The muslin clothes manufactured in India used to be merchandised to the Roman emperors in the 2nd century AD. During the 17th and 18th centuries, muslins were imported by Europeans from Bengal. During the Indian struggle for independence, development of ‘khadi’ (hand-woven natural fibre cloth originated from India) based textile manufacturing was encouraged to oppose the British government as a part of the ‘Swadeshi’ movement. Textiles have a long association with Indian civilisation and continue to hold a prominent place in the Indian economy.
According to Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the domestic textile industry in India is projected to reach $223 billion by 2021 from $150 billion in November 2017. Under the Union Budget 2019-20, the Government of India allocated around Rs. 5,831.48 crore ($ 808.24 million) for the Ministry of Textiles. India’s textiles industry contributed 7% of the industry output (in value terms) of India in 2017-18. It contributed 2% to the GDP of India and employed more than 45 million people in 2017-18. The sector contributed 15% to the export earnings of India in 2017-18. The textile industry and fashion industry are interwoven. The first generation of Indian fashion designers started cropping up in 1980s – Rohit Khosla, Ritu Kumar, Neeta Lullah were among them. The economic exposure of the Indian textile and apparel industry to global fashion market gained momentum after the economic liberalisation in 1991.
Over the years, the fashion industry has evolved in a big way in India and is characterised by various exhibitions and events that take place round the year in various Indian metropolitans. The Kolkata Fashion Expo was recently concluded in Kolkata. It is a platform where manufacturers and buyers across India come together and celebrate the true spirit of fashion every year. This year, magnificent creations from eminent fashion brands like WNW, Tatwamm, Sequence and Pearls, Sakhi, Roop Shringar, Palki, Rajshree were showcased at the event.
Kamal Pugalia, the initiator of the Kolkata Fashion Expo, informed BE, “People now prefer clothes which are in sync with their personalities. In Eastern India, people are traditional and yet reflect modern thinking. That means an expanded market for tweaked traditional wear. This is also referred as fusion wear.”
Fashion market of India
Fashion is ever-changing and while some styles manage to become timeless classics, other trends only enjoy a brief hype before they die down. The fashion industry in India is constantly transforming and growing, irrespective of such trends.
Referring to region specific features of the fashion market in India, Pugalia stated, “Eastern India is in the middle of changes that are happening in the country. Delhi and Mumbai along with its adjoining regions lead these changes. Delhi and Mumbai have adopted western modes of fashion where silhouette and comfort are key propositions. However, down south the customers are still influenced by tradition. Kolkata and the adjoining areas stand somewhere in between the two extremes. They are willing to experiment but are still not bold enough like Mumbai and Delhi. They embrace both traditional wear and modern cuts but with a certain element of caution.”
Demands from the fashion industry
Harsh Bhotika, Director of the Warp’n Weft, told BE, “There is an urgent need to create a business framework and positive environment for the protection of intellectual designs. Designers across the board are suffering because of design plagiarism and they don’t get rewarded adequately for the efforts they put in. Small changes in colour or motif make the replicators out of current ambit of IP laws.”
He added, “The supply chain of ethnic wear has suffered majorly due to shortage of manpower. A large number of artisans have quit their artistry and are now part of the national rural employment guarantee scheme. The government is supporting us by subsidising capital expenditures but more needs to be done to pass on some benefits to the traders and retailers. The current government is working very closely with the Varanasi cluster and promoting Benarasi sarees/fabrics using different initiatives. Similar projects should be replicated across-the-board.”
India has a strong export potential when it comes to hand-made fashion products. Bhotika stated, “We should have, in first place, promoted consumption of our designed apparel and ethnic wear and should have promoted it across the globe and promoted Indian ethnic forms as a global fashion trend. We should try to increase our embroidery and weaving techniques. In western countries, anything which is handmade commands a premium and is treated as a luxury item. We can be a big supplier to the globe in that space. Standardisation and gradation of sizes needs to be done for the Indian customers in mind. We still use British and American gradations for all our apparels and that needs change.”