If you’ve flipped through recent fashion magazines, you’ll know that Aztec prints are in. They’ve been seen in Versace collections and have trickled down to Western high street brands like River Island and Forever 21. Man sandals (women’s shoes with chunky soles and broad straps) have been on the runway and stocked by the dozen at stores like Zara. The international fashion chains are clearly on trend.
How they keep up
Myntra’s business head Abhishek Verma says the company decides what is trendy based on many parameters. They look at international trends and what’s showing on the runway, what will appeal to Web-savvy Indian customers, and what will fit the budget of the middle-class spender.
“Each month, Indian customers get more demanding,” he says. “They know what is trending globally. They now have a more exhaustive ‘silhouette’ vocabulary.” They will ask for maxis, bodycon dresses, asymmetrical hemlines (also known as mullet dresses). “All those styles are on the website.”
Verma adds that getting the fit and pricing right is the key to success in the new world of mass fashion for India. Jabong founder and CEO Arun Chandra, on the other hand, believes that hiring the right team to style and design your goods is essential.
“We have a team in Spain and London, who is influenced by the street style there. And that reflects in our clothes,” he says. The clothes, however, are for those who spend in rupees, not euros. That’s why they manufacture in China.
Indian retailers are employing other strategies to keep up with trends. Pantaloons is part of the Worth Global Style Network, a trend-forecasting company that informs all retailers about the latest in accessories, shoes, bags and clothes, since 2006. “It’s a very expensive website to subscribe to, but it helps our designers,” says Nagesh C, head of design and visual merchandising at the brand.
“We also attend trade fairs such as Première Vision in Paris and keep abreast of the competition. Our designers walk into high street stores in London to know what they are doing. And we keep an eye on the runways. There is a lot of market intelligence that goes into designing products now.”
Nagesh also explains how they design for the Indian woman. “Whatever designs we adapt, we try and be modest with lengths, arm holes and necklines. We have learnt through our interactions with them that Indian customers put comfort first. Our designers visit the store every three months and talk to customers about what they love and hate. It’s all about consumer synchronicity.”
Does it fit India?
As Indian brands invest time, resources and precious floor space to in-today-out-tomorrow styles, customers have started to take note. But several challenges remain. It’s still considered low-brow to shop at the Indian high street, or as die-hard shopaholic Afrin Khan says, “I am just scared that I will be wearing what everyone else is wearing, as many people now pick up trendy stuff at places like Westside rather than Zara.”
The Indian stores admit they still have a long way to go before they’re considered the first port of call for high-street fashion.
To speed the process along, Jabong partnered with stylish actress Alia Bhatt last year and got her to curate a fashion line. Many online stores are partnering with fashion weeks across the country to ensure their offerings are straight off the runway.
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From HT Brunch, May 24
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