With the end of the 20th century came the end of all hype which has created a more practical and pragmatic environment and has given a more stable picture of the fashion business.
In the 50s, 60s and 70s, the Indian fashion scenario wasn’t exactly colorless. It was exciting, stylish and very graceful. There were no designers, models, star or fashion design labels that the country could show off. The value of a garment was judged by its style and fabric and not by who made it.
It was regarded as ever so chic and fashionable to approach any unfamiliar tailor, who could make a garment for a few rupees, providing the perfect fit, finish and style. The high society lady, who wore it, was proud for getting a good bargain and for giving her name to the end result.
In 60s, tight ‘kurtas’, ‘churidars’ and high coiffures were a trend among ladies. It was an era full of naughtiness and celebration in arts and music and cinema, manifested by liberation from restriction and acceptance of new types of materials such as plastic film and coated polyester fabric.
The 70s witnessed an increase in the export of traditional materials outside the country as well as within. Hence, international fashion arrived in India much before the MTV culture with the bold colors, flower prints and bell-bottoms. Synthetics turned trendy and the disco culture affected the fashion scenario.
It was in the early 80s when the first fashion store ‘Ravissant’ opened in Mumbai. At that time garments were retailed for a four-figure price tag. The ’80s was the era of self consciousness and American designers like Calvin Klein became popular. In India too, silhouettes became more masculine and the ‘salwar kameez’ was designed with shoulder pads.
With the evolution of designer stores in Mumbai, the elegant fashion design culture was a trend among Indians along with their heavy price tags. No doubt that a garment with a heavy price tag was at the bottom stage of fashion. But clients immediately transformed into the high fashion fold where they were convinced that that the word ‘elegant fashion design culture’ means, it had to have a higher price tag.
Garments were sold at unbelievable prices only because the designers had decided to get themselves noticed by making showy outfits and getting associated with the right shows, celebrities and events.
Later, fashion shows shifted to competitive events each attempting to out-do the other in theme, guest list and media coverage. For any newcomer, the fashion business was the number one professional art that time.
In the 90’s, the last decade of the millennium, a move towards the drastic pairing down returned with ethnic wears (Today, ethnic wear market in India is accounted to Rs. 9000 crore). This led to the decline and the recession, the push to sell at any cost and keep staying in the limelight. With heavy cut throat competition and sound awareness of the client, the inevitable occurred. The price tags, which had once reached at a peak, began their downside journey.
At those times the downturn was not only being experienced in the price tags of the garments, but also in the business of fashion shows. More models, choreographers, make-up men, hairstylists and designers streamed down into their business.
The fun and party time in the Indian fashion scenario had not ended with this, but continued. It was a point, where it reached at a certain steady level and from there, in the beginning of the 21st centaury, with new designers and models and some sensible designing; the fashion hype accelerated its speed.
Indian fashion industry spreads its wings globally
For the global fashion industry, India is a very big exporter of fabrics and accessories. All over the world, Indian ethnic designs and materials are considered as a significant facet for the fashion houses and garment manufacturers. In fabrics, while sourcing for fashion wear, India also plays a vital role as one of the biggest players in the international fashion arena.
India’s strengths not only depend on its tradition, but also on its raw materials. World over, India is the third largest producer of cotton, the second largest producer of silk and the fifth largest producer of man-made fibres.
In the international market, the Indian garment and fabric industries have many fundamental aspects that are compliant, in terms of cost effectiveness to produce, raw material, quick adjustment for selling, and a wide ranges of preference in the designs in the garments like with sequin, beadwork, aari or chikkon embroidery etc, as well as cheaper skilled work force. India provides these fashion garments to the international fashion houses at competitive prices with shorter lead time and an effective monopoly in designs which covers elaborated hand embroidery – accepted world over.
India has always been considered as a default source in the embroidered garment segment, but the changes of rupee against dollar has further decreased the prices, thereby attracting buyers. So the international fashion houses walk away with customized stuff, and in the end crafted works are sold at very cheap rates.
As far as the market of fabrics is concerned, the ranges available in India can attract as well as confuse the buyer. A basic judgmental expectation in the choosing of fabrics is the present trend in the international market. Much of the production tasks take place in parts of the small town of Chapa in the Eastern state of Bihar, a name one would have never even heard of. Here fabric making is a family industry, the ranges and quality of raw silks churned out here belie the crude production methods and equipment used- tussars, matka silks, phaswas, you name it and they can design it. Surat in Gujarat, is the supplier of an amazing set of jacquards, moss crepes and georgette sheers – all fabrics utilized to make dazzling silhouettes demanded world over. Another Indian fabric design that has been specially designed for the fashion history is the “Madras check” originally utilized for the universal “Lungi” a simple lower body wrap worn in Southern India, this product has now traversed its way on to bandannas, blouses, home furnishings and almost any thing one can think of.
Recently many designers have started using traditional Indian fabrics, designs and cuts to enhance their fashion collections. Ethnic Indian designs with batik cravat, tie-and-dye or vegetable block print is ‘in’ not just in India but all across the world.
In India, folk embroidery is always associated with women. It is a way of their self expression, and they make designs that depict their native culture, their religion and their desires. Women embroider clothes for their personal use, and the people linked with the pastoral profession prepare embroidered animal decorations, decorative covers for horns and foreheads and the Rabaris of Kutch in Gujarat do some of the finest embroidery. Embroidered pieces are made during the festivals and marriages, which are appliqué work called ‘Dharaniya’. One of the significant styles of Saurashtra is ‘Heer’ embroidery, which has bold geometric designs, woven on silks. The Mutwa women of the Banni area of Kutch have a fascinating embroidery where they make fine embroidery works with designed motifs and mirrors in the size of pinheads, the Gracia jats use geometric designs on the yoke of long dresses. Moreover, the finest of quilts with appliqué work are also made in Kutch.
Garments embellishment with bead work is another area where it in demand in the international market. Beads are used to prepare garlands and other accessory items like belts and bags and these patterns now available for haute couture evening wear too.
According to a survey, in recent times Indian women have given up their traditional sari for western wears like t-shirts and shorts, as they feel more comfortable in skirts and trousers instead of saris and salwar kameez. It’s been noted that women spend just $165 million on trousers and skirts against 1.74 billion dollars spent by men on trousers. With more women coming out to work, the (combined) branded trouser and skirts market has been increasing at a whopping 27 per cent in sales terms. Women feel that Western clothing is more suitable, particularly when working or using public transportation. Many corporate offices are also in favor of their employees wearing Western wear.
In India, Western inspiration is increasing due to the influence of TV and films. Besides, shopping malls selling branded clothes have also mushroomed in India and are fascinating the youngsters. Recently, designer wear is being promoted through store chains such as Shopper’s Stop, Pantaloons, Westside, etc. Companies such as Raymond and TCNS have also set up their exclusive stores for designer wear such as Be: and W.
The market of India fashion industry
Recently, a report stated that the Indian fashion industry can increase from its net worth of Rs 200 crore to Rs 1,000 crore in the next five to ten years. Currently, the worldwide designer wear market is amounted at $35 billion, with a 9 per cent growth rate, with the Indian fashion industry creating hardly 0.1 per cent of the international industry’s net worth.
According to approximations, the total apparel market in India is calculated to be about Rs 20,000 crore. The branded apparel market’s size is nearly one fourth of this or Rs 5,000 crore. Designer wear, in turn, covers nearly about 0.2 per cent of the branded apparel market.
At present, the largest sales turnover within the designer wear segment is about Rs25 crore, with other well-known names having less turnovers of Rs10-15 crore. In view of the prospects of the Indian fashion industry for growth, the figures are not very hopeful.
The figure of fashion industry
o The organized market for designer apparel is about Rs 250 crore
o Designer wear calculates to less than 1 per cent of the apparel market
o The global market for designer wear is 5 per cent of total apparel market
o The global market for designer wear industry is largely dependent on the small-scale sector
o Consumers for designer wear have a yearly household income of Rs 10 lakh-plus. There are 3 lakh such households developing at 40-45 per cent
o Designer wear industry is projected to increase to Rs 1,000 crore by 2015.
o More than 81 per cent of the population below 45 years of the age is fashion conscious.
Many fashion designers and management experts foresee an average growth of about 10-12 per cent for the Indian fashion industry in the coming years. Though, the growth rate could be more than 15 per cent, if infrastructural and other logistical bottlenecks and drawbacks are over come.
India needs more effort to overcome
However, despite the benefits available in India there are also some disadvantages. India is not a remarkable player in the global market with reference to brands because of its inability to add value to products. This is observed by the fact that nearly 50 per cent of its exports are apparel and made-ups where value addition is essential. Likewise, 75 per cent of domestic apparel market is commoditized and unbranded and very few Indian brands do survive in the foreign markets. Evidently, the Indian market has not made a strong stand and hence it is difficult to make Indian brands that can compete with global brands in India.
Another reason for the fashion industry’s inadequate growth is the limited experience of the designers and the platform they are offered. The insignificance stalks from the reality that most of the young talent is hired by the bigger names to work in their studios, thus imprinting their work with the label of the big designers.
Though performing individual presentation is not an alternative choice for most of the young talent, because of the limitation of finance, a beginner designer’s name fails to come to the forefront.
Another thing, with regards to the ramp, is what the designers offer is barely appropriate to be worn ordinarily. You’ll see there’s dissimilarity between what is there on the ramp and what the Page Three crowd wears. Some believe at present the fashion is in, but the tendency hasn’t changed much as it is the old ones coming back. We have had short kurtas, long kurtas, flowing skirts, etc. coming back into fashion with only a new variety of designs.
Many management consultants and professionals believe that the Indian fashion industry will be boosted if the new comers are paid proper attention. What they require is more support so that their work gets due recognition. According to the consultants and professionals there should be a panel of people who choose designers for showcasing according to their work and not their name or who they’ve worked for earlier, and hence selection would be purely based on quality. Besides this, the panel of judges should comprise of people from the fashion schools rather than designers.
It has been observed that the media-hype around the big designers and blatant commercialism has hindered business in the Indian fashion industry. No clear cut picture is provided about the feasibility of the products. Basically it is only the famous names that are being talked of. What they offer is not quite daily-wear. The entire focal point of the industry is on commercialism. The discussion is only regarding how much is sold and for what price and nothing about the designs or styles.
Efforts to develop global fashion brands
It needs innovative designers, a seamless supply chain, control over retail and distribution and concentration of quality while dealing with some image. While a few have accomplished something in the west covering Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Zara, Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, etc, India has not been capable to track on.
A serious reason for India not being successful has been its isolation in the fashion system. Each stakeholder including designers, exporters, textile players and retail chains need to come together along with the government to make sure that the position of Indian fashion is strong in the coming years.
There are various agencies and industry associations that can support in brand-building practice. Many of these agencies require attractive resources and making a global image of Indian fashion rather than independently trying to promote particular brands or textile segments.
Efforts to create strong global image
Large textiles players require more and more to target on the market facing activities while developing an association with small medium enterprise (SME) clusters. Such kind of networks would be a benefit to that which can focus on demand making and branding as well as for clusters that can focus on quality production.
Efforts to create value networks
After the entry of large retail chains like Wal-Mart, Gap etc in India, Small scale manufacturers in India will find it very difficult to satisfy the demands of these international buyers if they continue to promote their products individually. Therefore, it is very important that value networks are created between large textile and apparel companies in India and small scale manufacturers, so that the marketing muscle of the leading players can be utilized for receiving large orders while the bigger players then assign the orders to the small-medium enterprises according to their past record of quality and service. For this to be put into practice, it will be vital to well-organize the information on small-medium enterprise clusters in a perfect manner so that supplier selection decisions are made according to the information in the long run, only the more efficient small-medium enterprise players survive and develop.
Efforts to concentrate on designers and designs
Designers have a fundamental role to play in the future of Indian fashion scenario. There should hence be an effective process for preparing these designers. This can be done by sponsoring exchange programs with international schools, increasing participations in the fashion capitals of the world, motivating and offering business incubation to new designers and rewarding efforts through proper design awards.
Even in India, well-known designers are incapable to tap finances from well-organized resources, since a vital part of their assets are brands and design talent which are not measured in terms of money and hence it becomes difficult to judge the value. This has severely inhibited their development and capability to raise retail existence across the country and abroad. Likewise, there is no systematic approach of existence in the fashion capitals of the world like Paris, Milan and New York. Due to this, designers have to depend on their personal contacts and relationships for organizing fashion shows and making retail alliances. The French government as well as the British government helps designers of their particular countries appreciably in these areas as they understand that value creation through design is the only way to carry on in the competitive landscape of the global fashion industry. The Indian government and related agencies should also accept this aspect of textile, apparel and fashion industry sincerely if they need to see India on the global fashion map.
Work in collaboration: designers-corporate efforts
Designers and many organizations can work globally through various models and with many working relationships. The Indian fashion industry has many views but only one such model, wherein a designer creates a retail venture with his/her own brand through organized retail chains. There are many other models according to brand ownership and division of operational activities.
Globally, many models of collaboration between designers and corporates are available. For example Ralph Lauren has made an agreement with Jones Apparel for producing and retailing various Polo brands. Likewise, Armani had an agreement with Zegna for production, even while it was competing with them in the marketplace. There are many cases of designer brands being co-owned by the designers and corporates, Gucci-Alexander McQueen and Gucci-Stella McCartney being some of them.
In the end, many designer businesses have been obtained by corporates where designers play a major role in the design elements of the business, but the brand and the organization is owned completely by the corporate.
The current possession of Calvin Klein by Philips Van Heusen and earlier holdings of Hugo Boss and Valentino by Marzotto are some related examples in this segment. These examples strongly point out that not only designers find such relationships important for development, but also corporates find these attractive for rising their profitability and growth. Likewise deals in India could go a long way in developing the brand values of corporates and designers.