Recently, fashion circles in New York, USA, were brimming with excitement when it was announced that the city would host its first-ever men’s fashion week in July. Speculation of such a move had been rife, but the announcement came as a confirmation-of-sorts of the growing importance of upscale menswear. While designers in major cities around the world are realising the need to cater to the male fashion enthusiast, closer home, things remain women-centric.
“In India, men usually stick to the basic shirts, T-shirts and jeans. For us, it’s a matter of need more than anything else. When you can look good in something simple, you normally wouldn’t opt for something funky,” says model Namit Khanna.
According to a 2013 report released by consulting firm Technopak Advisers, with a market size of `87,500 crore ($ 16 billion) in 2012, menswear is the largest segment in the Indian apparel industry. Yet, when it comes to fashion weeks, more emphasis is laid on what women would like.
Lack of interest
Some feel that there just isn’t much of a demand for designer menswear, so not many designers opt to showcase male-centric collections on such platforms. “Delhi had a men’s fashion week (started in 2009), but it was cancelled after three seasons because it didn’t garner enough interest. In fact, a lot of designer stores don’t even stock menswear because they feel it does not have a substantial market,” explains Aparna Badlani, co-owner of multi-designer store, Atosa, in Khar.
So, what leads to this lack of demand in spite of having such a huge male population? Hesitation to experiment is the reason, say those in the business. “Certain things look good on the ramp, but they won’t necessarily look good off it. Even I don’t see myself buying most of the things I wear on the ramp. Hence, most of these clothes don’t make commercial sense,” says Khanna.
It’s no surprise, then, that only a handful of Indian designers — Abraham & Thakore, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Raghavendra Rathore, Rohit Bal, Kunal Rawal and newbie Ujjawal Dubey, among others — have dedicated menswear lines.
Badlani feels things are slowly looking up. “The demand is definitely increasing because there’s more awareness about men’s fashion now. Many film stars are also experimenting, and since India is such a Bollywood-driven country, fashion is governed by what people see on the big screen. So, when actors promote edgy fashion, it makes people look in that direction,” she says.
Designer Ken Ferns, who feels that prints are the top trend for men currently, shares Badlani’s opinion. “Men’s fashion can become a big industry if people open their minds a bit more. It has already begun, what with Indian men accepting neon,” he says. And in order to boost this segment of the market, designer SS Surya feels that getting a dedicated men’s fashion week in place is the first step. He says, “It will help create awareness about designer menswear.”