A sudden unexpected change from the ‘brick and mortar’ model made India jump on the digital wagon like never before. From the houses of international luxury to Indian couture – all can be purchased in just a click. Though lives have been made easier, are there any fallouts in this new model?
Back in 2019 in a report by McKinsey and Business of Fashion (BoF), India’s apparel market was predicted to be worth $59.3 billion in 2022. However, with the ongoing pandemic and the nation wrestling against being the centre of the world’s highest infection rates, the Indian retail market had been hit pretty bad. The audience also remained apprehensive of visiting stores. However, on the bright side, India has been quick in jumping on the e-commerce or online retail wagon.
“I didn’t really realize how quickly I would need to go online — with the pandemic and closure of the store during the lockdown. I started re-evaluating shifts in consumer behaviour and patterns. One of the first things I noticed was a growing need for consumers to shop online. With that, I fast-tracked the idea of Curato’s online platform.” says Tanisha Rahimtoola Agarwal, founder of CURATO, a muti-designer store for men’s sartorial needs which launched its E-commerce website recently, having designers like Antar-Agni, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Kunal Rawal.
With the wedding and festive season on the block, online multi-designer platforms and individual designer stores are expected to see a surge in sales. Although festivals and celebrations may be intimate and small, trousseau shopping remains at an all-time high.
International Luxury in India
Not only has the audience a profound love for their own emerging and established designers, the demand and obsession for international luxury goods have also increased manifold. According to a study by CPP-Luxury, the Indian luxury market was projected to touch $180b by 2025. “COVID 19 has been challenging for everyone. However, we have seen a huge surge in our sales and business. To be precise, our revenue for the current quarter has seen a 400% jump compared to a pre-COVID quarter.” says Nakul Bajaj, founder of Darveys, a luxury lifestyle e-commerce platform of authorised luxury products at discounts or prices that one gets abroad.
China’s skyrocketing luxury sales made us wonder of the same in India as well. He tells, “People prefer shopping online due to safety concerns. This shift has happened for the luxury market too. Comfort and convenience of our customers are one of our fundamental principles. Indian consumers are happy to shop online. Even before COVID-19, when travelling was hassle-free, a shopper had to travel and visit several boutiques for the product they were looking to purchase.” The new boom in interest for international luxury led to various multi-brand luxury retailers operating online.
Darveys.com houses 120+ authentic luxury designers including Versace, Balenciaga, Burberry, Dolce Gabbana, Fendi, Prada, Valentino and the likes.
The pandemic led a ‘buying’ impact too on the mindset of India’s luxury consumers which are predominantly the high net worth individuals and millennials. He adds, “On examining the current trends of consumer behaviour, we’re predicting an 800-1000% growth in sales around this upcoming festival season, compared to pre-COVID sales, that is a 10X rise in revenue growth in a span of 8 months. The pandemic is going to have long-lasting effects on the consumption patterns of people around the world. However, one thing is certain, Indian luxury consumers are embracing e-commerce and digital spending like never before.”
The Digital Indian Designer Market
Many of the multi-designer spaces aim at getting the right visibility and securing digit profits for some of the new, never heard of emerging labels too, engaging in artist-designer collaboration aimed to drive right mileage to the designers.
Tanisha adds, “Honestly, as a multi-designer store we have always thrived to support the designers, to give them a platform to showcase their offerings which could add to their sales and visibility. Our website is just the start of our online journey. We are also working on an IGTV series and eventually a YouTube channel for styling tips, designer reviews, testimonials and more. We also want to collaborate with EdTech platforms to create curriculums on men’s wear and fashion, maybe with online fashion courses/ institutions. Virtual fashion shows are the future, and we are working on a virtual Curato Red Carpet where we might even be able to bring in a bit of AR/VR.”
OSAA By Adarsh
These multi-designer stores are attempting to put the retail business back to its shine, prioritizing on the digital medium. Not only that, various leading Indian designers have come up with their own standalone e-commerce and online stores as well.
Designer Adarsh of the luxury couture label OSAA opens up, “Given the current pandemic situation, digital platforms play a pivotal role for our business. While my team and I am still getting comfortable with these changes, we are in a much better place than we were in the early months of the lockdown. At OSAA, we have just launched our online curated experiences, through which we can give confidence to our customers, create better relations and individually take clients through each garment. We have our own stand-alone stores and service our clientele directly, and therefore, enjoy a large degree of autonomy too.”
All designers want to make themselves more accessible in this digital age and ease the shopping experience. A lot of designers don’t have their stores or websites and heavily rely on such multi online platforms. In the moment of crisis, every support does look good. But, are they the only solution for business models and production strategies for brands, design houses?
Too Much Online?
FUEL, a multi-designer store based in Mumbai also recently went online. Their merchandise and media-manager, Sanah Shah explains, “The Indian fashion retail market has become more price-sensitive as opposed to quality-focused over the years. There has been a small focus on couture and one-of-a-kind designer wear that thrives on quality and timeless pieces. It has also led to the steady decline of the Indian artisan and workmanship. More participation of designers in multi-designer stores has led to more choices as well as the end consumer. The downside of this is that a shortage of unique ideas and designs is observed and designers are seen imitating one another to boost sales rather than focus on genuine and innovative ideas.”
These platforms are good and help a few designers and brands, however not all. Although the growing participation of various designers in the Indian online retail space has boosted the consumption, the fallout comes in the manner of a hindrance to observe the original creativity of the label.
Karan Berry and Leon Vaz, Co-Founders of the brand, Karleo, focusing on white wedding gowns, evening and cocktail gowns add, “As designers, we wouldn’t say we have the same power and say like that of retailers as there is a continuous competitive strive for excellence. Designers are continuously striving to protect their design rights, however, the penetration of the internet has made ‘duplicate goods’ accessible wherein retailers also having a stronger hold due to the support of regulatory bodies working hand in hand with government authorities. Laws and standards would seem to be the answer in theory, but the application of the same is not easy. An effective regulatory body dedicated only to fashion designers would definitely be the answer which would set up strict laws and norms helping designers protect their original piece of work thus giving designers the satisfaction in calling an original creation their own.”
Internet platforms overcome the limitations of geography and offer exclusive services and products to a wider audience – domestically and internationally. It provides unique opportunities and experiences that would otherwise be restricted in a physical retail outlet. “Only those brands which have retail stores Pan India, they work like normal stores. Designers having just two or three stores – their power is very low. The spread should be Pan India and also, the demographics differ so there is no unanimity as well.” Designer Gautam Gupta of Label Asha Gautam.
Digital Wedding Gala
With the festive season at the threshold of our lives, our wish to be clad in bright vibrant and intricate pieces shall always be there. However, clients have become cautious and the festive party is now shifted to a virtual format. Gautam Gupta shares, “The wedding wear segment also faced the hit but there’s still some movement – 50 to 100 gathering, which has created some needs.”
Label Asha Gautam
Now, there are virtual styling consultations, video calls back and forth – Indian couture has now landed to the comfort of our homes. “We have just launched a new virtual channel for bridal sales, which aims at providing a unique experience to our clients. We have been pleasantly surprised to see that it has been working well for us, particularly with clients who have experienced our clothes before and trust us implicitly. All this information helps us with our retail strategy too and must be taken into consideration to ensure that we have satisfied customers.” says Adarsh.
However, there are some concerns too. “There is a price bracket in festive wear, say under 45k or 50k where consumers might try a new brand only if it is available on a reputed site. Similarly, old clients will always buy from designers they have known for years. As far as couture goes, I have my reservations until and unless the trust factor is too high” says Gautam Gupta.
Osaa By Adarsh
Until recently, luxury brands were not too comfortable with selling their products virtually. The same could be said for luxury consumers as well, who preferred to ‘touch and feel’ the products before deciding to purchase.
Sanah Shah says, “ The wedding season is upon us, the need has arisen for them to be forced to step out to buy clothes for the same. Millennials have the ability to trust online portals and realise that pieces are returnable and exchangeable, which is slowly changing the older generation’s apprehension. Visiting exhibition-type shopping areas or malls is still a far-off thought for most shoppers. A multi-designer store reduces the number of stops and spaces they have to enter by providing everything they need under one roof. The online portals seem to be the catalysts to the ultimate retail sales.”
FUEL houses over 40 established and up-coming designers on its online portal, like Masaba, Mrunalini Rao, Pallavi Jaipur, and many more.
Banner Image Credits : Osaa By Adarsh