When Ritu Sen, 23, went on a holiday to the Andaman islands, she was the only Indian woman in a swimsuit while others on the beach either wore salwar kameez or saris. This was despite the many Indian designers who are launching chic beach and resort wear collections.
When designers Rina Dhaka, Sanchita, Hemant-Nandita, Ranna Gill, Parvesh-Jai, Ashima-Leena showcased flowing floral gowns, dresses, kaftans, swimsuits, bikinis on the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week ramp, former beauty queen-turned-actress Gul Panag felt it was a waste.
"So much beachwear! One would be forgiven for thinking this is Ibiza not India! Really, what is the percent of ladies hitting the beach here?" Gul, who was appointed as the Twitter face of WIFW, posted on the micro-blogging site.
According to Hemant of young designer duo Hemant and Nandita, while resort wear is catching up among Indian women, beachwear will take time to pick up in the country.
"Beachwear is getting popular among designers, but its sales won't pick up in India very soon. There aren't too many beaches here in our country and women are still conscious about wearing such clothes in India unlike abroad where it is considered mainline. But this time our resort wear has got a good response from Indian stores like Ogaan and Aza," Hemant said.
While resort wear consists of casual and loose kaftans, sarongs, skirts and light evening gowns to wear on a holiday, beachwear comprises sheer dresses, swimsuits, bikinis, hot pants et al.
Despite the growing manufacture of these clothes, it is mainly bought by people from Europe and the Middle East - especially from Switzerland, Kuwait and Bahrain, said Hemant.
If Preeti Marwah of south Delhi-based boutique Feminique Apparels is to be believed, the demand for resort wear is on a sudden high in metros like New Delhi and Mumbai.
"There is a lot of demand for resort wear in local markets, especially for kaftans and tunics with floral prints. We add stonework and beadwork to it to add a little Indian touch to these clothes and customers are readily buying these because they are easy attires. Our resort line starts around Rs.1,500," she said.
Parvesh-Jai, another designer duo, started with couture six years ago and gradually shifted to resort wear owing to the growing demand internationally. Now they have begun to sense the demand for such clothes in India as well.
"When we started, India was not ready for such clothes and the market was very niche. Now with the changing lifestyle of people and thanks to super rich people who love to holiday, resort wear has become popular in India too. But I would say the country is still not ready for beachwear," said Jai. "Although young girls are comfortable in swimwear, most women here still prefer full swimsuits rather than a two-piece bikini set," he added.
This was evident when many raised eyebrows after Parvesh-Jai showcased itsy-bitsy swimwear on the ramp.Looking at the many Bollywood movies that released this year and the number of actresses who flaunted sexy bikinis in those movies, one may think that the Indian audience has accepted skin show, but certainly not after hearing the experience of Ritu Sen, who is a frequent traveller.
She says she was quite upset to see the reaction of the locals as well as tourists when she went to chill out at the Havelock beach in the Andaman islands in a full swimsuit.
"Though the beaches were resplendent, most Indian women were dressed in salwar suits or saris. I was the only one wearing proper beach wear (swimsuit) and I was standing out. On top of that, middle-aged uncles and their wives were staring at me and even clicking pictures, making me conscious. Then how does one expect women to be comfortable in such clothes in India?" she asked.