India is home to approximately 135 crore people, making it one of the largest and most profitable markets for fashion labels. This vibrant market has space for all sorts of brands and categories. Global brands like H&M and Zara have doubled their sales by stepping foot into the Indian market. However, winning over customers in this diverse land is hard to achieve and requires a tactful strategy that would be better implemented than just simply showing up. Indians are truly global nomads who love to localize international trends. They’re proud of their heritage and love celebrating it by never letting go of the cultural dress codes of their country. It is said that people develop emotional connections with a brand when the offerings respect the country’s culture in one way or the other.
Where ethnic wear was initially restricted to the older segments, it has now found huge acceptance amongst the younger consumers, owing to traditional fashion labels adopting a contemporary approach. Women in India have made space for ethnic Kutras, Salwars, heavier Anarkalis, Ghagras, Patiala suits, and various others, in their wardrobe, making brands capture this opportunity and focus on fusion product offerings.
Ethnic wear makes up 70% of the Indian wardrobe with prices that account for almost double the amount spent on western wear. The pieces are vital for all social outings from college events to work to even social get-togethers and gatherings, making it one of the constantly fast-paced and profitable segments in the market. Indian brands like Biba, W, Manyavar, Label Varsha, cater completely to authentic Indian ethnic wear, becoming the most active players in the field.
International brands are now entering India with a tailored approach to this market by adding ethnic wear to their merchandise. Uniqlo opened its first store in New Delhi by selling a special collection based on kurtas, tunic-shirts, ethnic dresses, pants, and stoles. Before this, Hermès released a limited-edition sari in India. In addition to this, Giorgio Armani launched an exclusive Indian capsule collection of Achkan jackets for their Autumn/Winter collection of 2019. Apart from this, a few international labels like Jimmy Choo carried a large assortment of low heels and open sandals, accompanied with gold and silver accentuated shoes and clutch to match festive attires in India.
Even though the youth of India may look towards the West for the trends they follow, individuals from the West sure look to Indian brands with wondrous adoration for their traditional items of clothing. Fast Fashion comes into play here, where mass producers may be able to take on variations of bulk orders for consumers, however, the authenticity is a factor that will be in question. With increasing numbers of Fast Fashion brands trying to venture into the ‘desi’ style, the fact stands that many youngsters will stray towards the more ‘hip’ lines and collections they have to offer.
However, homegrown brands like Label Varsha, tend to stick to their guns. They believe in excelling at what they do best, chic Indian ethnic wear. Several such homegrown brands are moving towards the virtual space to keep their sales in check, keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation and business depletion. “The exchange of cultures, the globalization of trends, is something that does not bother us. It is something we look forward to because every day we tend to explore more and learn something new. Indian ethnic wear has reached mounting growth with regards to trends being followed all over the world, and I am positive that homegrown labels will have an exceedingly bright future in these markets, as long as we respect social justices and ecological balances.’’, the Spearhead of Label Varsha, Yashraj Bhaiya. (www.labelvarsha.com).
So, the question arises, are International brands taking over Indian ones? The answer is no, from the list of the international brands that are working in the ethnic stream, most of them have to collaborate with Indian brands to get the authentic flavor out. The understanding of the craft and feel of the art is better with Indian origin brands. The exclusivity that Indian brands offer is something that consumers want to explore. The conclusion we arrive upon is that ethnic wear has a huge market within our Desi labels, who have an upper hand in understanding the Indian sentiments and preferences much better than the International brands.