What we wear has today become a manner of expression, attitude and personality. Apparel and accessories are no longer only about adorning oneself with a piece of cloth; instead, coupled with the desire to chase the latest trends, people want to wear their ‘heart on their sleeves’. And, convey an attitude.
The Indian fashion industry was ranked 9thglobally in terms of revenue and worth $7.86 billion in October 2018. Apparel is the leading segment ($6.1 billion), followed by footwear ($1.2 billion), and bags and accessories ($0.42 billion). Overall the fashion industry is expected to surge to $21.51 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 22.3%.
2018 has been an interesting year for the fashion and apparel industry in the country. Going forward, a combination of factors are likely to drive explosive growth of the sector in 2019 and beyond.
Some of the key trends we are seeing include:
Social media and tech disruptions play a central role in shaping buying decisions
Social media is all pervasive today and is now highly influential in dictating how the industry moves. Buyers are not only affected by personalities across different fields of human activity but also by microinfluencers – those within their immediate friends / followers circle. Fashion has moved from being the sole preserve of the elite to a mass market product heavily influenced by what’s on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Apart from the marketing side of fashion, ecommerce platforms are continuing to drive sales. According to Statista, worldwide sales of online apparel this year are poised to reach $317 billion and zoom to $475 billion by 2022.
Keeping it ‘real’
While social media and influencer marketing play a strong role, we are also seeing a recalibration of buyer expectations on the look they aspire for. Realism has crept in and buyers are looking for practicality. As can be expected with the mindset of younger buyers, they are more comfortable creating their own style rather than blindly aping what fashion icons are displaying.
From a practicality standpoint, people want new looks and fashion for each occasion. For instance, peoples’ wardrobes now have a range of options: different sets of clothes for work, parties, gym, casual get-togethers, picnics, business trips etc. In addition, apparel is no longer a ‘durable’ item in the conventional sense– consumers want to don a ‘signature’ look for every occasion, and want to avoid repeating outfits at all costs. This has led to an increase in basket sizes /order values. Easy availability of information, products, and advisehas meant that whether you are in Guntur or Goa, aspirations are the same unlike the scenario a couple of years ago.
Faster, Higher, Stronger…The rise of Athleisure
Due to advanced styling, athleisure apparel is now casual wear of choice for millions and reaching a wider audience. Until five years ago, the only athleisure apparel available in India were from the multinationals.Products werepriced the INR 2000+ price range which meant much of the target audience for this apparel could only afford the purchase once a year. But brands such as Campus Sutra, HRX and others haveleveraged advanced manufacturing capabilities as well as embraced innovations to significantly lower prices inviting customers to make multiple purchases during the year.Supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure required for athleisure, which was earlier concentrated in the hands of the big, global brands such as the Nike’s and Adidas’ of the world, has expanded. This has also coincided with the increasing focus on health and fitness among Indians, a trend manifestin the mushrooming of gyms, fitness centres, sports and training facilities. Athleisure is now a booming fashion trend. As a corollary, at Campus Sutra,we are seeing sales increase in the Small (S) and Medium (M) categories as opposed to the Large (L) and Extra Large (XL &XXL) sizes earlier.
Newer fabrics, newer looks and innovations
Manufacturers have started paying more attention to consumers instead of dictating what they think works best for buyers. For instance, spandex was not as extensively used in Indiapreviously for men’s apparel, because of the perception that it is unsuitable for people who are on the bulkier side. This is changing and you have entire product ranges built on spandex.Basic construction of apparel is also changing; From the preferred option of 100% cotton a few years ago, you are now seeing a transition to thinner fabrics, featherlight, odourless, UV protection, and mesh fabrics that keep the body temperature cooler by 4 degrees as compared to the outside temperature etc. Such features are increasingly standard expectations from consumers.
Social Responsibility to the fore
Brands have also gone deeper in their support of social causes while integrating environment-friendly methodologiesin design and manufacturing .Companies like Doodlage, an Indian sustainable fashion label, for instance, designclothes out of industrial waste and recycled fabric. They use organic cotton, corn fabric, and banana fabric apart from establishing repair centres to recycle and resell their products. Campus Sutra is partnering with manufacturers on an eco-friendly clothing range that reuses 90% of the water, in the manufacturing process. Embedding social impact into business operations will continue to be up front and centre as a core philosophy and strategy.
What lies ahead
2019 is likely to be massive for the industry as events like the ICC Cricket World Cup, the annual IPL etc., will witness increased traction for branded merchandise. As we build to 2020, brands will pull out all stops to close out the end of the decade strongly. Offline strategy and multi-channel will play a big role with several online-first players, both in fashion and beyond, such as Wrogn, Zivame, Pretty Secrets, Urban Ladder and Pepperfryrolling out their offline /omnichannel strategy.
Going forward, what the industry needs is regulation to root out fake merchandise as counterfeit goods taint the industry and negatively affect customer sentiment. However, what the fashion and apparel sector in India doesn’t need is excessive interference in pricing, imposition of levies and taxes etc.. For an industry that employs and impacts many millions of Indians, the sector’s long-term needs have to be prioritized.