Investment Outlook , Published Feb 17, 2019
Co-founder and Design Director at Shantanu and Nikhil Design.
Indian couture has been a space of trend and anti-trend which has observed consistent change, thanks to the influx of millennials.
The current generation wants an opportunity to create and have fun without getting bogged down by tradition. These newer trends in couture will unleash more opportunities for ready-to-wear clothes.
The story of Indian couture dates back to pre-independence. On one side were the Royals – and the couture that catered to their taste and the regalia. While the world focused on them, some iconoclasts on the other side started an anti-trend with their deep sense of intellect and personal style.
While Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur redefined the Indian couture with her individualistic style and elegance, the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sparked a shift in the sartorial style immediately after independence. The Nehru Bandhgala jacket was eventually identified as an iconic Indian silhouette, and many politicians followed the trend, which led to a whole new couture in India.
Millennials – the major drivers
Indian couture has been a space of trend and anti-trend which has observed consistent change, thanks to the influx of millennials. Individuals below 35 years are now calling the shots and driving design trends.
Millennials are increasingly moving away from sensory overload. Even as they adopt contemporary values, they experiment with the traditional as opposed to being burdened by it. There is also a shift in the perception of embroidery; the overuse has created stagnation. Gold embroideries are giving way to tone-on-tone embroideries on red lehngas– which is now becoming the new anti-trend.
Men now prefer wearing fitted clothes, inspired by shape rather than embroidery. They prefer light and fancy garments to highlight their characteristics rather than the occasion. Moreover, the current generation wants an opportunity to create and have fun without getting bogged down by tradition. It’s a welcome change as it hints that the couture in the country is getting more robust.
Our (Shantanu & Nikhil) collection captures the zeitgeist of different defining moments of glory. For instance, our Spring Summer’ 18 collection, ‘Tribe – The India Story’ is an echo of the emerging voice of millennials who believe in the India-on-the-move ideology that in turn breeds on the grounds of egalitarianism. Young individuals are continuously crossing and defying borders; physical, social and psychological; and becoming global citizens.
Amidst all the chaos, India has a strong sense of structure which is reflected in our colour choices. India, being a country of drapes – our dhotis or sarees get a contemporary touch in terms of design and style.
Advent of technology
By 2020, people are increasingly going to use technology for their benefit. Currently, technology is primitive with scant regard for educating buyers about brands or the lineage of designers. However, once Indians get a hold on technology, global brands will view India as a hotspot and designers will be appreciated for their distinct style of work in due time.
Indian couture has always been about personal invitations. The traditional approach of one-to-one conversations will again gain currency. Designers will need to spend more time with clients and understand their needs. While brick-and-mortar stores and large formats will continue to exist, there will be fewer of them.
Couture, in its pure sense, has lost its value in the fashion world today. For ‘true’ couture, a garment should be strictly made only once, with its materials never getting reused. Thus, it remains a pure invention which is no longer a trend globally. However, couture still reigns high in terms of its aspirational value as it gets crafted from a buyer’s perspective.
Ready to fly
In India, the transformation has already occurred in the past two years, when designers started realising that Indian couture is all about ‘me’ and not the tradition. This has given birth to a whole new segment of anti-trend. But like any good idea that has a gestation period for people to absorb and assimilate, few will value it now before it becomes a statement.
Indian fashion is at the cusp of a tectonic change. Newer trends in couture will unleash more opportunities with its creative spillover triggering a market for ready-to-wear clothes. People will eventually graduate from going to saree shops towards ready-to-wear stores. And that’s a billion dollar opportunity. Are the investors listening?
Investment Outlook 2019