Designers tap small towns with big aspirations (Feature)

August 21st, 2011 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 21 (IANS) Small towns? Indian fashion designers say it’s a sleeping giant of a market that is slowly waking up.

Two- and three-tier cities have spelt huge potential business for designers, thanks to growing awareness, fashion consciousness and greater purchasing power. And they are tapping it fully through brick-and-mortar stores and even online portals.

After developing a steady clientele in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, designers have now also started retailing in places like Surat, Nagpur, Goa, Pune and Ahmedabad.

“There is a demand for designerwear in small cities because India is getting richer, people are getting more aspirational, they hear about labels and they know about fashion,” celebrated couture designer JJ Valaya told IANS on the sidelines of the ongoing Lakme Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2011.

“I think two- and three-tier cities are now ready for Indian fashion. I think it’s a matter of time that designers go all out and reach out to people in the small cities. Some have already started,” he added.

Valaya also said designers should indulge in pret collections if they wish to create a client base among the masses.

“If you want to grow as an industry, ‘Ready to wear’ clothes that reach out to maximum people is the way to go, but it requires a lot of planning, infrastructure and back-hand integration and designers are slowly working on that,” he said.

Designer Payal Singhal, who retails in cities like Chandigarh and Surat apart from other small towns, said: “People in small towns have become very fashion-conscious. We get e-mails from clients from cities like Surat asking us about our collections. They buy online and they know the latest trends.

“They have a lot of money and they’re willing to spend it. There is a big market out there in cities apart from the metros.”

According to Jai of designer duo Parvesh-Jai, there is a lot of demand for their Indian wear in small towns.

“In places like Raipur, Meerut and Ahmedabad, people are loaded with money and we sell a lot of saris and lehengas in these places. Buying capacity of people in the smaller cities has become very high,” Jai told IANS.

“To uphold their social status, people in these places too have become more conscious about brands and trends and are spending money to get that latest designer outfit.”

This growing phenomenon has left many designers thinking about expanding business in small towns.

“I am not opening any store in any small towns immediately but may be five years down the line, I will. I am thinking on those lines,” said designer Nachiket Barve.

Valaya, who launched his label almost 20 years back, too has similar plans and says the logistics need to be put in place.

“I am planning to open my store in the small cities, but let’s see when that happens because it has to be done on the right scale; otherwise it’s not worth it. So it’s still in the planning process,” he said.

Some designers credit the increase in online shopping for the surge in demand for designer clothes in small cities. Online selling of designer wear by sites such as Fashion and You and Myntra have proved to be a boon - for designers as well as for small town consumers.

“In cities like Nagpur and Raipur, where there aren’t many stores retailing designer outfits, people often pick clothes online. My collections are doing very well in small towns through online buying on sites like Fashion And You. I have witnessed some very good sales,” said western wear designer Jatin Varma.

To take a bigger step in that direction, Varma has now collaborated with retail chain Shoppers Stop to make his prĂȘt line available in many parts of the country.

“In India, we are launching our label with Shoppers Stop soon. So it would be like 40 stores around the country will have my collections,” he said.

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

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