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Not Just Jeans: KILLER Transforms into Edgy, Youth-Focused Brand

Denim has come a long way from when it was first discovered almost a century ago. From the ranches of America to evolving into a symbol of youth rebellion to being the forerunner of the global causalwear revolution, denim has traversed an interesting trajectory. 

In India, Bollywood stars and cinema have always had a huge impact on the fashion choices of the masses. These stars started to adopt denim well in advance of the development of denim brands in the country giving an impetus to the denim industry in India. The 1980s marked the beginning of denim production in India, with big textile companies realising the potential of denim. One of these textile houses was Kewal Kiran Clothing Limited (KKCL), which launched KILLER in 1989 and has since contributed hugely to the denim industry in India. 

KILLER’s journey began with youthful spirit and rebellion in their minds in 1989. As one of the first homegrown denim brands in the country, the brand started off with a simple mission in mind: to provide value for money to the Indian consumer while also providing finest quality denim that is able to compete with the global players. 

Over the Years

As the flagship brand of KKCL, KILLER had an added advantage over its contemporaries – an already established manufacturing unit backing its R&D and production from the start. Being a part of KKCL helped KILLER to freely innovate while also offering high fashion and class products to the consumers by meticulously selecting premium fabrics and infusing cutting-edge design elements to their products. KKCL launched KILLER in the youth menswear segment for ages 16-30. Over the years, it became a denim powerhouse and one of the largest selling denim brands in India. 

KILLER has stayed relevant for the last 35 years because it has never lost touch with its authentic Indianness, and rebellious and youth-centric designs. In 2002, when the generation gaps were lowering along with waistlines, KILLER became the first to introduce low-rise jeans to the country. 

“The brief given to the team was – ‘forget about trends, forget about market research, forget about everything you’ve done so far. What can you do that others cannot?’ We have products that we can say for sure others cannot make. Since we are manufacturers, we can ideate and innovate every second,” says Hemant Jain, MD, KKCL while talking about KILLER’s latest collection.

Innovation has always been key to the brand’s success; from bleached, ripped, torn, and even ridden with bullets, KILLER has always moulded denim beyond imagination and given a new character to the regular-ol’ denim. Their designs have always appealed to the bold, brash, rebellious, unique, creative, and sustainable audience. Some of their key innovations include:

  1. Worn-out jeans (2003): With a broken-in look for those who prefer to stand out in the crowd.
  2. Revealingly low jeans (2004): With inherent sex appeal for those who never have to try too hard, for anything.
  3. Shreds (2004): With an unfinished look for those who dare to be themselves.
  4. Jeanos (2017)
  5. Sunwash (2018)
  6. Water saver jeans: For those who believe that fashion should be sustainable

Strong innovation and even stronger distribution channels led to the massive success of KILLER over the years. The company is soon to touch four figures (in crore) by the next financial year with an ongoing growth of 18-20% per year, while also maintaining their EBITDA as well at 18-20%. 

A Complete Youth Brand

KILLER started in the ‘80s when it was all about sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, and denim was what rockstars wore and when denim jeans was basically the leading fashion statement. But over the years, the preference of the youth changed from being celebrity driven to self inspired. Youth has since then found various ways to express themselves through fashion.

While KILLER has always been a powerhouse of Jeans, the brand was lesser-known for non-denim categories which attribute to 92% of what they offer – only 8% of their total offering is now Jeanswear. KKCL decided to change this, in order to evolve with the times.

KILLERIn February 2024, KILLER made a bold showcase of their Autumn-Winter ‘24 collection with over 1000 products, a display which stated that while jeans are their strength, the brand is equally strong as far as non-denim products go. Of the collection, 75% were top-wear products and approximately 20% bottom-wear products. The remaining collection included footwear, undergarments, and a host of accessories.

The showcase was a stylish affair that promised a complete fashion wardrobe collection for their young and dynamic target audience, marking KILLER’s transformation into an edgy, youth focused brand. The messaging was simple – KILLER is a complete youth fashion brand, with jeans being just a part of their offering. 

Post the unveiling, the brand is witnessing explosive growth in the non-jeans categories which includes T-shirts, shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts. 

“This year will witness a lot of bold moves by KILLER. With an unwavering commitment, we are now directing all our energy towards refining and optimizing our flagship asset, KILLER, ensuring it attains peak performance and continues to set new benchmarks in the fashion industry. All our diverse customer touchpoints will reflect the new avatar of KILLER, thereby offering an enhanced brand experience while making it convenient for the consumers to obtain entire fashion looks,” says Hemant Jain.

“We’ve seen the advent of athleisure and casual and comfort and sports-inspired comfortable clothing. So while denim is still relevant, it’s not the only fashion statement,” he states, explaining why they have made a conscious shift from jeanswear to a complete youth fashion brand. “Hence the transition was necessary to keep up with the times. Our customer also has gotten younger and younger. Of course the initial customers have aged now. So the new customer is looking more for comfort than just an attitude or just a style statement. So now it’s basically a style statement with comfort. We have had to evolve the product line with the times,” he adds.

Market PresenceAlong with robust creative and manufacturing units, KILLER has a strong distribution channel that makes it accessible throughout the country with different channels, including MBOs, Store in Stores, Large format stores, and EBOs. 

  • With a retail footprint of 350 exclusive stores, more than 1800 MBOs and 800 departmental stores, KILLER’s unwavering dedication to craftsmanship and innovation is evident. 
  • KKCL is planning on opening approximately 70 stores in this financial year.
  • The location strategy will be a good blend between high street and malls in both tier 1 and 2 cities, elevating KILLER’s brand imagery from only high street-centered. 
  • New flagship stores are being planned in all state capitals, which will target GenZ audiences by creating larger than life experiences that align with their products.

Brand Expansion

KILLER is all set for an aggressive retail expansion, not just in India but abroad as well, with plans to introduce exclusive KILLER stores in the Middle East.

“In addition to expanding KILLER’s MBOs and Omnichannel presence, KKCL is planning to open 500 exclusive modern KILLER brand stores in India by December 2025,” states Hemant Jain.

“Our strategic expansion continues with a spotlight on Eastern Europe, paving the way for our brand’s journey across the rest of Europe,” he further reveals, adding, “Additionally, we have devised a premium pricing model for international markets, ranging from $50 to $200 (4,000 to 16,000 in Indian rupees). In essence, with our ‘Accelerating the Performance with Double-Engine’ growth strategy, I am confident that we will gather momentum as a stronger, bolder, and trendier international fashion brand.”

KILLER has strategically reshaped its product portfolio, introducing new categories such as footwear, undergarments, and accessories while maintaining its market leadership in bottom-wear products across India.

Tapping into the North

KILLER has seen phenomenal growth in the West and South of the country since its inception 35 years ago. While it continues to grow in those areas, the Upper North remains a huge opportunity for the brand. 

“The way we see North is in two parts. One is the Central North which is UP, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. We are already established here in retail, multi branded and departmental stores and in many markets we are the number one brand. But when I see the second part of North which is the upper north and you move from Delhi to Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, Jammu, Kashmir, over there, we are expanding. But with the EBO format, we have distribution set up, well established here. But to create that imagery, I think retail will be the key driving factor there,” concludes Lakhbir Singh, Brand Head, KILLER about their expansion plans in the heart of the country.

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