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India’s ascent as a fashion frontier ep.3: Menswear is booming

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This three-episode series explores the Indian luxury market, including its growth forecasts. The first episode explained how the number of dollar-millionaire households in India would increase in the coming years and also analysed the impact of the country’s digital transformation following a focus on India’s purchasing behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic. Episode number two addresses Indian millennials’ powerhouse. Finally, this third and last chapter will discuss the possibilities of menswear brands in the country with a detailed case history and consider ways for global fashion labels to hit the Indian luxury market.

 

The expanding luxury menswear business in India

Fifty-seven per cent of men claimed their fashion spend has increased or that data suggesting men’s brand portfolio grew 46 per cent last year compared to 2019; the corresponding number for women was 14 per cent. All this is a part of The Atlas of Affluence (AoA), 2022: created by The Voice of Fashion, a division of Reliance Brands Limite, the daily digital magazine claims this is the first “wide and deep white paper” from India on consumer behaviour through the prism of luxury. 

India’s $26 billion menswear market is bigger than womenswear, with a 46 per cent share of overall apparel sales, compared to 38 per cent for women and 16 per cent for children. While women prefer the traditional sari and local designers, men are more interested in Western styles offering a bigger opportunity for international brands.

Canali iconic Nawab jacket

Canali iconic Nawab jacket

This sector could reach $34 billion by 2025, according to research presented by the Italian Trade Agency at a recent seminar organised by the Italian embassy and partners in Delhi. But brands must navigate diverse local tastes, poor infrastructure and a growing and fast-changing digital landscape.

“Indian men are paying more attention to how they look,” says Darshan Mehta, president and chief executive of Reliance Brands Limited (RBL). That extends beyond clothes; he notes: “Men’s grooming and styling are becoming mainstream. There’s an increase in healthfulness across all age groups.” 

To the outsider, the Indian male wardrobe might seem confusing, ranging as it does from Western formalwear and casualwear to so-called ethnic wear. But Shantanu, marketing director at Uniqlo India (the Japanese value retailer launched in India in 2019), says: “For men, there is not much of a gap between Western and Indian clothing. Shirts and trousers are as Indian as they are Western. Men don’t think they are wearing Western outfits. Rather these are staple silhouettes.”

If such product categories are valid, then the momentum is with Western wear. ITA research suggests the Western wear market will grow from 69 per cent in 2020 to 72 per cent by 2025, while ethnic wear is expected to decline from 31 per cent to 28 per cent over the same period – all good news for international brands.

But brands must take time to understand this particular landscape truly, as there are climate, regional beliefs and culture complexities. For example, labels like Canali and Zegna have strongly inculcated made-to-measure within their offerings. Furthermore, Canali is at the forefront in introducing its ‘Nawab’ jacket, a retake on an ethnic outfit known as the Bandhgala suit: this has helped them capture not only the consumers’ attention but also add a personal twist. Ethnic category with an interpretation valuable to the brand should be a strong consideration for any international brand hoping to launch in India.

Ermenegildo Zegna store in Mumbai

Ermenegildo Zegna store in Mumbai

Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited have recently gained a 33 per cent stake in Tarun Tahiliani’s existing business, primarily focused on demi-couture, for Rs67 Crore (about $9 million). But the new venture of focus is the creation of affordable menswear, wherein ABFRL owns 80 per cent, with an aim to establish Tarun Tahilianu into a Rs500 crore (around $77 million) business with a retail footprint of more than 250 stores across India while glaringly stating to the world that the gap in menswear market is a definite space to capitalise on.

 
Global brands’ future dynamism to hit the Indian luxury market

The Indian luxury market offers a myriad of opportunities. Hence, with luxury brands such as Valentino ready to open their doors in Delhi and inaugurate a flagship store in Mumbai, this reflects the seriousness of this unique market. However, it is unlikely that this will soon replace the US and Chinese markets as the largest market for luxury goods.

Valentino PinkPP collection Fall/Winter 2022/23 
Valentino PinkPP collection fall-winter 2022/23

The reality is that though relatively modest for a country of its size, India’s luxury market is the fastest growing in the industry. The forecast by Euromonitor predicts that the market will be worth $8.5 billion in 2022.

To find a solid footing in this market, luxury brands will have to win over different types of consumers, from the ‘value-conscious’, who consider material quality and potential resale value, to the ‘time-poor’ consumers who will not compromise on quality and experience. Meanwhile, Indian UHNWIs, who prefer to shop when travelling abroad, gained exposure to luxury brands while on foreign shores. In contrast, millennials gained knowledge because of digital penetration, overseas travel and individualistic discretionary spending that defies the established cultural norms.

Last but not least, we must consider the wedding industry, which constitutes the lion’s share of luxury spending in India: approximately 2,000 high-end weddings with a budget of around $2 million are organised in India annually, per the figures from Business of Fashion.

From clothing to jewellery to gifting, various avenues are available for luxury brands to find validation in India’s luxury market. Understanding the DNA of the demand and consumer behaviour in India and implementing strategies accordingly will work in a brand’s favour. Nonetheless, to have a long-term sustainable space, luxury brands must keep a sharp eye on the ever-changing and evolving Indian luxury consumers, who are globally renowned as a consumer segment that is “not easily impressed”.

 

 

Falguni Shah
Tutor in Fashion Business Undergraduate, and Luxury Brand Management and Digital Marketing Postgraduate programmes, Mumbai
Rachana Singh
Unit Leader in Fashion Business Undergraduate, and Luxury Brand Management and Digital Marketing Postgraduate programmes, Mumbai
School
MUMBAI
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Postgraduate Courses