the showrooms and makes apparel purchases for each person after consultation with a sales advisor. Fashion shows by designers in malls as well as fashion shows, above-the-line as well as below-the-line activities to increase brand recall as well as increased focus on E commerce are some of the ways in which ethnic wear manufacturers try to stay afloat in this competitive market.