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Casualwear & athleisure markets in India witness massive growth spurt

The Indian casual wear market has evolved fast, emerging as one of the fastest growing segments in the Indian fashion retail market. In the last few years, the market has witnessed a massive growth spurt driven by growing income levels, changing lifestyles, increasing casualisation among professionals, emergence of start-ups and the entry of foreign players. Home-grown brands have also launched trendy casual wear products and repositioned the brand in to mirror global fashion trends.

Market Overview

Menswear is the largest segment of the casualwear market, expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.6 percent to reach a market value of Rs 3,26,869 crore (US$ 49 billion) by 2028. Women’s apparel market in 2018 was Rs 1,31,389 crore and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.3 percent to reach Rs 2,90,504 crore by 2028.

The market size for men’s denim was Rs 25,000 crore in 2018 and is estimated to grow at CAGR of 13 percent to reach Rs 77,800 crore by 2028. Meanwhile, the market size for women’s denim was Rs 2,700 crore in 2018 and is estimated to grow at CAGR of 15.5 percent to reach Rs 10,100 crore by 2028.

In the womenswear segment too, the casualwear and denim categories have experienced rapid growth in the past decade. The denim jeans category is growing at a CAGR of 26.2%, and while their popularity is highest in Tier-I and Tier-II cities, jeans are fast garnering acceptance in Tier-III cities and rural areas as well.

Additionally, Athleisure is an emerging category that is gaining acceptance for various occasions beyond just gym wear or active wear. This category encompasses apparel for gym, running, rollerblading, biking, tennis, racquetball, golf and other such sports. Most sports have particular items of clothing that support participants in performing well in that game. This category is not about playing a sport, but more about the relaxed look of a spectator. 

In athleisure, stretch fabric plays a crucial role in women’s clothing, with leggings being a prime example. Originally used as yoga pants, leggings have become a staple for young women in India. In the casual wear space, tops, both woven and knit, are experiencing high growth, particularly among working women and young girls.

Key Trends & Growth Drivers

A surge in demand for casualwear and athleisure can be attributed to factors such as the rise of international brands and favorable demographics, which have led to an increased popularity of casual attire like denim, activewear, and T-shirts in the menswear category. Aside from this, formal wear is increasingly giving way to trendier lines of clothing that includes casual apparel. Casual wear brands in India have shown potential in all segments of the market – premium, medium, lower and is going beyond the boundaries of urban markets in major metros, casual wear is picking up pace in mini metros, Tier II and III cities as well.

Casualwear & athleisure markets in India witness massive growth spurtAside from this, an increase in purchasing power of the burgeoning middle class, growing digitalisation, increased inclination towards smart casuals in Indian corporate dressing plus growing brand awareness and exposure to western fashion has led to a boom in the casualwear and athleisure segments.

According to a Technopak report, ‘while casualization has been a fashion trend for some time, athleisure transcends traditional sportswear boundaries by offering a blend of active and casual wear with a stylish appeal. It has become widely accepted as regular casual attire, providing both comfort and fashion to consumers. The growth of athleisure is not limited to metropolitan and tier-I cities but is also seen in tier-II and tier-III cities.’

The report further states that the acceptance of smart casuals in corporate settings has propelled the popularity of western wear among working professionals. Formal wear now includes smart jackets, chinos, and printed shirts, expanding beyond traditional shirts and trousers. 

Denimwear is also experiencing rapid growth, with denim jeans being accepted in both casual and formal settings. The market has witnessed the emergence of categories such as joggers and shorts for menswear. Denim jeans are in high demand among young consumers across all segments. The market for denim jeans, although largely unorganized, has seen the entry of numerous new brands. Additionally, the unorganized market caters to value seekers by offering affordable and fashionable jeans across all cities.

The Technopak report was first published in India Business of Fashion Report 2024.

Innovations in Casualwear

The steady abandonment of formal attire in favour of casual wear is reflected in the top lines of formal wear brands and shelves of retailers. The changing work culture is driving the market for smart casuals. The underlying philosophy for the acceptance of smart casuals is that being casual helps people to be more relaxed at work place promoting a culture that is not bureaucratic and hierarchical giving equal opportunity to all genders and age groups. 

Changes in consumer buying behavior have also led to the introduction of many innovative products in the Indian casualwear market. Most innovations have taken place in the denim and activewear categories, while innovations in casualwear products are primarily related to product design, colour selection options, and fiber mix. 

H&M Move concept is an innovative addition to H&M Family, which was launched in August 2022. As an activewear brand, H&M Move aims to inspire global movement in a more sustainable manner. 

“We offer a range of stylish and functional ‘movewear’ designed to empower individuals of all abilities and skill levels to move comfortably and confidently. Our products cater to various activities, from gym workouts to yoga sessions, and encourage an active lifestyle for everyone,” explains Yanira Ramirez, Country Sales Manager, H&M India.

H&M Move embraces the concept of movement for all. Instead of focusing solely on traditional sports or fitness activities, we celebrate movement in its various forms, making our active wear accessible to individuals of all abilities and backgrounds. Through our ‘Move Together’ community program, we actively engage with individuals to enjoy all the benefits of moving together. Movement is not just encouraged but celebrated. By breaking down barriers, sharing resources, and igniting collective energy, we strive to contribute to a more inclusive world,” she adds.

According to Berry Singh, COO, ace turtle, Wrangler has been leading in innovation in denims by keeping consumers needs at the centre. “With special collections being designed and catered to biker lifestyle consumers, Wrangler has launched many innovations in comfortable and casual denims like the following: 

  • Water Repellent Jeans – Repels water
  • Weather anything Jeans – keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter 
  • Rider Jeans – stylish jeans with features which help a biker ride more comfortably every day

Our focus is on making denim more than a fashion piece of clothing and support the consumer with performing better in their daily routine,” says Singh. ace turtle, his company, has exclusive long-term licensing rights for Wrangler in India.

“Wrangler’s newest upcoming collection is the LITE denim series, where we have your favorite jeans in light weight for perfect summers. It provides the same strength and durability as regular jeans. However, with more breathability and comfort for the scorching summers, crafted with special yarn, combining strength and light weight design. These jeans are comfortable and always up for an adventure,” he adds. 

Casualwear & athleisure markets in India witness massive growth spurtBrands like KAZO too have an array of casual and social wear options, spanning from floral tops, elegant shirts, cozy graphic t-shirts, comfy camisole, and chic co-ord choices to an effortless skirt, relaxed fit trousers, shapewear jeggings, and casual, yet fashionable, dresses. “From subtle summer styles to elegant embellishments and glittering sequins, each piece is designed to offer all-day comfort and effortlessly transitions from day to night,” explains Deepak Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, KAZO.

“Our latest activewear collection is designed to elevate workout experiences with high-performance fabrics and innovative designs. They include a range of breathable and moisture-wicking materials to keep people cool and comfortable during their fitness routines. We also have a lot of athleisure staples like joggers, hoodies, and sweatshirts crafted from premium fabrics for maximum comfort and style,” says Kuntal Raj Jain, Managing Director, Duke Fashions (India) Limited. 

“Aside from this, our latest casual wear collection has a variety of wardrobe essentials such as t-shirts, polo, jeans, pants, and casual shirts in contemporary cuts and on-trendy colours,” Jain adds.

Sanjeev Rao, CEO, Being Human Clothing, agrees that brands need to move with changing consumer preferences. In keeping with this thought, Being Human’s Women’s Collection – launched in October 2023 – is a fusion of high fashion and contemporary trends, expertly redefining athleisure as ‘versatile and enjoyable’. The styles showcase a lively colour palette and seamlessly merging sporty silhouettes with retro geometrics. The collection was launched by Salman Khan’s niece, Alizeh, who is also its brand ambassador. 

“Our Women’s Collection is synonymous with trendy and impactful clothing lines. It resonates deeply with the vibrant spirit of today’s youth, drawing inspiration from the dynamic Millennial and that is why Alizeh is the perfect fit for us. Alizeh embodies the spirit of the Millennial, and we’re excited to see her shine as the face of our Women’s Collection. Her presence helps us target the right audience for Being Human,” explained Rao.

The Women’s Collection – which is now in its third season – is sharper than ever before, especially since it is the product of a lot of on ground research by Being Human as well as an incorporation of in vogue fashion trends from across the globe. These styles are perfect for both indoor and outdoor wear.

Startups like Blissclub have also arrived on the casualwear and athleisure scene, the pandemic only accelerating the demand for their fitness apparel, especially their unique workout tights. Their focus is on areas like pain points, a vast size range to support heavier breasts, types of leggings and sports bras. 

They also launched Motivator Leggings, the ‘ideal combination of utilitarian athleisure gear that women can wear while exercising, participating in sports, or even don for an outing. These are composed of the incredibly soft CloudLuxe fabric, which is made up of 78% polyester and 22% spandex.

“The uniqueness of Blissclub is its diversity of products. We cover almost every size and type of body wear. One of our best innovations is our ‘ultimate’ line of tights, which has pockets and is available in all sizes. Blissclub understood the issue women face with clothes without pockets and developed tights with not one, but four pockets, which helped it become well-liked by influencers and women in general,” a Blissclub Spokesperson told IMAGES Business of Fashion in an interview. 

The brand aims to break the glass ceiling and offer a blend of comfort and style in all types of activewear all the while maintaining its own identity as a standard sportswear company. The brand hopes to become the largest women’s activewear seller in the next 5 years and open more retail outlets across the length and breadth of the country.

D2C Brands & Startups

And Blissclub that has essentially captured the elusive women’s athleisure market – easily done since women have fewer options because the brands that are already available are primarily geared towards men – is not the only homegrown which has bloomed in the space. 

D2C brands, with their digital-first approach, have been pushing the growth momentum of the Indian economy. In fact, the last few of years have been a hot bed for acquisitions, funding and the entry of global D2C enablers and platforms. D2C brands understand that making the customer’s end-to-end experience seamless is crucial to success and sector, especially in the fashion retail space, is poised to become a favourable market for retailers on the back of a large young adult consumer base, increasing disposable income and relaxed FDI norms.

Casualwear & athleisure markets in India witness massive growth spurtOne such casualwear D2C brand, Snitch, has taken the menswear segment by storm. Originally a B2B apparel manufacturing company in 2019, founder Siddharth Dungarwal completely revamped his menswear brand’s business strategy during COVID, restructuring and relaunching itself as a D2C brand. The Bengaluru-based brand gained popularity after its appearance on the TV show Shark Tank, where it managed to raise Rs 1.5 core in funding.

“When I was younger, I had a major disconnect with brands that existed in India – more traditional brands. Gen Z didn’t really resonate with brands that existed in India. For most of my friends, the obvious choices in the last decade or so were Zara and H&M, and it women had a lot more choice than men, so I decided to do something different, and thus Snitch was born,” explains Dungarwal who is Founder & CEO of the company.

Snitch began by launching a lot of new categories for men that had never existed on the Indian fashion scene – liked co-ords – and the brand’s popularity started catching on resulting in phenomenal sales. 

Other casual wear D2C brands like FabAlley are seeking to revolutionise the way urban Indian woman view western wear. 

FabAlley works towards making its supply chain more agile by in-housing key production processes, thus enabling a 30-day mind-to-market production turnaround that is comparable to global fashion leaders. 

Its parent company, High Street Essentials, was founded by Tanvi Malik and Shivani Poddar and houses another fashion brand named Indya. High Street Essentials is today a thriving online business with 500+ offline retail touchpoints.

Sustainable luxury athleisure startup, OG & Co has spent the last two years formulating clothes that are organic and natural. “When we started, it was a quest for quality sustainable clothing. A quest for finding the purest formula that could give the same or better finish compared to conventional and fast fashion products without compromising on the aesthetic sense of it,” says Founder Urshila Rao Ganji.

The brand has come far since then launching sustainable collections for both casualwear and athleisure. The clothes are made for both performance wear and conscious comfort. “We prioritize the use of sustainable fabrics that offer both performance and environmental benefits. The primary fabrics used in our collections include hemp, bamboo, beechwood and piñatex,” she adds.

Integrating Technology: Nothing Casual About It

In today’s rapidly evolving fashion landscape, the ability to swiftly and accurately discern consumer preferences is paramount. As global and local influences continuously reshape consumer tastes, the challenge for fashion brands and retailers lies not only in tracking these changes but also in adapting organizational processes to meet and anticipate these dynamic needs effectively. 

According to Sugam Asani, Chief Brand Officer, BESTSELLER India, it has become more and more difficult to please customers. “Their demands are changing, they’re moving through products faster and so retailers are left with a lot of inventory. For retailers, this leftover inventory is a huge cost, coupled with the extra discount retailers are forced to give to liquidate this inventory,” he said at India Fashion Forum 2024. 

“BESTSELLER,” he explains, follows a technology aided approach to grapple with this. “We call it the simple sandbox approach wherein we create a small capsule of say only 200 pieces for a Jack & Jones product. While this proves expensive at first, it helps to test market with the data that we collect. This helps us understand which markets work for which products. We keep multiplying the product production as it becomes more and more popular.”

Anshika Gambhir, Associate Director, Bewakoof says that her brand uses technology to understand its major audience which is either Gen Z or Millennials, and their aspirations. “We want to understand where our user stands. If you have the right data at the right time, you can provide better products, become a trendsetter, make more money and earn profits and capture more of the market share.”

According to Ishendra Agarwal, Founder, Giva, a a premium jewellery brand which was launched in 2019, “We use technology and AI in multiple elements. We use it at the time of identification of a store – where we use data providers to educate us on the catchment area like the income profile of the people living there, the brands already available there, average bill per sale generated etc. – and then correlate this data with a store in a similar catchment area to figure out whether launching a store in that particular market will do well or not. This helps us in predicting our store locations in a much more refined way.”

“We also use it to improve the experience of a customer, right. We have 100 stores and in order to provide a seamless experience across channels, we leverage a lot of technology. The data also helps us understand merchandising and bases the online catchment, we can also define product assortments for our stores,” he further explains.

Suyash Motarwar, Chief Product & Technology Officer at VIRGIO, a fashion company founded by former Myntra CEO, Amar Nagaram, adds that AI’s work for his brand starts much before the designing process and that is around trend forecasting, then goes on to the design process, production and post production and then the final leg when the product hits the market and faces the consumer. 

“A lot of work has been already done by brands in terms of personalized recommendations based on first party data. The focus is now on the first two legs – identifying trends, the colours of the season, the silhouettes that are going to work etc. – which is zeroed in on by sifting through copious amounts of sales, geography specifics and social media data,” he says, adding, “AI helps us cater to this scale of design requirement with the help of a nimble team.” He says his brand has been able to implement lot of solutions which is helping them do design iterations much faster than we could some months ago.”

Continuing the conversation on AI, Partha Sinha, Head of Design & FIT, Private Brands – Amazon, says, “AI-led tools like Stylumia provide inputs on real time trends – what’s happening now and what has the potential to be built up in future. At Amazon, we have an internal tool which throws light on customer pain points and customer challenges.” 

“These AI tools are extensively useful in solving customer problems, in that they reduce the amount of time needed to do a job which is analyzing data. Speed in sifting through data with AI helps brands and retailers in taking decisions much faster, giving them leverage above competition,” he further states.

“I am very optimistic about Metaverse, but not Metaverse in its current form. Right now it’s in a very nascent stage, but when we reach a level where customers have actual avatars that can access and try on new products at and shop at virtual stores, and we can reduce the number of physical stores that we have, that is the Metaverse I’m talking about. When Metaverse reaches this stage, then brands will only have some experiential stores,” says Rajesh Jain, MD & CEO of Lacoste India.

“I would also like to wait and watch about AI. Again, this technology is at a very nascent stage. It could be disruptive for the industry but could easily be destructive as well. We would like to use it positively – not as a tool which will intrude upon a customer’s privacy, something which is unethical. We are closely monitoring AI development and in the future, when we feel these technologies have matured enough, we would like to implement them for our brand,” he adds.

KAZO’s Deepak Aggarwal says his brand has integrated cutting-edge technologies to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences. “Our adoption of advanced software like Onebeat has revolutionized inventory management, ensuring efficient stock control. Additionally, we’ve implemented an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that unifies business processes, facilitating seamless communication across departments. Leveraging digital platforms, we ensure our diverse range of styles are readily accessible to our growing customer base, enhancing convenience and accessibility.”

“We also employ several cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to enhance our collections. We utilize CAD software for precise pattern design and development, ensuring impeccable fits and styles. Data analytics plays a crucial role in forecasting trends and customer preferences, allowing us to tailor our collections effectively. Embracing sustainable practices, we integrate eco-friendly materials and processes into our manufacturing. Additionally, our use of WFX, a collaborative platform, facilitates seamless communication, bill generation, and inventory tracking across the manufacturing process, ensuring efficiency and quality,” he adds.

Casual wear D2C brand Campus Sutra originated 8 years when the term D2C had not even been coined. 

“I am a very firm believer of the fact that to build a large fashion business, technology is the only differentiator. It is the only way to scale. We are a very data driven and technology driven company. Right from forecasting what will sell to replenishment, to manufacturing, to ops – Campus Sutra has in house technologies. All of our inventory is tied to an AI system, which does automatic replenishment and division of inventory in different places, depending on what the sell throughs are,” says Dhiraj Agarwal, Co-Founder, Campus Sutra

Duke leverages digital technologies extensively to enhance the retail experience for its customers, both online and in-store. “Through our POS systems, we ensure smooth transactions and offer convenient payment options, making the checkout process seamless and efficient. Our CRM software enables us to personalize interactions with customers, track their preferences and purchase history, and provide targeted promotions and recommendations. Additionally, we harness the power of AI tools to analyze customer data, predict trends, and optimize inventory management, ensuring that we always have the right products in stock to meet demand. These digital technologies allow us to provide a personalized and streamlined shopping experience that delights our customers,” explains Kuntal Raj Jain.

“We integrate cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to produce activewear, casual wear, and athleisure wear that excel in comfort, performance, and style. Leveraging high-density printing techniques, we create intricate and vibrant designs on our apparel, adding visual interest and personality. Our use of functional fabrics, including moisture-wicking materials and breathable fabrics, ensures optimal comfort and ventilation during physical activity. Additionally, advanced cutting and stitching techniques optimize fit and durability, providing a streamlined silhouette and reinforced structural integrity. Through these innovative technologies, we deliver garments that meet the demands of modern consumers, exceeding expectations in terms of comfort, performance, and style,” he adds.

Top 3 Technologies Incorporated by Duke

  • World-Class Fabric Processing Unit: Duke has invested in a state-of-the-art fabric processing unit that employs cutting-edge technology to enhance the luster, durability, and color fastness of our textiles. This world-class facility utilizes advanced techniques and equipment to meticulously process fabrics, ensuring they meet the highest quality standards.
  • Computerised Sewing Machines: The brand has integrated computerised sewing machines into its manufacturing process to improve stitch precision and craftsmanship. These advanced machines are equipped with sophisticated controls that enable us to adjust stitch parameters, such as stitch per inch (SPI), with precision and accuracy. By maintaining consistent stitch quality and controlling seam integrity, Duke enhances the overall quality and durability of its garments. Additionally, computerised sewing machines streamline production processes, increase efficiency, and reduce manual errors, resulting in higher productivity and cost savings.
  • High-Speed Japanese Embroidery Machines: Duke has invested in high-speed and fully computerised Japanese embroidery machines to add intricate and decorative embellishments to its products. These advanced machines offer precise control over embroidery patterns, colours, and stitching techniques, allowing us to create customised designs with exceptional detail and precision. 

“In terms of backend supply chain, we have built a very strong system. We run our stores like sweet shops wherein we consider the products to be perishable, so we want an inventory churn to happen every single day,” states Siddharth Dungarwal of Snitch.

Global brands like H&M are using AI to fan their sustainability initiatives. H&M increasingly applies predictive AI to optimise its supply chain and match production with demand. The brand uses multiple solutions for quick reactions to fashion trends, quantification, timing and allocation of products. This has led to even more relevant customer offering with a larger number of full price sales and fewer markdowns, as well as a more efficient use of resources.

ace Turtle: Blending Innovation Seamlessly with Consumer Engagement

  • As per Berry Singh, ace turtle has deployed several in-store technologies, reshaping the traditional shopping experience across its retail spaces.
  • Smart mirrors at Lee and Wrangler flagship stores dynamically identify items brought in by customers, offering real-time suggestions for an enriched fitting room encounter.
  • Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) at all our stores (Lee, Wrangler, Toys”R”Us and Dockers) ensure a cohesive view of inventory and pricing, providing customers with instant updates on discounts and promotions.
  • The Endless Aisles seamlessly bridge online and offline channels, enabling flexible ordering and pickup options.
  • The Wrangler flagship store in Indiranagar, Bengaluru showcases an augmented reality (AR) mural, captivating customers with an interactive visual experience.
  • Complementing this, Wrangler’s AR-enabled smart mirrors transcend traditional fittings, offering personalised recommendations.
  • Wrangler has also integrated QR codes into the store’s sale windows, which is a simplified way of integrating technology.

Sustainability

Indian consumers have also started displaying an inclination towards environmentally-responsible casualwear products. Following the trends in European and US markets, eco-friendly fashion products have begun registering signs of growth in the Indian fashion market, including in the casualwear and athleisure segments.

The demand for clothes made of organic cotton, plant and bio-based fibres as well as recycled materials like pet bottles, is growing in India. While many global brands with sustainable offerings have expanded their lines in India, homegrown brands working with sustainable materials too have cropped up in the recent times, with many – like Good Indian, an eco-friendly, activewear and athleisure brand – doing extremely well.

“Sustainability is not merely a buzzword for us. We want to make our activewear clothing impactful. Our collection is made with recycled polyester, which is lightweight and breathable and we use sustainable cotton to provide that extra comfort necessary during exercise. With a focus on active lifestyles, our performance wear and essential wear collections complement each other perfectly,” Rushad Wadia, Co-Founder, Good Indian, told IMAGES Business of Fashion in an interview.

The brand’s products, manufactured in Vietnam, are made of organic BCI-certified cotton and recycled polyester. Good Indian has also partnered with urban gardening brand Ugaoo to include a pouch of spinach seeds in each delivery package.

“We have received great feedback on the sports bra. The way it’s constructed gives a lot of confidence to women and it feels good on their skin is what they say. And the shorts are 100 percent recycled with material made from PET plastic bottles known as recycled polyester with a functional design,” adds Avneesh Gadgil, Co-Founder, Good Indian.

“The sportswear and essential wear market in India is growing exponentially post pandemic. As a brand, we want to cultivate an ecosystem of pushing the good on everyone. We want everyone to embrace their fitness journey with confidence and style. We are also looking forward to building a community of holistic wellness culture for individuals and the planet at large,” Gadgil further explains. 

Good Indian’s offerings include leggings, joggers, hoodies, plain t-shirts, tank tops, etc, and they are divided into performance wear and essential wear. “There is a rise in demand in cities like Pune, Mumbai, Kolkata, Indore and Bangalore and products like sports bra for women and the men’s shorts are the highest selling ones,” he maintains. 

According to a report by Research and Markets, the Indian activewear market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.2% from 2020 to 2025. In terms of market size, the Indian apparel market is expected to reach $82 billion by 2025, according to a report by Technavio. The Indian essential wear market is also growing rapidly, driven by factors such as changing consumer preferences, rising disposable income, and the increasing popularity of athleisure fashion, Gadgil observes.

“This presents a significant opportunity for our brand to capture a share of the growing activewear and essential wear markets in India. Our focus on sustainability and affordable luxury positions us well to capture market share and appeal to the growing number of consumers who are looking for stylish and sustainable clothing options,” he adds.

PUMA India Partners with Clothes Box Foundation to Launch Steppin’24 Initiative

  • PUMA India has taken a significant step towards sustainability with the introduction of Steppin’24, a collaborative effort with the Gurugram-based nonprofit Clothes Box Foundation.
  • The initiative aims to repurpose pre-loved apparel and footwear into new products for underprivileged communities, promoting recycling in fashion and advocating for a circular economy.
  • Steppin’24 encourages customers to donate gently-used clothing and footwear at select PUMA stores across the country. These items are then meticulously screened by the PUMA store team and Clothes Box Foundation.
  • While some products are directly donated to those in need, others are repurposed into accessories, blankets, and clothing before distribution.
  • “At PUMA, we recognize that our responsibility extends far beyond the realms of sportswear. We are deeply invested in initiatives that uplift communities and make tangible differences in people‘s lives. Steppin’ 24 epitomizes our ethos of ‘giving back to society’ and reflects our unwavering dedication to fostering positive change. By collaborating with Clothes Box Foundation, we strive to maximise awareness on the circular economy, create impact and contribute towards our social responsibility as a brand,” said Manisha Agarwal, Director and Head of People & Organisation and Strategic Initiatives at PUMA India.

Snitch too – despite its fast fashion tag – claims to working towards sustainable products. The brand uses corn starch poly bags, 100 % eco-friendly packing materials and continues to explore and innovate in as far as sustainability is concerned.

“The majority of our raw materials are sourced from different parts of India. We currently work with over 14 factories in Bangalore and Tirupur that are 100% exclusive to us,” says Dungarwal.

It is also one of India’s first fast fashion brands to partner with a company called Relove, wherein they allow customers to sell back products they have bought from Snitch back on Snitch’s website. Relove helps verify the condition of the products, enables the sale and ships them from the seller to the buyer. 

The brand’s reason for doing this? Simple, says Siddharth Dungarwal. “Each garment resold saves 6 times its weight in CO2. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions and this way, we reduce our carbon footprint.”

Other, more mainstream brands are also adopting sustainability. Sanjeev Rao says that Being Human Clothing is actively practicing circular ESG, recycling and upcycling. “We use plastic bottles to craft denim. We also use waste denim to create new clothes for the brand. The idea is to bring as much of our collection under the sustainability ambit as possible, and we are moving rapidly in this direction.”

He explains the brand now uses less than 1000 litres of water to produce one denim garment whereas the average amount of water used to produce a pair of jeans is anywhere between 7000-8000 litres.

“This means Being Human helps conserve water as well as soil,” he states.

Other homegrown brands like KAZO too are fast embracing sustainability with the use of environmentally conscious, natural fabrics including linen, viscose, cotton gauze, blended linen, and dobby weaves. 

Underlining its commitment to sustainability, the brand introduced the KAZO Konscious SS’23 campaign, which emphasizes eco-friendly, recycled, and low-impact materials. Additionally, KAZO is actively pursuing recycled raw materials, ensuring environmental friendliness, reducing water wastage, and promoting safe work practices. 

“Embracing recycled polyester (rPET), KAZO addresses the plastic waste crisis, contributing to a more sustainable future for raw materials, clothing, and packaging. Our commitment to sustainability extends to collaborations with vendors who share the brand’s values. The focus is on sustainable sourcing, ensuring the creation of low-impact garments that prioritize environmental consciousness,” says Deepak Aggarwal.

“The brand’s commitment to circularity extends to incorporating circular store fixtures and utilizing movable infrastructure to minimize resource consumption. The brand’s dedication to creating a positive impact extends beyond fashion, ensuring the protection of worker rights and providing safe working conditions,” he adds.

Wrangler believes that being one of the denim leaders in the industry, it is important for us to lead with sustainable practices while creating good quality products. Honouring sustainability in fashion for the brand includes the right choice of recycled materials usage in fabrics and packaging. 

“Apart from the basic sustainable practices being adopted by many brands, Wrangler also uses innovative technology like laser finish on jeans which eliminates water usage massively. We also use fabrics which are made with cutting-edge new indigo dyeing technology which has replaced water dyeing method with foam dyeing,” explains Berry Singh.

OG & Co says their brand stands out in the market in terms of sustainability for many key reasons:

  • Commitment to Sustainability: We prioritize sustainability in every aspect of our business, from sourcing eco-friendly materials to implementing ethical production practices. Our dedication to minimizing environmental impact sets us apart as a brand that values both style and sustainability.
  • Innovative Upcycling Initiatives: We lead the way in upcycling by transforming old garments from our collections into new, unique pieces. This creative approach not only reduces waste but also adds a distinctiveness to our brand, offering customers limited edition collections with a story behind each garment.

Overall, OG & Co’s dedication to sustainability, innovation, transparency, and community engagement makes it unique, appealing to conscious consumers who seek stylish, ethical, and environmentally friendly fashion options.

“Sustainability, especially in India, has to be married to your business objective. Otherwise it just becomes a marketing gimmick. For us, we use waste fabrics to create accessories like hair bands. Our entire jewellery line is also free of nickel and lead – which are harmful metals,” says Campus Sutra’s Dhiraj Agarwal.

The Quest of Global Brands to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Global brands like Nike and Lacoste, with well defined sustainability strategies, are already on their way to greatly reducing their carbon footprint. 

“Lacoste,” says Rajesh Jain, “believes in innovation. The brand plays a lot with fabric and fabric mixes. We also use sustainable products, recycled products and organic yarn to create our products.”

“We don’t believe in scraping our products. There are three ways in which a textile product can be recycled or can be made sustainable. One is textile to textile – when you have a product and you cut it down to make another textile or garment from it, second is textile to yarn – when a product’s life is over, you convert it into yarn again so that it can be recycled into a new product , and the third way is textile to energy. At Lacoste, we use the textile to yarn method to reduce our carbon footprint,” he adds.

Nike has understood that raw materials account for approximately 70% of its product carbon footprint. By tapping into the insights and experience of at least the past five years, Nike is now focusing on improving the environmental impact of materials within its products. 

Polyester and cotton make up the bulk of NIKE Apparel’s material use and carbon impact, and these two fibers are where the focus is for impact reduction at scale. Thus, Nike is concentrating conversions to recycled polyester, organic cotton and recycled cotton content on key high volume fabrics and products. This strategy requires partnership across NIKE’s entire organization, from innovation through to its consumers at retail. 

The brand is well ahead of its recycled polyester plan in both footwear and apparel. Its use of polyester makes it critical that it focuses on the conversion and scale of recycled polyester as a lever for reducing the overall carbon impact of its highest use material.

H&M works to reduce the environmental impact by aiming for 100% of the materials to be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way (by 2030), including 30% recycled materials by 2025.

The brand – which is Spanish apparel giant Inditex’s second largest retailer – has achieved 80% recycled or other more sustainably sourced materials, including tripling the share of recycled materials to 17.9% (largely due to increased volumes of recycled cotton and polyester), making good progress towards its 2030 goal.

H&M has also established a new internal material organisation to accelerate the sustainable materials strategy. The organisation will work closely with the assortments teams to scale up innovations and sustainable material sourcing across H&M Group.

Brands like Levi’s® have also launched schemes to keep garments in circulation and out of landfills. Levi’s® SecondHand Program aims to do just that. It encourages customers to buy better quality products that last longer so that they can waste less. The program’s motto is that if everybody bought one used item an year, instead of buying new, it would save 449 million pounds of waste.

Focused Approach Towards Omnichannel Retail

The Indian online fashion retail industry has hitherto exhibited a great success story mainly due to increase in smart phone and internet penetration, convenience of in-home shopping, aggressive promotion and pricing strategies by online players and convenient options (cash on delivery, free, easy returns and try-and-buy) are all making the e-commerce space more competitive and dynamic. Online retailers like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal etc., are aggressively building fashion category since this category is key growth driver. 

Online retail helps brand reach untapped markets, markets where brands find it difficult to open and sustain exclusive brand outlets. Considering the above reasons many casual wear brands and retailers are venturing into the e-tailing space. 

Here’s what brands are doing to move towards a more focused Omnichannel approach:

  • Wrangler: As India’s leading technology-native retail company, our goal is to spearhead the Indian retail industry’s next phase of transformation,” says ace turtle’s Berry Singh. 

“Rubicon, our proprietary tech platform, has played a crucial role in bridging the gap between online and offline retail channels. Rubicon enables us to have a single view of the distributed inventory for our brands. This means that even if the consumer does not find the product of one’s choice at the brick-and-mortar store, s/he can either order it from another outlet or from the webshop. The consumer also has the option of having the order delivered to the doorstep, or of picking it up at the store. Availability has emerged as one of the key differentiators in the retail world, and it is imperative that we take steps to ensure that all products listed in our portfolio are adequately stocked. Rubicon has enabled us to automate tasks such as stock replenishment, which has helped us to reduce instances of non-availability of products. The store inventory is not captive to the walk-in customer and is catalogued and made available across all channels (webshop, stores and online marketplaces) to our customers,” he further explains.

  • Duke: According to Kuntal Raj Jain, integrating offline and online channels to create a seamless omnichannel shopping experience is a cornerstone of their brand strategy. 

“We prioritize consistency in branding, messaging, and inventory management across all touchpoints, including our physical stores, website, social media platforms, and mobile app. Through click-and-collect services, in-store technology enhancements, and synchronized inventory levels, we empower customers to shop seamlessly across channels, whether they prefer browsing online or visiting our stores in person. Our personalised approach to customer experience, flexible return and exchange policies, and integrated loyalty programs further enhance the omnichannel journey, fostering convenience, satisfaction, and loyalty among our customers,” he says.

“By leveraging data integration and analytics, we continuously optimize our omnichannel operations to deliver a cohesive and tailored shopping experience that meets the evolving needs and preferences of our customers,” he adds.

  • KAZO: The brand has a robust e-commerce website and mobile app that serve as the primary digital channels for customers to browse and purchase products. In addition to this, with 65+ EBOs and 120+ Shop-in-Shop counters, KAZO has expanded its presence beyond the digital realm and established brick-and-mortar stores across different cities in India. These physical stores provide customers with the opportunity to explore and experience products in person. 

Our overarching goal over the next few months is to synthesize these channels seamlessly. By fusing our digital prowess with the tactile charm of our physical stores, we’re sculpting a shopping journey that adapts to our customer’s preferences. Simplifying the returns and exchanges process across both online and offline channels; assuring customers of a hassle-free experience, fostering trust and brand loyalty.

“We leverage digital technologies extensively to elevate the retail experience for our customers across online and in-store channels. We utilize advanced data insights to track customer journeys and provide personalized offers, adding value to their shopping experience. Our algorithms tailor content and interfaces to each customer’s preferences, ensuring a seamless and personalized browsing experience. Moreover, we use customer feedback and return reasons to gain valuable insights into their needs and pain points, allowing us to continuously improve our offerings and services,” says Deepak Aggarwal.

The Way Ahead for Casualwear

The Indian casualwear market is booming. According to a report by Research and Markets, the Indian activewear market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.2% from 2020 to 2025. In terms of market size, the Indian apparel market is expected to reach $82 billion by 2025, according to a report by Technavio. The Indian essential wear market is also growing rapidly, driven by factors such as changing consumer preferences, rising disposable income, and the increasing popularity of athleisure fashion.

This presents a significant opportunity for brands to capture a share of the growing activewear and casualwear markets in India. 

Brands with a focused approach on product innovation, technology, sustainability and affordability will be poised to capture market share and appeal to the growing number of consumers who are looking for stylish and comfortable clothing options.

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