Over the last few years, the consumer buying behaviour in apparel has undergone a complete change and is driven by occasion and usage rather than categories like formal, casual, etc. The lines between categories are also blurring and segments are now defined by usage occasion. This has led to the emergence of various new categories such as ethnic wear, athleisure, etc. which are becoming increasingly popular now…

Occasion-appropriate dressing is becoming more and more important in the Indian consumer context. If we talk specifically about ethnic wear, there are many factors that are leading to a higher adoption of this category. People today are very conscious about what they wear – they want something new for all celebrations. Be it for a wedding, griha pravesh, festivals or a puja at home they are no longer wearing generic clothes. For example, if one walks into a marriage, you will no longer see most people wearing a formal suit/jacket but maybe a Nehru jacket with a shirt and trousers to get that ethnic look. For Diwali too, a large number of people now prefer a kurta and Nehru jacket or a bandhgala instead of jeans which were earlier considered to be attire suited to just any occasion.

Another major reason that is driving this category is the pride associated with wearing something which is Indian and going back to the roots. Media penetration, films, tele-serials are also helping in driving this trend of being dressed in Indian ethnic wear for celebrations. Online platforms are greatly contributing to the distribution into Tier II & III towns making it very convenient for consumers to browse and purchase ethnic wear products.

The size of the ethnic wear market, is currently at about `1.3 lakh crore and is women’s ethnic wear at about 88 percent, followed by men’s at about 9 percent and kids at 4 percent. If we focus in more detail on the men’s ethnic wear market, it is currently about `10,500 – `11,000 crore. It is highly fragmented, and a large portion of the market is dominated by unorganized players. At a national level, there are very few players, such as Manyavar, Ethnix by Raymond, Fabindia, Kora, and Mebaz etc.There is a niche segment at the top of the pyramid which is serviced by designers who sell premium ethnic wear under their own label like Sabyasachi, JJ Valaya, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, etc.

There are some strong regional players too such as Studio by Janak and Darzi in the North, Jade Blue in the West, etc. who are popular mid-segment players who serve to a strong local taste and flavour. Of the total men’s ethnic wear market, approximately a third, about `3,800 crore is in the organized sector. However, in the next 5 years, the organized sector, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14 percent to reach `7,300 crore. This growth is much stronger as compared to unorganized sector which will grow at a CAGR of 5 percent to reach `10,000 crore from `7,700 crore currently.

For brands this trend is quite healthy. As more and more organized brands start playing in this space, there will be further conversion of the customers from unorganized to the organized segment. This will benefit customers who will get assured quality, improved design sensibility and a better retail experience. This will help in driving the category and trend for Indian ethnic menswear.

From a customer usage perspective, there are two distinct categories in the men’s ethnic wear. The first category is the ceremonial wear. These are ensembles that are worn for any celebration such as marriage, puja, Diwali, etc. This category drives value for the brands and is led by Sherwanis and Indo-westerns that are typically bought for marriages followed by Nehru jackets, full length kurtas, Bandgala suits, achkans, etc. The other category is the emerging casual wear category with an ethnic look and feel. These are mainly short and mid-length kurtas, kurtas with an asymmetric cut, unstructured Nehru jackets, etc. These are either developed in printed fabrics with ethnic motifs or in fabrics that are made using traditional dyeing or weaving techniques. Brands currently operating in this space are Fabindia, Ethnix by Raymond, FBB, Pantaloons, etc. We are also witnessing many apparel brands moving towards the ‘full wardrobe strategy’. This basically means that the brand will strive to provide their customer with suitable ensembles for each and every occasion in their life. Hence we see some brands in the formal space extending the brand into the Indian ethnic wear category and this will only help in establishing the trend of Indian ethnic menswear faster and driving the consumers towards organized players.

Another factor in this industry is that accessories are very important and form a part of the ensemble as it completes the look. Instead of just the garment, a customer looks to buy the complete look from head to toe from a single shop. There are five main types of accessories:

  • Headgear, which includes safas and turbans
  • Jewellery such as Brooches, Kalengi, Mala, Cummerbund, etc.
  • Bottoms which include breeches, Dhoti, Churidar, Aligarhi and Harem Pants, etc.
  • Dupattas, stoles, etc.
  • Footwear, wherein we have Jootis, Mojris, Peshawaris, etc.

Accessories could contribute up to 20 percent of the value of a bill for a groom.

In recent years, this space has seen a lot of celebrity endorsement and film associations to drive consumption. Brands such as Manyavar tied up with Indian Cricket Team Captain, Virat Kohli and his Bollywood superstar wife Anushka Sharma and more recently actors Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh. Kora associated itself with movies such Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and Ethnix by Raymond associated with the movies Prasthanam and Sui Dhaga. These show that brands are now spending on marketing to drive awareness not just about the brand but also the category which will help drive penetration and usage of the category. Going ahead, one of the major challenges to scale up for any brand will be to manage the sourcing. In India, there are specific hubs for fabric sourcing like Benares, Bhagalpur and some parts of Madhya Pradesh. Each of these hubs has some clusters of weavers that work on handlooms/power looms. There are a lot of small mills around Mumbai and Surat who now also service this sector mainly using manmade fibers. The embroidery is done in small units who use both hand embroidery and machine embroidery techniques. The final conversion by factories is either done locally or owned by the brand/fashion houses. One of the factors to note here is that, this industry provides sustainable livelihood to many artisans who have been working in this trade for generations. For example, a lot of fabrics are all sourced locally from clusters as mentioned earlier and the embellishment is done by hand, thereby, it allows this traditional art to be kept alive. Among various corporate, Raymond has gone ahead a further step by adopting some of these clusters through its brand Ethnix and The Story Respun.

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