Is the sleeping giant, India, about to wake? There have been many false starts over the years predicting that India would become a major player economically. It’s certainly got the numbers of people, and, its middle class, with its growing disposable income, is expanding fast. Depending on the measures used, the estimated size of India’s middle class ranges between 78 million (Economist, Jan. 2018) to 604 million (Krishnan and Hatekar, EPW June 2017). Even on the lowest estimates this is a huge amount of potential consumers and retailers and brands are moving in.
Japan’s ‘Fast Retailing’ opened its first Uniqlo store in India this month in New Delhi. The company is planning to open two more stores in Delhi’s metropolitan area this autumn. Uniqlo said the three stores will be testing grounds before the company decides its long-term strategy in the country, The company says high import duties imposed in India have impacted the brand’s pricing, but no doubt it will remain competitive against other western chains.
Up until May, this year, India was the world’s fastest growing economy. It has a population of 1.3 billon with 65% under 35. There are an estimated 530 million people online and an 491 million smartphones by 2022.
Apple is rumoured to have finalised a short list of locations for its first retail store in India and Ikea finally opened in 2018 after 12 years of trying. It was prevented from opening stores because of government restrictions on foreign investment. The company says it aims to have 25 outlets across the country by 2025.
Aiming to tap into the young and affluent Indian consumer and become the ASOS of India is Koovs.com. Its corporate site says it “brings western fashion authority though the Koovs Private Label, curated global and local fashion labels and designer & celebrity collaborations to create and build the leading online western fashion brand for young, style-conscious Indian customers.”
Waheed Alli founded the company in 2012. He was previously Chairman of ASOS plc between 2000 and 2012. Based in London, it had full year sales of INR1,178m/£12.8m year to March 2019. While a relative retail minnow, recent forecasts show the ecommerce market in India growing from $24billion in 2017 to $84billion in 2021 and $200billion in 2026. Online fashion is expected to grow from a $4billion market in 2017 to a $15billion market by 2022.
Koovs concessions have opened in three central stores in Delhi over the period. They are now rolling out this concession model to another five stores in Bangalore (two stores), Hyderabad, Pune and Noida. The company has struggled recently because of the disruptions in India caused by demonetisation and the introduction of the Indian Goods and Sales Tax (GST).
Vibhuti Vazirani, founder of new Indian-made fashion start-up, Zavi, specialising in less environmentally impactful fashion, says, “A couple of years ago H&M and Zara entered India and have seen a great response. Such fast fashion brands are a hype in India now when a large part of the world has reached its peak of fast fashion. Within India too, there are many domestic players that cater to a large fast fashion industry.”
Zara currently has 16 stores in India and H&M has 47. The huge Tata Group which has been Inditex SA's - Zara's parent company - partner running Zara stores in India is building its own apparel empire as trend-focused as Zara, but at half the price. As per a Bloomberg report, Tata’s retail arm, Trent Ltd, has fine-tuned its local supply chain to deliver “extreme fast fashion” which can get runway styles to customers in just 12 days. Trent now plans to open 40 outlets of its flagship 'Westside' chain every year and hundreds of its mass market 'Zudio' stores, where nothing costs more than $15. “The middle class is growing, incomes have grown, Indians are travelling more and they have more money to spend,” Tata said. “Now that we’ve built this capability and this model that’s working so well, it’s time to grow faster.” it says. Zara is still expensive to the average Indian consumer and Tata Group is tapping into that cheaper demand for western fashion.
Zavi is being marketed at eco-conscious Western consumers rather than the domestic market. “I see Zavi entering the international space rather than India at this time because there are already some well informed countries that have made sustainability a priority and so that market is clear to respond better to what Zavi has to offer.” she says.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, India is on course to witness a 4x growth in consumer spend. It will remain one of the youngest nations on the planet and will be home to more than one billion internet users. By 2030, India will move from being an economy led by the bottom of the pyramid, to one led by the middle class. Nearly 80% of households in 2030 will be middle-income, up from about 50% today. The middle class will drive 75% of consumer spending in 2030.
The Indian market isn’t straightforward due to government restrictions and import taxes, but, the size of the growing middle class should be both tempting and terrifying for many international brands dealing with saturation and maturity in their established markets. They should have learnt their lessons from their early days in China and will be no doubt want to time their entry right to start making money early on. Brands can no longer afford to heamorrhage money for years on a speculative market. What is clear is that India is getting richer and there is a demand for international brands from Indian consumers with more money in their pockets. But is this the right time?
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Good menswear is all about timing. Knowing exactly where we are right now and where we’re going next is paramount to design sophisticated product which resonates. It’s intuitive and is the sign of a great designer.
Left - Mans Concept Menswear's Jaime Alvarez
Hitting the mark and making menswear waves is 25 years old Barcelona Fashion Week star, Jaime Alvarez. His label ‘Mans Concept Menswear’ has quickly become the hot ticket of Barcelona, winning Best Emerging Designer multiple times, and offers a combination of dressy yet cool menswear which wouldn’t look out of place on Harry Styles or any red carpet.
"Everyone believes that MANS comes from man, but, it actually comes from my grandpa’s german surname ‘Demans’,” says Alvarez. “My grandpa is the person I admire the most, he made me appreciate a good suit and taught me how important it is in men’s dressing.
“I covert finely constructed clothes made from good fabrics that last a lifetime.” he says. “But, I look for more relaxed tailoring for everyday life.”
Alvarez founded Mans Concept Menswear in 2018 straight after graduating from the Istituto Europeo Di Design (IED Madrid) in 2017.
“I've always had the idea of creating my own brand.” he says. “Everything started two years into my final project where I presented twelve looks under my brand concept.” he says. “I’d found an enormous gap in menswear between the classic tailor’s suit to an extravagant design that I personally believe no one would wear on the daily life, so I believed that there would be a place for MANS.”
Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20
Huma Humayun, Fashion & Features Editor, Schön! magazine says, “The brand is definitely one to watch. Jaime is not only the most exciting young designer at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week, but holds his own amongst much more experienced and established brands.”
Humayun was on the judging panel when Mans Concept Menswear won Best Emerging Designer for the third time at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in February, 2019. “It was simply the strongest collection, both in terms of originality and, I believe, commercial viability.” she says. “Perhaps it was not as 'commercial' in the traditional sense as some of the other collections in that category, but to compete on an international stage, one must also bring something fresh to the table.” says Humayun.
Proudly Spanish, Mans Concept Menswear is made entirely made in Spain in a little atelier in Madrid, except the shirts, that are made in Seville, Alvarez’s home town. There are four people in his team and seven more working at the ateliers.
Based around tailoring, Alvarez, is trying to push the boundaries of masculinity yet with very beautiful clothes. “Masculinity is an attitude whether you wear an ostrich feather shirt or an anthracite grey blazer. We decontextualise fabrics that from the beginning are for women and use in menswear pieces without losing the virility and masculinity.” he says.
For his AW19 collection Alvarez took to India for inspiration and, his latest collection, SS20, it was all about a night in Vienna.
“I get my inspiration from many different places; from guys I see on the street in my hometown in Sevilla, La Luisana. There I design the majority of the collections, but it's curious because it’s far from Andalusian folklore, but there are pieces with a southern see through inspiration.” says Alvarez. “I take a lot of inspiration from fabrics, normally, I investigate fabrics and from there, the sketches.” he says.
Alvarez doesn’t garner much inspiration from the current menswear market and looks to the old masters. “I’m tired of sportswear, etc.” he says. “I love to have references from artistic tendencies and iconic dressmakers as Cristobal Balenciaga. His skill with fabrics and patterns still have me fascinated.”
Just shown at 080 Barcelona Fashion Week in June 2019, his latest collection ‘A Night In Vienna’ was a confection of brooding tailoring with sheer pieces and elegant satin sashes.
“With this collection we were looking for a maturity on the patterns as well as in the couture through the details compared to our other collections.” says Alvarez. “This time, the MANS man travels to Vienna to be captivated and nourish himself on the romanticism that involves not just the art and the culture in the Austrian capital, but in the minimalistic and solemn way of opera and music conservatories.
Left - Mans Concept Menswear AW19
“This collection is more focused on details; lined blazers in white poplin instead of the classic lined tailoring. The flaps are full of eyelets, trousers topped with mini satin flaps and waterfall fringing.” he says.
“It's a collection that maybe does not flash on the runway, but a closer look and there are surprises. On the colour palette it’s much more sober and defined, when compared to the last collection where I made a more crazy colour study, with colour touches of burgundies, sunset oranges, and pinks."
Alvarez is referring to his AW19 collection, which is just about to hit his website, and was inspired by India and featured florals, exaggerated lapels and knitted tank tops. A vibrant Indian colour palette of fuschia, marigold yellow and green gave this a collection a summery feel with the highlights being delicate leaf cutouts in soft tailoring.
Humayun, says, “The (SS20) collection clearly demonstrated Jaime's progression as a designer. It was sophisticated both in terms of ideas and technique. It was much more restrained than the previous collection, in terms of the palette, but still had shots of bold colour. I think Jaime has really mastered how to introduce colour into his collections and it's one of his main strengths - that and his attention to detail. I also loved the accessories.
“It's not easy to achieve an impact on the catwalk AND produce wearable garments, but I feel the brand does this very successfully. It's tailoring with a high fashion edge, for a man who wants to stand out without being overly flamboyant." she says.
“It will be exciting to see what Jaime does next season. Although he's developed a strong signature, each collection is very distinct.” says Humayun.
Any young and gifted designer will reach a stage in their career where they have to think about the next step. Do you stay a big fish in a small pond, or take the leap? “This was our last show at 080 Barcelona Fashion and we are looking for new platforms to present the new collection.” says Alvarez. British Fashion Council, are you listening?!
Right - Mans Concept Menswear SS20 at 080 Barcelona Fashion in June, 2019
The big news from Paris was the arrival of CIFF, the Copenhagen trade show’s latest off-shoot. Joining Tranoi, Man/Woman and Welcome Edition, CIFF transplanted itself to a car garage in the back streets of Paris and brought with it the youngest and most cutting edge of designers from all over Europe.
This fractious and competitive Parisian trade show scene makes seeing the new season’s catwalk shows, plus all the trade shows, a juggling act. Here are the major trends and brands for SS20 from Paris catching TheChicGeek’s eye:
This rather Michael Portillo of fabrics is getting a youthful reintroduction. Thanks to the return of the shirt, and the promotion of its environmental credentials, linen is returning in a more contemporary way. Bright colours and oversized, billowy shapes is offering a refreshing reinvention of linen and making it feel desirable and cool for the new SS20 menswear season.
Top Left - Man1924
Bottom Left - Delikatessen
Right - Péro
While many think of India as a place for colourful yet cheap forms of clothing and textiles, Paris welcomed a couple of Rajasthani labels based on pure handwork in western shapes with the premium price tags to match.
Left - Péro
Péro, meaning ‘to wear’ in Marwari, the local language of Rajasthan, offered a colourful and quirky take on summer dressing for SS20. Using local materials and skills, Péro was launched by Aneeth Arora, a textile graduate from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, and a fashion graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. She calls herself a ‘textile and dress maker’ and what fascinates and inspires her most is the clothing and dressing styles of the local people. The new SS20 collection features cute cartoon characters in a palette of pink and green linens.
Rajesh Pratap Singh, currently based in New Delhi, belongs to Rajasthan in India. A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, too, he worked in the fashion Industry in India and Italy for two years before introducing his own line of men’s and women’s clothing in 1997.
Singh has created his unique signature style that subtly draws from his Indian roots to craft artisanal garments that stand apart due to their faultlessly clean lines, careful detailing and international silhouettes. Singh is closely associated with Indian fabric mills. Textile experimentation spans both the very high tech as well as the traditional in the form of intensive handlooms. Singh has five standalone stores in India and the SS20 saw the introduction of classical white tailoring with contrasting pinstripes in striking fuchsia pink and orange.
With Nigeria’s growing population set to overtake the USA’s by 2050, according to a United Nations report, and it is forecasted that over half of the expected growth between 2017 and 2050 is likely to occur in Africa, then it makes sense for focus to turn to this part of the world.
Left - Orange Culture
Promoting Lagos Fashion Week, it is only held once a year in October due to the lack of seasons, two designers, Orange Culture and Emmy Kasbit, represented their burgeoning menswear scene.
Adebayo Oke-Lawal, who has been designing since the age of 10, started Orange Culture in 2011, after having worked with several Nigerian designers. The label is more than a clothing line Adebayo insists. It is a “movement” that covers universal silhouettes with an African touch to a creative class of men, translating into a heady mixture of Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colour and contemporary urban street wear. All pieces are manufactured in Lagos, from ethically-sourced fabrics from local Nigerian fabric makers.
Founded by Emmanuel Okoro, Emmy Kasbit makes use of local artisans by bringing traditional staples to the modern age with the use of indigenous fabrics mixed with sartorial classics to create timeless pieces for the new African Man.
He was a fashion focus finalist at Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2017 after which he was awarded the recipient of the Fashion focus fund formerly known as Young Designer of the year.
Dr S is a new, independent, upstart brand born and bred in East London. On a single-minded mission to upcycle, recycle and repurpose reclaimed materials, Dr S is obsessed with regeneration. Each bag is made of over 80% upcycled materials- from discarded offcuts to forgotten rolls found in the storage rooms of cooperating fashion studios.
Bike inner tubes make handles, while seatbelt are reconfigured as body straps.
La Perruque develops artisanal, minimal and timeless leather goods with a focus on functionality and refined details. The products are all handmade in their workshop in Malmö, Sweden, but they are soon to up sticks and move to Paris and open a retail store which will also function as a workshop.
The leathers come from the best international suppliers, they share a supplier with Hermès, and promise their accessorise will age beautifully and get a nice patina over the time. The leathers are natural and have not been covered by a synthetic top finish. It means their colour will evolve with time and sun exposure.
From Copenhagen and the hands of Ulrik Pedersen - previously at NN07 - Sunflower wants to provide something longer lasting within the men’s clothing market. The method of production is as important as the final product, with an instance on sourcing the best quality fabrics, technical innovation and make.
SS20 sees metallic pinstripes and a focus on considered separates for those who still want something smart while imbued with Scandi cool.
Brixton based, this British-Nigerian fashion designer is offering hand-finished and artistic unisex pieces inspired by ‘politics of identity and social climates’.
Following several successful stints at Maison Margiela, J.W. Anderson and Celine, the London- born designer graduated from the prestigious Central Saint Martin's Design school in June 2017 with First Class Honours.
The young designer was recently shortlisted as a finalist in the ASOS Fashion Discovery 2018, and is a triple-award winner of the globally-acclaimed ITS 2018, where she took home a hat trick of awards across both Fashion and Artwork categories - The Diesel Award, The Vogue Talents Award and The ITS Time For Coffee Award.
John Booth X Sunspel
Fashion loves an artist of the season and the Scottish born, John Booth, with his colourful signature FA Cup-earred men is SS20’s. Following on from a recent collaboration with the Scottish accessorises brand, Begg & Co., he has now teamed up with Nottingham’s Sunspel. Offering a large collaboration of T-shirts, swim shorts, camp collar shirt and jacket in Booth’s palette of clashing primaries, it is a refreshing injection of colour in Sunspel’s reliable stable of basics.
See Berlin Trade Shows Report SS20 - here