For years and years, the cities of New York, Milan and Paris have been the hotspots for fashion, with each one holding its own annual version of Fashion Week. Apart from the flamboyant and talented fashion designers and breathtaking, glamorous runway models that descend upon each locale, each Fashion Week event at any of the aforementioned destinations also serves as a magnet for the biggest movers and shakers in the industry. Namely, these are the buyers and purchasers for some of the biggest retailers in the world. The significance of Fashion Week is such that it only takes one well-placed bulk order from any of the purchasers to take your fledgling brand to a whole new level of stardom and recognition.
However, much of the brands considered by people to be high-end and cutting-edge are largely European. Designers from other continents have been getting a fair bit of attention, but the monopoly on high-fashion still remains in the hands of the Westerners. That has not stopped the infant fashion industries in Asia from trying, however. Indian fashion’s foray into the international market is looming as evidenced by its emerging presence in the world of Fashion Week.
Traditional Indian fashion has been around for thousands of years, and pretty much everyone in the civilized world has come across someone in a sari. The increasing popularity of Bollywood films has also led to an increased awareness and appreciation for the vibrant colors and patterns of traditional Indian costumes. Some of the most au courant and stylish fashion icons have also taken to combining elements from East and West to come up with a unique and striking look, hence the sightings of women wearing a brightly-colored, stylishly cut kurti with skinny jeans and designer heels on the street.
However, India’s fashion industry still has a bit of a way to go before it gets to its desired goal, and to that end, they also have quite a few critical decisions to make before working on a viable strategy.
What are the challenges ?
One of these important decisions is determining whether to keep marketing to the domestic market or to expand the industry’s reach onto the international field. The latter option might seem to be the obvious answer, but it is far more complicated than that.
For starters, the domestic market is key to the sustainability of India’s fashion industry. With a population that ranks among the highest in the world, there is no shortage of clients and customers to peddle fashionable goods to. Also, India has long been home to some of the world’s richest industrialists (who wouldn’t balk at dropping the equivalent of USD3,500 on a particularly exquisite choli), so there is a consistent market for the local industry’s high-end fashion designers.
If you factor in the rising income levels and purchasing power of the country’s upper middle class ranks, then it isn’t too difficult to understand why even the most prominent Indian fashion designers still feel the need to impress their local buyers first before stepping into uncharted waters, so to speak. After all, if you just finished putting together an exquisite shalwar kameez that’s been intricately studded with Swarovski crystals, then it’s more likely to be appreciated by an aspiring local socialite who associates the garment with class and elegance than an equally wealthy European who just happens to be browsing the racks.
Close to about 95% of the revenue generated by Indian fashion designers during Indian Fashion Week is estimated to have come from local buyers and customers, with a small fraction of those sales being derived from purchasers in the nearby Middle East who are also familiar with the intricacies of traditional Indian fashion. For now, the demand for Indian fashion in Western markets such as those in the US or in Europe remain on the down low, especially when compared alongside the mammoth demand in the local markets.
However, this does not mean that there is not much potential for Indian fashion to break into the Western market. Since traditional Indian fashion is famous for being anything but plain, it has long been associated with luxury, craftsmanship, and creativity in the West. Those in the known are also perfectly aware that Indian designers are among the best in the world, what with their attention to detail and their ability to come up with daring patterns in bold colors.
How are we making difference ?
The biggest issue that Indian designers seem to struggle with in the process of exporting their brand or products is that a lot of Westerners hesitate to purchase Indian clothing due to their lack of familiarity with it. Thankfully, websites like saree.com have been instrumental in encouraging mostly unfamiliar clients to try all sorts of beautiful Indian clothing by offering a wide range of intricate and lovely designs. This, coupled with the excellent customer service that helps customers choose the right pieces and the equally excellent exchange policy that allows buyers to swap previously-bought pieces for something more suitable, has led to a considerable number of clients taking a risk on traditional Indian clothing and enjoying its benefits.
Websites like saree.com also play a huge role in potentially bringing high-end, traditional Indian fashion onto the world stage by offering clients the option to have a more customized fit. (As of press time, saree.com enables clients to schedule a one-on-one fitting with tailors and designers to help them come up with the exact look that they want.)
Truly, taking India’s fashion industry global will take more than just having an influential fashionista and/or socialite don a colorful and bejeweled choli over her expensive designer skinny jeans and walking the streets of New York, Milan, or Paris. This endeavor would certainly involve a great deal of strategic planning, one that will enable the Indian fashion industry to still take care of its most viable local clients while extending its reach beyond its geographical borders.
And yet, with a world that is increasingly hungry for novel influences from other cultures and with the prospect of a previously unexplored market, the future of the Indian fashion industry remains undeniably bright.