Mumbai: For most of us in India, designer wear is something we hear of more than we get to see of. When we do get to see designer wear creations, it is mostly on television in the form of skinny models sashaying up and down the ramps, donning clothes that we will not normally contemplate wearing.
On another level designer wear also means clothes sold in expensive and inaccessible-looking retail outlets, which most people hesitate to enter. But once you muster up the courage to enter you realise your mistake as each of the items on display costs approximately close to two or three months of your salary.
But if the tone of the just-concluded Lakme India Fashion Week held in Mumbai recently is to be gauged, Indian designers are now trying to ensure that their clothes, well, do sell. Also, many designers are gung-ho about prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) wear being the next great hope.
So factors such as 'wearability' and comfort have now become the focus to raise profitability. Says designer Sabyasachi: "Collection should sell." Priyadarshini Rao, another designer, adds: "The need of the hour is for designers to focus on prêt and its price points."
In an indication of things to come, many designers are making prêt affordable at home and designer chic now starts at Rs 750 and can go up to Rs 30,000. And retail stores are set to reap the benefits, with most designers seeking to sell their labels at well-known retail outlets. And more business potential is being seen in accessories such as jewellery, shoes, bags, belts and caps.
A key growth sector
According to a recent study commissioned by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and conducted by management consultants KPMG, designer wear in India has been identified as a key growth sector. The study forecasts good tidings for the Indian fashion design industry and says it is expected to grow to Rs 1,000 crore from the current Rs 180 crore within the next five to 10 years mainly because Indian companies are rushing to invest big sums in the industry.
Over the next 10 years it is also estimated that the key players in the industry will witness a compounded annual growth rate of up to 40 per cent. The study, however, points out that this growth is envisaged mainly because several companies are rushing to invest in designer wear. There are also indications that these companies will enter the volumes market by offering more of prêt collections that none of the existing designers in India at present offer.
The Indian designer wear industry at present comprises a small number of designers who, though having their own outlets, do not have resources to grow in size and reach economies of scale.
These designers while realising the potential existing in the ready-to-wear market are limited by the lack of processes, systems, and financial resources to scale up their operations and get into brand building, which is a lengthy and risky proposition and for which corporate involvement is important. Among the companies that are rushing to invest in ready-to-wear collections are the Singhania-owned Raymond's and TSCN Clothing.
Raymond's has developed a multi-brand outlet format with its Be: line of stores which caters to the middle-class market. Be: works about 12 designers and is said to be looking for more. Some of the designers working with Be include Raghavendra Rathore, Rohit Bal, Priyadarshini Rao and Manish Malhotra at any given time.
The store follows a structured approach forecasting trends, following predetermined pricing policies, a seasonal timetable and backward planning. Be declared a turnover of about Rs 7 crore last year and has about six outlets in India with one in Dubai, and is expanding its presence particularly in markets with large non-resident Indian (NRI) populations.
Raymond's strategy of 'corporatisation of designer wear' emphasises affordability, accessibility and acceptability; its range of apparel is mostly western casual and evening wear with accessories for men and women in the price range of Rs 600-6,000. Raymond's officials say the company is trying to launch its designers in the international market where there is a huge Indian diaspora because only Indians know of these designers and therefore there is a need to get to NRIs first.
Another company that is seriously getting into designer wear is apparel manufacturer and exporter TCNS Clothing with its W range of womenswear which is focused on the traditional salwar kameez.
TSCN will launch W on a national scale very soon. Recently, the company got a design consultant from the US to map the vital statistics of the Indian woman through an anthropometric study for a standard fit and size of the ethnic outfit.
The US firm that determines the fit and size of the contact lens for Johnson and Johnson and the space outfit for NASA mapped vital statistics of about 2,000 women in 40 metros in India to analyse the shape and size of the salwar kameez.
TCNS Clothing CEO Vijay Misra says his company's estimates will serve 96 per cent of the Indian universe. The firm has planned an investment of Rs 16 crore for its womenswear. TCNS Clothing exports garments to leading brands across the world, some of which are Levi's, GAP, Old Navy, May Department, Banana Republic, Saks Inc and JC Penney.
Salwar kameez is its first business venture in India. The size of the salwar kameez segment has been estimated by the company at Rs 1,700 crore in top eight metros, with KSA Technopak doing the gap analysis. The company says it has chosen to be a mass brand instead of a premium one.
The W range will be priced in the Rs 350-600 range and has already been launched in Delhi and will soon be sold at 50 selling points this year. This includes exclusive outlets as well as large retail stores like Shopper's Stop, Lifestyle, Globus and Pantaloon.
The Rs 175-crore firm expects its domestic foray to generate a turnover of Rs 15 crore this year. Worldwide, designer wear is a $35-billion industry with a 9-per cent growth rate - almost twice that of the apparel industry - and margins of as much as 15-25 per cent.