Indian Fashion Industry

Colorful fashion trends of India

With the end of the 20th century came the end of all hype, which created a more practical and pragmatic environment and gave a more stable picture of the fashion business. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the Indian fashion scenario wasn’t exactly colorless. It was exciting, stylish, and very graceful. There were no designers, models, stars, or fashion design labels that the country could show off. The value of a garment was judged by its style and fabric and not by who made it.

Fashion Industry

It was regarded as ever so chic and fashionable to approach any unfamiliar tailor who could make a garment for a few rupees, providing the perfect fit, finish, and style. The high society lady, who wore it, was proud to get a good bargain and give her name to the result.

In 60s, tight ‘kurtas’, ‘churidars’ and high coiffures were a trend among ladies. It was an era full of naughtiness and celebration in arts and music, and cinema, manifested by liberation from restriction and acceptance of new types of materials such as plastic film and coated polyester fabric.


The 70s witnessed an increase in the export of traditional materials outside the country as well as within. Hence, international fashion arrived in India much before the MTV culture with the bold colors, flower prints, and bell-bottoms. Synthetics turned trendy, and the disco culture affected the fashion scenario.

It was in the early 80s when the first fashion store ‘Ravissant’ opened in Mumbai. At that time, garments were retailed for a four-figure price tag. The ’80s was the era of self-consciousness, and American designers like Calvin Klein became popular. In India, silhouettes became more masculine, and the ‘salwar kameez’ was designed with shoulder pads.

With the evolution of designer stores in Mumbai, the elegant fashion design culture was a trend among Indians and their heavy price tags. No doubt that a garment with a heavy price tag was at the bottom stage of fashion. But clients immediately transformed into the high fashion fold where they were convinced that the word ‘elegant fashion design culture’ means it had to have a higher price tag.

Garments were sold at unbelievable prices only because the designers had decided to get themselves noticed by making showy outfits and getting associated with the right shows, celebrities, and events.

Later, fashion shows shifted to competitive events, each attempting to out-do the other in theme, guest list, and media coverage. For any newcomer, the fashion business was the number one professional art at that time.

In the ’90s, the last decade of the millennium, a move towards the drastic pairing down returned with ethnic wears (Today, the ethnic wear market in India is accounted to Rs. 9000 crores). This led to the decline and the recession, the push to sell at any cost and stay in the limelight. With heavy cutthroat competition and a sound awareness of the client, the inevitable occurred. The price tags, which had once reached a peak, began their downside journey.

At those times, the downturn was experienced in the price tags of the garments and the business of fashion shows. More models, choreographers, make-up men, hairstylists, and designers streamed down into their business.

The fun and party time in the Indian fashion scenario had not ended with this but continued. It was a point where it reached a certain steady level, and from there, at the beginning of the 21st century, with new designers and models and some sensible designing, the fashion hype accelerated its speed.

Indian fashion industry spreads its wings globally.

For the global fashion industry, India is a huge exporter of fabrics and accessories. All over the world, Indian ethnic designs and materials are considered a significant facet for fashion houses and garment manufacturers. In fabrics, while sourcing for fashion wear, India also plays a vital role as one of the biggest players in the international fashion arena. India’s strengths not only depend on its tradition but also on its raw materials. World over, India is the third-largest producer of cotton, the second-largest producer of silk, and the fifth largest producer of artificial fibers.

In the international market, the Indian garment and fabric industries have many fundamental aspects that are compliant, in terms of cost-effectiveness to produce, raw material, quick adjustment for selling, and a wide range of preferences in the designs in the garments like with sequin, beadwork, aari or chikkon embroidery, etc., as well as a cheaper skilled work force. India provides these fashion garments to the international fashion houses at competitive prices with shorter lead time and an effective monopoly in designs that covers elaborated hand embroidery – accepted the world over.

India has always been considered a default source in the embroidered garment segment, but the changes of rupee against dollar have further decreased the prices, thereby attracting buyers. So the international fashion houses walk away with customized stuff, and in the end, crafted works are sold at very cheap rates.

As far as the market of fabrics is concerned, the ranges available in India can attract and confuse the buyer. A basic judgmental expectation in the choosing of fabrics is the present trend in the international market. Much of the production tasks take place in parts of the small town of Chapa in the Eastern state of Bihar, a name one would have never even heard of. Here fabric making is a family industry, the ranges and quality of raw silks churned out here belie the crude production methods and equipment used- hussars, matka silks, phases, you name it, and they can design it. Surat in Gujarat is the supplier of an amazing set of jacquards, moss crepes, and georgette sheers – all fabrics utilized to make dazzling silhouettes demanded the world over. Another Indian fabric design that has been specially designed for the fashion history is the “Madras check,” originally utilized for the universal “Lungi,” a simple lower body wrap worn in Southern India; this product has now traversed its way on to bandannas, blouses, home furnishings and almost any thing one can think of.

Recently many designers have started using traditional Indian fabrics, designs, and cuts to enhance their fashion collections. Ethnic Indian designs with batik cravat, tie-and-dye, or vegetable block print are ‘in’ not just in India but also worldwide.

In India, folk embroidery is always associated with women. It is a way of self-expression, and they make designs that depict their native culture, religion, and desires. Women embroider clothes for personal use, and the people linked with the pastoral profession prepare embroidered animal decorations, decorative covers for horns and foreheads, and the Rabaris of Kutch in Gujarat do some of the finest embroideries. Embroidered pieces are made during the festivals and marriages, which are appliqué work called ‘Dharaniya.’ One of the significant styles of Saurashtra is ‘Heer’ embroidery, which has bold geometric designs woven on silks. The Mutwa women of the Banni area of Kutch have fascinating embroidery. They make fine embroidery works with designed motifs and mirrors in the size of pinheads; the Gracia jats use geometric designs on the yoke of long dresses. Moreover, the finest quilts with appliqué work are also made in Kutch.

Garments embellishment with bead work is another area where is in demand in the international market. Beads are used to prepare garlands and other accessory items like belts and bags, and these patterns are now available for haute couture evening to wear. According to a survey, Indian women have given up their traditional sari for western wear like t-shirts and shorts in recent times. They feel more comfortable in skirts and trousers instead of saris and salwar kameez. It’s been noted that women spend just $165 million on trousers and skirts against 1.74 billion dollars spent by men on trousers. With more women coming out to work, the (combined) branded trouser and skirts market has been increasing at a whopping 27 percent in sales terms. Women feel that Western clothing is more suitable, particularly when working or using public transportation. Many corporate offices are also in favor of their employees wearing Western wear.

In India, Western inspiration is increasing due to the influence of TV and films. Besides, shopping malls selling branded clothes have also mushroomed in India and are fascinating to the youngsters. Recently, designer wear is being promoted through store chains such as Shopper’s Stop, Pantaloons, Westside, etc. Raymond and TCNS have also set up their exclusive stores for designer wear, such as Be: and W.
The market of the Indian fashion industry

Recently, a report stated that the Indian fashion industry could increase its net worth of Rs 200 crore to Rs 1,000 crore in five to ten years. Currently, the worldwide designer wear market is $35 billion, with a 9 percent growth rate, with the Indian fashion industry creating hardly 0.1 percent of the international industry’s net worth.

According to approximations, the total apparel market in India is calculated to be about Rs 20,000 crore. The branded apparel market’s size is nearly one-fourth of this, or Rs 5,000 crore. Designer wear, in turn, covers nearly about 0.2 percent of the branded apparel market.

At present, the largest sales turnover within the designer wear segment is about Rs25 crore, with other well-known names having fewer turnovers of Rs10-15 crore. Given the prospects of the Indian fashion industry for growth, the figures are not very hopeful.

The figure of the fashion industry

  • o The organized market for designer apparel is about Rs 250 crore
  • o Designer wear calculates to less than 1 percent of the apparel market
  • o The global market for designer wear is 5 percent of the total apparel market
  • o The global market for the designer wear industry is largely dependent on the small-scale sector
  • o Consumers for designer wear have a yearly household income of Rs 10 lakh-plus. There are 3 lakh such households developing at 40-45 .percent
  • o Designer wear industry is projected to increase to Rs 1,000 crore by 2015.
  • o More than 81 percent of the population below 45 years of age is fashion conscious.

Many fashion designers and management experts foresee an average growth of about 10-12 percent for the Indian fashion industry in the coming years. If infrastructural and logistical bottlenecks and drawbacks are overcome, the growth rate could be more than 15 percent.

India needs more effort to overcome

However, despite the benefits available in India, there are also some disadvantages. India is not a remarkable player in the global market concerning brands because of its inability to add value to products. This is observed because nearly 50 percent of its exports are apparel and made-ups where value addition is essential. Likewise, 75 percent of the domestic apparel market is commoditized and unbranded, and very few Indian brands survive in foreign markets. Evidently, the Indian market has not made a strong stand, and hence it is difficult to make Indian brands that can compete with global brands in India.

Another reason for the fashion industry’s inadequate growth is the limited experience of the designers and the platform they are offered. The insignificance stalks from the reality that most of the young talent is hired by the bigger names to work in their studios, thus imprinting their work with the label of the big designers. Though performing individual presentations is not a choice for most young talent, a beginner designer’s name fails to come to the forefront because of the limitation of finance. Another thing regarding the ramp is that what the designers offer is barely appropriate to be worn ordinarily. You’ll see a dissimilarity between what is there on the ramp and what the Page Three crowd wears. Some believe the fashion is in at present, but the tendency hasn’t changed much as it is the old ones coming back. We have had short kurtas, long kurtas, flowing skirts, etc., coming back into fashion with only a new variety of designs.

Many management consultants and professionals believe that the Indian fashion industry will be boosted if the newcomers are paid proper attention. What they require is more support so that their work gets due recognition. According to the consultants and professionals, there should be a panel of people who choose designers for showcasing according to their work and not their name or who they’ve worked for earlier. Hence, selection would be purely based on quality. Besides this, the panel of judges should comprise people from the fashion schools rather than designers. It has been observed that the media hype around the big designers and blatant commercialism has hindered business in the Indian fashion industry. No clear-cut picture is provided about the feasibility of the products. Basically, it is only the famous names that are being talked of. What they offer is not quite daily wear. The entire focal point of the industry is commercialism. The discussion is only regarding how much is sold and for what price and nothing about the designs or styles.

Efforts to develop global fashion brands

A serious reason for India not being successful has been its isolation in the fashion system. It needs innovative designers, a seamless supply chain, control over retail and distribution, and concentration of quality while dealing with some images. While a few have accomplished something in the west covering Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Zara, Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, etc., India has not been capable of tracking on. Each stakeholder, including designers, exporters, textile players, and retail chains, needs to come together with the government to make sure that the position of Indian fashion is strong in the coming years.

There are various agencies and industry associations that can support brand-building practices. Many of these agencies require attractive resources and making a global image of Indian fashion rather than independently promoting particular brands or textile segments.

Efforts to create a strong global image

Large textiles players require more and more to target the market-facing activities while developing an association with small medium enterprise (SME) clusters. Such networks would benefit those that can focus on demand making and branding and clusters that can focus on quality production.

Efforts to create value networks

After the entry of large retail chains like Wal-Mart, Gap, etc., in India, Small scale manufacturers in India will find it very difficult to satisfy the demands of these international buyers if they continue to promote their products individually. Therefore, value networks must be created between large textile and apparel companies in India and small scale manufacturers so that the marketing muscle of the leading players can be utilized for receiving large orders while the bigger players then assign the orders to the small-medium enterprises according to their record of quality and service. For this to be put into practice, it will be vital to well-organize the information on small-medium enterprise clusters in a perfect manner so that supplier selection decisions are made according to the information in the long run, only the more efficient small-medium enterprise players survive and develop.

Efforts to concentrate on designers and designs

Designers have a fundamental role to play in the future of the Indian fashion scenario. There should hence be an effective process for preparing these designers. This can be done by sponsoring exchange programs with international schools, increasing participation in the world’s fashion capitals, motivating and offering business incubation to new designers, and rewarding efforts through proper design awards. Even in India, well-known designers are incapable of tapping finances from well-organized resources since a vital part of their assets are brands and design talent, which are not measured in terms of money. Hence, it becomes difficult to judge the value. This has severely inhibited their development and capability from raising retail existence across the country and abroad. Likewise, there is no systematic approach to existence in the world’s fashion capitals like Paris, Milan, and New York. Due to this, designers have to depend on their personal contacts and relationships for organizing fashion shows and making retail alliances. The French and British government helps designers of their particular countries appreciably in these areas as they understand that value creation through design is the only way to carry on in the competitive landscape of the global fashion industry. The Indian government and related agencies should also sincerely accept this aspect of the textile, apparel, and fashion industry if they need to see India on the global fashion map.

Work in collaboration: designers-corporate efforts

Designers and many organizations can work globally through various models and with many working relationships. The Indian fashion industry has many views, but only one such model, wherein a designer creates a retail venture with their own brand through organized retail chains. There are many other models according to brand ownership and division of operational activities.

Globally, many models of collaboration between designers and corporates are available. For example, Ralph Lauren has agreed with Jones Apparel to produce and retail various Polo brands. Likewise, Armani had an agreement with Zegna for production, even while it was competing with them in the marketplace. There are many cases of designer brands co-owned by the designers and corporates, Gucci-Alexander McQueen and Gucci-Stella McCartney.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.