Although the women’s western wear market in India demonstrated slow growth over the years, it now has gained momentum and is among the fastest growing sector among other sectors of the Indian market. A unique blend of western and Indian, this category is expected to sustain its growth in the coming years.
The category of women’s western wear is fast evolving with shirts, jackets, tops, tees, trousers, skirts and palazzos catching the fancy of women in India. Where we only had working women and women from SEC A and some sections of SEC B stocking up and sporting western wear in India; things today are different. The mall culture and of course, the growing reach of social media has made western wear in India not only accessible but also acceptable for women.
DRAWING THE INFLUENCE
Apart from the selfie culture, the need to be ‘liked’ and ‘followed’ on social media has had a major impact on the wardrobe on an Indian woman today. As much as we may want to deny it, sporting an Indian outfit is passé. For the generation of today, looking chic and modern is the need of the hour. As rightly pointed out by Sameer Patel, Chairman and Founder, Deal, “The growing fashion consciousness among Indian women will turn the western wear segment into a lucrative and highly evolving market. Rise in brand awareness, nuclear families, educated and working women accessing internet to follow global trends are certain influencers for women choosing western wear in India today.”
Another major influencer for the acceptance of western wear is the proliferating number of women opting to step out and work. Work wear needs to be easy to carry and maintain and western wear here has an edge—a pair of trousers can be sported with different tops and shirts and a stole or scarf is all that one needs to add a dash of style to it. Radhesh Kagzi, President, 109 F and Fusion Beats elaborates, “Fashion sensibilities are changing, and western wear is becoming more and more acceptable by the day. With more women becoming independent, western wear brands have been focusing on its comfortable yet fashionable wear range, which include off shoulder tops, cold shoulder tops, high-slits, capes, embroideries and ruffles.” Saurabh Jhingan, Director and Co-Founder, Latin Quarters adds, “Globe totting, expanding economies and visual media had virtually made our borders almost non existing; also the influence of the west (developed economies) also plays a major part.”
Elaborating on the influence that social media and online retail has on the wardrobe of a woman in India today, Sudershan Jain, Director, Oner shares, “Accessibility of fashion through online and social media has changed and influenced the wearing habits. Consumers are now well aware of what’s happening around in the fashion world and this is not limited to only major cities. Internet has brought everyone more or less on the equal platform in
terms of awareness. Fashion is what you see and relate with.” Sunil Jhangiani, Chairman and Managing Director, Chemistry points out that the influence basically comes from the fashion catwalks. Talking about his brand, he shares, “They are the one which dictate the latest trend to all brands universally. We, as a brand, just interpret these catwalks and convert them into reality in our product lines for the customers who want that affordable fashion.”
According to Bharat Mange, Owner, Flacon Jeans, “Fashion and trend forecasting is the prediction of mood, behaviour and buying habits of the customers at particular time of season.”
BOLLYWOOD & INTERNATIONAL BRANDS
Where social media and increase in number of working woman have given a push to western wear in India, one cannot overlook the fact that today a lot many international brands have forayed in the country as well. And then there is the constant influence of Bollywood, that now seems to be more focussed on western wear. Munish Anand, Director, NOI shares, “Celebrities and role models are the largest influencers in India today; especially the film actors. Even TV soaps have seen a shift from a traditional outfits driven culture to new younger generation flaunting modern western outfits.”
Sharing a different point of view and stressing on the influence of international brands in India, Sandeep Jain, Executive Director, Monte Carlo shares, “Till date, Bollywood was considered to be one of the most important carriers of fashion in India. But now many foreign fashion brands have established themselves within the local vicinity and are highly affecting the western wear segment. Western wear does not come with the baggage of heavy embroideries and drapes, hence is easy to carry and maintain especially for the growing working women.” Bishal Lunia, Business Head, Desi Belle shares, “Women can get influenced by any factor. They are beautiful, bold and always choose what is comfortable for them. And in todays fast life indo-western and western are the only choice.”
INDIAN DESIGNERS & CREATION OF INDO WESTERN OUTFITS
Jain of Monte Carlo beautifully explains how Indian designers have lent their creativity to women’s western wear in India. He explains, “Various patterns which were otherwise used widely in sarees and shawls are now donning the western wear segment like bold flowers, birds and paisley patterns. Fabrics like cotton, linen and silk are now used in western wear widely.” Patel adds that post the acceptance of indo- western wear, we shall now see designers in India focus on launching concept based western wear collection. This according to him would be at par with international trends. Kagzi righty points out, “Indian fashion designers create western wear with Indian sensibilities.”
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With the winter season around the corner, the upcoming trend is dominated by winter wear. Jhingan shares, “Cape, kaftans, boxy crop top, cold shoulders, off shoulders, cut out shoulders, denim skirts, romper and culottes are in vogue. Feminine, slightly-exotic embroidered tops and dresses are doing well too.” Anand adds, “Power dressing is the buzz word today. Outerwear and one piece are in vogue; especially the long gowns and capes. The 80’s trends are back again; off shoulders and sweetheart necklines are quite popular. Bows, subtle ruffles, big pockets are catching up. Today the Indian customer is much more aware of the trends and is willing to experiment.”
Moving over to bottom wear, Amit Singh, Design Head, Spykar shares, “While super skinnies and jegging fits remain a popular favourite in the millennial women’s wardrobes, the relaxed boot cut, and skinny kick flares too are gaining momentum in terms of novelty fits.
Heavy and experimental bleach washes as well as highly frayed denims catch attention as do floral embroidered denims. Lengths are preferred from ankle to crop and mid calf. As crop tops and crop lengths become a fashion staple, denims move to include high and mid rises. More subtle prints and tonal jacquards come into foray. Joggers and palazzos in light weight denims are a highlight of the season as women have readily incorporated these fits into their closets.”
As for the trends for the approaching winter season, Patel shares, “As winter is on the way, cool weather clothes are now making their way to stores. The pre-fall season’s hitting trends are long vests, trench coats, cardigans, leather and denim jackets, statement capes, denims designed in studs pearls and patches.” Jain of Monte Carlo adds, “The fall/winter 2016 collection is highly inspired by cowboy look in women western wear. The key piece for western wear this season is of course denim; denim skirts, a pair of denim trousers, or denim tights paired with high end boots and accessories. Vintage suede jackets and coats especially with fringes are in huge demand, they can be paired with skinny pants and cashmere sweaters. Embroidered silhouettes with colorful birds and flower imagery is donning the frame of every woman this winter.”
Keeping in mind the acceptability of this category, the universe is for women’s western wear is expanding. And again, this is being driven by international trends and trends as being seen and spread via social media. On the innovations that women’s western wear category is witnessing, Kagzi shares, “We have noticed that women are more inclined towards longer bodies, floor lengths, skirts and therefore our current collection also is suited accordingly.”
Anand points out how domestic brands have started working closer to the season to tap the international trends thus bringing in more relevant offerings. He elaborates, “Lot more new silhouettes like capes, tunics, long gowns are being introduced. In fact there are some silhouettes which are common to ethnic, fusion and western category; only the print and the fabric changes.” Talking about winter wear, according to Jain of Monte Carlo, mix-and-match of fabrics is a new call in jackets and cardigans. He points out that the core winter wear has been taken over by light weight jackets, light weight woolen tops and sweat shirts. He shares, “Crop jackets are this season’s must haves. Suede, indigo, jacquard, terry, metallic luxe jackets and more are in vogue.”
Moving over to fabrics, the trend is dominated by an array of fabrics – from handlooms and cotton to shimmer and fancy knits. According to Kagzi, “Liva fabric is still a hit with the consumers.” Guneet and Japneet Singh, Directors, Juelle adds, “These days prints, nets, thick and thin injection slub yarns, more casual, light weight proper drapes are in trend. Fancy yarns are in huge demand. Indigo concepts are very popular.” Jain of Monte Carlo bets on the wide demand for suede. He shares, “Suede, indigo, leather based fabrics, jacquards, terrys, metallic luxe, etc., are in trend. Suede will rule the season in the long run.” Modal and Tencel are also high on the list of Narinder Singh, Managing Director, Numero Uno. He shares, “Tencel breathes well, making it the perfect casual-wear textile for active people. Tencel clothing is also a top pick for seasoned travelers because of its versatility, stylish looks and ability to resist wrinkles, even in a stuffed suitcase. Another one being modal, It’s now impossible to imagine the world of fashion without modal. Modal fiber is skin-friendly, soft and easy-care and therefore of great interest to the fashion world.”
According to Singh of Spykar, rayon crinkled, superfine mesh, modal and silk blend fabrics are doing well. Sharing a peek into the future, he shares, “Future trend fabric would be velvet, organza, and metallic jacquard.” Lunia adds,” Currently looking at the market trend and customers’ choices rayon is the fabric in vogue. Other regular fabrics in demand are georgette, moss crepe and chiffon.”
Where pastels, white and black are forever green, the new age colors in western wear are surprisingly witnessing widely accepted. Kagzi highlights the demand for Marsala. He says, “This year the colour most in vogue is Marsala. Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, this tasteful shade is best described as earthy red which is sophisticated. It is a shade with real substance and strong foundation.” Jain of Monte Carlo elaborates, “From earthly colours to bold statements, the fall/winter 2016 colour trends and patterns embodies fun, fantasy and everything that is natural. Stormy weather hues, olive green, Biscay bay hues, rosy and soft pink hues, pond colours like indigo and darker blues, Marsala and cadmium orange are setting new trends.”
Talking specifically about the season, Jhingan shares, “For the upcoming season of spring/summer ’17 more of pastel colours, tones of Azure, yellow, and aubergene will be in.” Anand talks about how colours play an important role in India and that unlike the styles and cuts, they may not truly follow the international trends. He shares, “The colour pallet may slightly be different from the international trends. For the India market, indigo blue is a new refreshing neutral on the fashion scene this season. Along with this, rich reds, like scarlet and tomato will be dominating. The pastel palette focuses on greys and beige tones as the signature hues for this season. Pastel shades of pink too are popular.”
Unlike ethnic wear, women’s western wear needs a dash of freshness in its collection and this is because it draws its inspiration from international trends. Fast fashion is what truly dominates western wear. Patel elaborates, “Yes, fast fashion trend is accepted by western wear brands in India as today fashion changes with the blink of an eye and to cope up with the rapidly changing trends, brands are forecasting fashion and accordingly crafting their merchandise to be in that fast fashion pace before the trend is out of fashion.”
Singh of Numero Uno adds, “It used to take about six months for a product to get to market, and this has now been slashed down to three week cycles. Traditionally, two main collections were produced in a year, spring/summer and autumn/winter. However, brands needed to create some interest within their stores mid-season, so the number of collections increased to drive sales. This had several benefits. Firstly, it decreased their financial outlay on forward orders and also allowed them to make decisions about the fashion items much later in the season. This added flexibility and ensured they were able to react to the market quickly and deliver ‘on-trend’ items within their stores.”
The women’s western wear market in India is a lovely amalgamation of international western wear with a touch of Indianess. Where international brands offer pure international trends, we have national brands that have beautifully combined Indian sensibilities with western trends making it within the reach of Indian women who still shy away from sporting completely international western wear. The category is only set to grow keeping in mind the number of brands that are there and also with the wide spread of online retail, fashion is being democratised to make it within the reach of women across the country.