Gone are the days when women’s wear in India was restricted to ethnic outfits like a sari or salwar kameez. With changing mindsets and more number of women joining the corporate world, now, western wear is dominating shop shelves not only in metros but also in small towns. There has been a complete shift in the women’s wear category. For instance, the dress has become the new tunic. Be it a fitted sheath for a formal occasion or an evening satin dress or a summer dress, the tunic finds acceptability in the hugely dynamic Indian market. From 2009 onwards, there has been a huge jump in demand for women’s western wear. According to Technopak Advisors, women’s western wear is clocking around 18 per cent growth as against 9 to 10 per cent for ethnic wear. Although the Rs 65,000 crores women’s wear market is dominated by traditional clothing like saris and salwar kameez, western wear apparel, which includes trousers, skirts and formals is increasing rapidly.
At present, top Indian brands like Allen Solly, Scullers and Van Heusen are active in this space. For them women’s western wear is an extension from their men's line. However, there are brands like Madame, who offer women’s western wear through their EBOs. Madame, for example, has the usual denim and capris, in addition to a range of pleated and flared skirts, collared shirts, cotton day dresses and formal ensembles. College girls can choose from razor backs, tank tops and noodle-strapped camisoles. Buoyed by the growth in this segment, Madame plans to have 150 exclusive stores by 2012. Van Heusen Woman is betting big on dresses, which became the fourth largest category in the previous fiscal and continues to grow at an exponential rate. By fiscal year 2012, it is slated to become the dress destination in the country by selling the highest number of dresses by a homegrown western fashion formal brand. Going by the changing dressing styles Arun Sirdeshmukh, chief executive, Reliance Trends says there is a shift to western attire. There are sections of women consumers who wear western clothes 4 to 5 times a week, while others like to wear them 2 to 3 times a week. Reliance Trends has a balanced mix of western and ethnic wear in the ratio 50:50.
In jobs where client interaction is high, formal urban wear has become an absolute necessity. More money in the hands of the urban working woman has also enhanced her purchasing power. Indian women today are more exposed to western ideas hence, the rise in demand for formal western clothes like shirts, trousers and formal dresses. Moreover, women employees today are realizing the benefits of western wear. These clothes offer more flexibility and comfort. No wonder, brands like Zara, Mango and Esprit are increasing their presence in the India. This is also helping in pushing up awareness about western wear in the country. Fusion wear has also risen in popularity in Tier II-III cities. Combining traditional ethnic tops like kurtis and short kurtis with jeans and other western bottoms has also propelled the retail growth of women’s western wear. Meanwhile Pantaloon Retail has been witnessing a shift to western wear in smaller towns as well. Kailash Bhatia, Chief Executive (Fashion), Pantaloon Retail believes the reason for the shift is more awareness about international trends. Nearly 50 per cent of its women wear shelves are stocked with western wear now.
What’s more India western women’s wear brands are in crossover mode by giving their portfolios a touch of local sensibilities. Most are tweaking their lines to an emerging Indo-western genre.