The article is contributed by Shivaani Jain - Co-Founder, TAGGD
In this age of ‘new kind of fashionable’, it’s no longer uncool to sport homegrown labels. Back in 1991, the Indian economy opened doors and flooded the market with foreign goods. These were mostly lifestyle brands that Indians had long heard about, but never got to sample. Liberalisation also created the conditions for—maybe even inspired—indigenous creators to later prosper at home and also abroad.
More than 30 years later, from those watershed weeks and months, Indian fashion designers - to name just one creative niche - are now making waves, among local as well as international clients. Once restricted to those with money to spend, fashion has become democratised as it has penetrated non-metropolitan India. And because it is online, it is widely available, accessible and affordable. No wonder it is being endorsed and embraced by millions who reside off the beaten metro track, who crave the same apparel and attire - casual, formal and informal - as their megalopolis-living counterparts, and also the same comforts and indulgences.
Indeed, the bigger transformation is happening outside of Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Today, it is small-town India - small in size but certainly not in aspiration - that is shaping the India of the future, in terms of what it buys and even the lifestyle trends to come. So, what a Moradabad, a Coimbatore, a Nasik and a Cuttack thinks today, India will likely think the same tomorrow.
The changing face of lifestyle
This is not entirely unexpected, but it has been hastened by COVID-19, a process quickened by families being confined indoors and thus relying on e-commerce to take care of their desires as much as their needs. The pandemic brought home to us that life indeed is short, and we might as well make the most of it while we’re at it. So, if wearing that funky outfit, or that sexy one-piece (designed by one of us) allows us to feel good, why not indulge?
Unsurprisingly, it’s the digital revolution that has made e-commerce accessible to Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets, thanks to the government's Digital India initiative. This has enabled fashion and other brands alike to target the country’s non-metro towns and cities as future growth areas while giving the clientele here options besides the tried-and-tested names, and the opportunity to stay in touch with the latest trends in the fashion domain.
Because, when it comes to fashion, brands and collections are the same almost everywhere, and online shoppers are not guaranteed any exclusivity when they go looking to add to their wardrobes. Hence, now, they are more than willing to try out - and accept - labels that don’t come with the big-city tag, and to experiment with brands that are new to the market, and of which little is known.
In fact, the very thought of helping homegrown brands from locations off the fashion radar, in towns and cities away from the major urban centers, has empowered patrons in these places to own and wear such labels with pride. And while the brands may lack the staying power and cachet of the top-of-the-line labels, they do understand the power and magic of digital. So, assisted by on-off lockdowns and a population habituated to virtual shopping, they are evolving by adapting to the digital savviness of the consumer as well as the changing face of the industry.
The success of homegrown brands has been further driven by the ubiquity and high impact of influencers. Alongside, the rise of influencer marketing has given small-city youth a platform to leverage their presence on social media and earn a decent living. Fashion offers rewards as much as it lifts spirits and boosts confidence.
At home with fashion
The well-heeled and well-travelled may still opt for high-street chains such as Zara, Marks & Spencer or H&M (among many others) but a growing number of Indians are much less hung up about the ‘name’ than their predecessors once were. And the reason behind this change is the fact that there are many more indigenous designers and labels out there, a majority of them boasting creations of great standards, and more than capable of giving British, European and American brands a good run for their money.
Moreover, these made-in-India brands are nowhere near as overpriced as some of their international counterparts are. In fact, they are very reasonable on the average middle-class pocket, offering fashion and lifestyle that is affordable for you and me.
The metros may be where all the action is, but hidden from the eyes of many metro denizens is what’s happening in India’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Already, girls and boys from these urban spaces form a sizeable chunk of service economy across the country. This is a demographic that is growing, and it is one that will constitute a greater part of the workforce of tomorrow’s India. And, as their profiles grow, so do their ambitions. These confident Indians seek nothing but the best—in clothes and accessories, in gadgets and cars, in holidays and experiences.
There are e-commerce marketplaces and e-retailers successfully catering to and answering this swelling demand. Yet, while women’s wear and menswear might make up the bulk of the sales, Mrs and Mr are just as interested in jewellery, cosmetics and home décor—and when it comes to clothes, their junior or teen daughters and sons don’t want to be left behind.
It really is a whole new ecosystem - of hip and homegrown fashion and lifestyle brands, and their customers who are looking to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest trends. And in this ecosystem, the fashion influencers are key facilitators, playing an important role by sharing styling ideas and tips—to bring out the best in you, to make you look good.
Thankfully, gone are the days when fashion in India was a preserve of the elite and the wealthy, and that is surely for the better. Because its increasing inclusivity has exposed the majority of Indians to lifestyle choices they never had. It’s of little surprise, then, that homegrown brands are making a beeline for Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, for it is here that cash registers are ringing at their loudest. When it comes to fashion, there’s no more happening place in the country than the small-town India of big dreams.