Good fabric is the soul of any garment, including a shirt. To consumers’ delight, there’s no dearth of shirting fabrics options available today in the Indian market in terms of occasion, quality, price or look and feel. Moreover, constant innovations are further adding to variety, aesthetics, functionality, comfort, convenience, longevity and more…
The quality of a shirt – whether readymade or custom-made – is largely determined by the fabric used to craft it. For example, we all know that cotton fabric is good for hot summers, but linen is even better because it is sturdier, has greater moisture absorbency and is more elegant than cotton. One can beat the winter chill with flannel and cotton broadcloth shirts, but, while the former is for casual occasions, the latter is used as formal wear. Further, oxford fabric is perfect for casual and sportswear and not for a dress shirt. Or lest one forgets the denim shirt that exudes cool, casual, rugged vibe. Price-wise, poly-cotton shirt caters to the economy and value-onscious consumers, and if one can splurge so much, go for the finest Egyptian Giza cotton or luxurious silk fabrics that are used to craft the most exclusive dress/formal shirts. Or lest one forgets the denim shirt that exudes cool, casual, rugged vibe.
To consumers’ delight, there is an enormous variety of shirting fabrics available in the Indian market today to suit varied occasions and every pocket!
The Market Overview
From small players to large, dominant domestic shirting fabric and apparel brands, manufacturers and retailers like Raymond, Aditya Birla Group, Arvind, Birla Century, Bombay Rayon Fashions, Donear, Mafatlal, Mayur, Siyaram’s, Sangam, Vardhman and others, the market has something for everyone. Alongside these, various prestigious international brands like Cadini, Corneliani Moretti, Louis Phillippe among others also mark their presence in the country. Significantly, men’s shirting in India has a dominant market share whereas women’s is fairly small.
“India’s shirting fabric market is predominantly driven by cotton fabrics and has both organised and unorganised players. However, the consumers are becoming more aware of linen with all major men’s apparel brands in the country having linen in their portfolio today,” says Thomas Varghese, Business Head – Textiles, Acrylic Fibre and Overseas pinning at Aditya Birla Group (ABG). Notably, the ABG subsidiary Jaya Shree Textiles is one of India’s foremost linen brand manufacturing companies and is a leading player in the domestic linen and worsted yarn segment. It operates in both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to- consumer (B2C) segments. About the evolving consumer tastes, Mukesh Bansal, Senior Vice President (Head Marketing), Vardhman, points out that the shirt market is on an uptick in both men’s and women’s category. “Indians traditionally have always regarded shirts as formal
Consumers are becoming more aware of linen with all major men’s apparel brands in the country having linen in their portfolio today
wear. However, now youngsters are donning casual woven fabric shirts along with t-shirts, which typically is casual wear. Further, with increasing working women population in the country, formal tops/shirts are in big demand replacing ethnical /traditional dresses,” he notes. Notably, Vardhman, a B2B player, is one of the largest fabric manufactures in India with a capacity of 180 million meters woven fabric, of which 40 percent is shirting fabric.
Dedicated to men’s fashion, Raymond Group is among India’s leading textile and apparel companies. Its B2B business spans garmenting and high-value cotton shirting, while its B2C includes branded textile, branded apparel and retail. In fact, the group today is amongst the three leading branded apparel players in the menswear. Suman Saha, Chief Operating Oﬃcer, Group Apparel and Made to Measure, Raymond Ltd., states, “Raymond ready to wear oﬀers a wide array of shirts, starting from the most economical price point to the most luxurious shirt available in the market. Our shirt business has grown from strength to strength over the years and we currently sell almost 7.5 lakh pieces every year.”
Vast Fabric Options, But Cotton Reigns Shirting fabrics today are as diverse as soft fabrics like poplin, cotton, linen for summer wear, cashmere and flannel for winter season, luxurious silk and linen for exclusivity, strong corduroy for industrial uniform shirts, drill that is used to make uniform shirt in khaki colours, casual clothes and work wear, low-cost synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon and so on. (Refer to Table No. 1)
However, despite the numerous options available, cotton reigns in India. Cotton fabric is breathable, comfortable, strong and long-lasting is most preferred in the hot local climate. Moreover, the fabric is suitable for the most part of the year. Cotton fibres prevent extreme contact with the wearer’s skin by trapping a thin layer of air that provides a cooling eﬀect in hot weather and warmth in chilly conditions. As opposed to synthetic fabrics, cotton is hypoallergenic and skin-friendly. Avant-garde fabric finishes ensure that even pure cotton is entirely wrinkle-free and sweat-resistant. Moreover, cotton also blends easily with a range of other fabrics like lycra, spandex, silk, polyester, linen, etc.
Youngsters are donning casual woven fabric shirts along with t-shirts, which typically is casual wear. Further, with increasing working women population in the country, formal tops/shirts are in big demand replacing ethnical /traditional dresses.
Further, from low-cost cotton to the most premium varieties like Egyptian Giza and American Supima, cotton straddles across all price segments. Notably, the Egyptian extra fine, extra-long staple, lustrous cotton is recognised among the finest shirting fabrics crafted for the well-heeled. It comes in assortments like Giza 45, Giza 87 and Giza 93. On the hand, Supima is superior cotton originated and harvested only in the United States and accounts for under one percent of the world’s entire cotton production. Notably, Raymond oﬀers the widest range of Supima shirts in India every season.
However, there are so many other finer elements of fabric making – such as yarn type, fabric weave, composition and finishes, etc. – that people are generally not privy to. These are the very foundations of the fabric from which any garment, including a shirt, is made of. Refer to table no. 2 to know more.
The Allure of Linen & Khadi
Linen shirting has become extremely popular these days. Aditya Birla Group’s Thomas Varghese elucidates, “Linen is one of the oldest fabrics in the world and has been associated with high civilization. Even today, it is a niche and premium fabric. In India, consumers are becoming more aware of linen with all major men’s apparel brands having linen in their portfolio today.
With more awareness, linen is also moving from being only a select occasion product to a product fit for various occasions including formal, party, ethnic, etc.” The total linen shirting market size, according to him, is estimated to be of roughly 30 million meters which translates to about 4-5 percent share in the total fabric market pie. The linen industry itself is growing at a steady rate of 7-8 percent.
Raymond’s shirt business has grown from strength to strength over the years and we currently sell almost 7.5 lakh pieces every year
of 100 percent pure linen sourced from French and Belgium flax, providing an international edge to the evolving Indian fashion industry. The company is also certified by the European Confederation of Linen and Hemp (CELC). Jaya Shree is also credited to have revolutionised the Indian textile market by popularising ‘linen’ with its brand “Linen Club”. The brand’s fabric range includes fine and superfine linen fabrics in the widest range of designs and colours. Its in-house design team includes internationally-acclaimed Italian designers who produce almost 1000 new designs every month. A market leader in with nearly 37 percent market share, Linen Club is touted as world’s largest retail chain in linen with 180 plus exclusive stores across India. It also sells through over 6,500
Shirting fabrics today are as diverse as soft fabrics like poplin, cotton, linen for summer wear, cashmere and flannel for winter season, and luxurious silk and linen for exclusivity.
multi- brand stores nationwide, along with being the supplier to leading domestic and international brands and retailers. Now, Linen Club has also forayed into ready-to-wear garments and accessories under the brand
“Linen Club Studio”. The oﬀerings include finely -crafted shirts, trousers, jackets, kurtas, t-shirts and accessories.
Acknowledging the vogue of linen, Raymond’s Suman Saha says, “A linen shirt is not only perfect summer wear, but this elegant fabric is also considered as a fashion element. Raymond oﬀers pure linen shirts, linen cotton blended shirts. Keeping the royal touch of linen as is oﬀers Delave look. The noble feel of wearing an especially styled linen shirt adds to the aura.”
However, Vardhman’s Mukesh Bansal also highlights the fallout of rising fabric prices, “Linen is, no doubt, in trend. But due to increased prices in linen due to higher import duty; it has become quite expensive. Now brands are looking for linen look/linen blended fabric instead of 100 percent linen.
Moreover, khadi also is a refreshing addition to the shirting fabric variety. A symbol of Indian textile heritage, the handspun, handwoven khadi had almost lost itself to the machine-made fabrics. However, the good old fabric is now regaining favour among the fashion-savvy. Along with traditional Indian clothing, the modern avatar of the fabric has also expanded into branded western wear like shirts, trousers and jackets. Reportedly, Kolkata-based Turtle was the first brand to launch khadi shirt collection in 2014. Of late, the Government of India (GoI) has ramped up its eﬀorts to revive khadi through tie-ups with leading apparel brands also. Aditya Birla Group’s Peter England brand had collaborated with The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) in 2016, to develop and market an exclusive shirt line. Now, Raymond has also introduced its khadi apparel line including khadi suits, khadi shirts, khadi western wear and khadi sherwani, etc. in collaboration with KVIC. Recently, Kerala Khadi Village Industries Board has launched designer ‘Sakhavu’ shirts crafted with khadi cotton and khadi silk.
Fabric Innovations Galore
Constant innovations are further augmenting the variety, aesthetics, functionality, comfort, convenience and longevity of the fabrics. Various shirting brands and apparel manufacturers keep on raising the bar further. For instance, Vardhman’s key products include melanges, yarn dyed, solids, whites, prints, flannels, LA finish, wrinkle-free fabrics, etc. The company supplies fabrics to the country’s leading brands like Louis Philippe, Blackberry, Raymond, Allen Solly, Indian Terrain, Benetton, Wills, AND among others besides known retailers like FBB, Reliance, Max Fashions etc. Mukesh Bansal apprises that their design and innovation cell conducts surveys globally to understand the changing consumer needs and convert those findings into relevant `products. “Vardhman itself is brand entity even though we are into B2B business. And we are committed to innovation through state-of-the-art technology and experimenting with newer fibres,” he underlines.
Raymond’s key oﬀerings include Supima shirts, the whites in 100 styles, all season shirts, techno smart shirts, etc., the company outlines the key direction to inform and inspire season’s product development, with exclusive samples from in-house design studio and mills, Suman Saha defines. Notably, the company combines fashion and performance through its innovative finishes like B-fresh. It oﬀers fabrics that are engineered to create futuristic, protective and second skin, balancing natural and synthetic fabrics of cotton- modal-bamboo. They are sustainable and made using multiple technology finishes like UV, thermo-control and moisture-wicking to make them skin-friendly.
Another innovative product, All Season Shirt fuses the benefit of wool and feel of cotton with a machine washable and antimicrobial finish as basic hygiene. Techno Smart Shirts feature properties like spill protect, anti-microbial, quick dry, moisture management.
We at Jaya Shree Textiles are the first to produce ‘Intimate Blend Yarn” of linen and cotton in India. This has been produced using flax waste converted into ‘Cottonised Fibre’. In 2018, we launched intimate blends in fabric under the brand, Mazury and apparel under the brand, Cavallo,” Thomas Varghese shares.
Keeping Up With Consumer Demand
Today, the perception of clothing has totally transformed, owing to faster and trendy lifestyle. Clothing has become a part of one’s identity and a reflection of self, and hence, a consumer demands something new as he moves into a new era/matrix. “Shirting nowadays represents a large variety in terms of colours, prints and patterns. While a lot of experimentation is being done in smart casual shirts, vibrant and bright colours are in trend even in formals. We have to keep on feeding the market with newer shirting fabric designs from time to time. We believe that the Indian textile market is poised for good growth for the next couple of years and a significant portion of this growth will be contributed by the shirting segment,” believes Vardhaman’s Mukesh Bansal.
According to Jaya Shree’s (Aditya Birla Group) Thomas Varghese, digital prints are in vogue lately. With the line between casual and formal wear diminishing, the oﬃce wear shirt is becoming less rigid and is moving towards a more casual side. “We follow four seasons design cycle for Linen Club, this allows us to operate closer to the season. This, however, also presents challenges in terms of design, production and supply chain. Besides adding to our capacity over the years, we have also continued to enhance our product range in line with changing consumer preferences,” he maintains.
“Today, the demand is not for just any shirt. A customer looks for a shirt that is symbolic of one’s personal style and reflects his true spirit and essence. Our goal has always been to create our identity as a bridge-to-luxury brand. Every season, the hunt for something new starts. Hence, the opportunity to keep innovating and striving to give the best keeps us motivated,” Suman Saha of Raymond aﬃrmed.