Top Indian designers jump online to fashion new growth story
Looking for a Rohit Bal ensemble? Or a Raghavendra Rathore shirt? You could ditch the idea of walking into the designer's labelled store and browse online instead. Chances are, you would be able to get yourself a designer piece for as little as a top-end high street brand. Thanks to the aggressive marketing efforts of online portals like Jabong, Myntra and Flipkart, pret-collections of some of India's top fashion designers are now available at anywhere between Rs 3500-15,000.
Such is the demand that designers are now coming up with special collections for online retail to tap into the "almost vertical growth" in this segment. India's online designer dreams now mean big business for the fashion frat.
"The future of fashion, just like anywhere else in the world, lies online and India is fast catching up with the rest of the world in terms of business trends," said fashion designer Rohit Bal, whose pret or affordable range is available online in portals like Jabong. "Already, the volumes are fairly high because the reach is much wider."
Much of that volume is driven by staggering discounts, which make even the pret lines as competitively priced as higher-end high street brands like Dorothy Perkins. It's possible to pick up single pieces from top-end designers - like a statement shirt or a top for instance - online for as little as Rs 2500. More elaborate ensembles, like a complete anarkali set, can cost more - between Rs 8000 and Rs 15,000. Those are bargain basement prices, given that a Sabyasachi Mukherjee sari can cost anywhere between Rs 40,000 to over a lakh.
Designers say the online affordability is a win-win because the discounts are part of the portal's marketing strategy rather than the designer brand's retail model. "The discounts on offer - thanks to the portal because that's how their business models work and we don't mind because our prices have already been met with," said Bal. He added that "the merchandise on portals have to be carefully priced and if the right product and price points are met, the response can be great".
The traction for designer wear online is so high that designers like Bal are creating a special range for online retail. "While the regular line of products by designers like Rohit Bal are not available online, there is a special affordable line by Rohit Bal made for Jabong and this has done well for us. These are not the same products available in the retail stores owned by designers but are outfits created especially for Jabong and are available exclusively on Jabong. There is a good demand for such affordable products created by designers and we are working on getting a few more designers to bring in an affordable line of products for us," said Arun Chandra Mohan, co-founder and CEO of Jabong.
Fashion retailer Myntra too has got designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Ritu Kumar to bring out special, affordable products for customers. "Designer wear was earlier available only for customers in certain cities like Delhi. We are now working on giving all Indians access to designer wear and are getting designers to make their products at a lower cost for Myntra. The products made by such designers are usually priced above Rs 60,000 but we are working with them to make a separate line of affordable products priced around Rs 20,000," Ashutosh Lawania, co founder of Myntra.com said.
Clearly, the online onslaught means fashion designers can now pursue both volumes and value through distinct branding. Said fashion designer Raghavendra Rathore: "Designer brands like ours have two brands - the luxury brand is the Raghavendra Rathore label retailing exclusively through own retail channels and stores, (not available through other branded retail formats or stores) and our pret brand Club Jodhpur, can be sold through various different permutations and combinations such as online retail. This brand does not have the same products as the main brand but just draws inspiration from it."
That distinction, he said, is important because "it would be hara-kiri for a luxury brand to be omni-present on non-exclusive websites and portals." But the trend is clear enough - the value can come from exclusive retail but volume will definitely come from online channels. "As of now, the online business brings in higher quantity, while the value is higher offline," said Bal.
That's because, online offers pret collections and the more up-market couture lines remain restricted to the designer's own stores.
Designers say the brand distinction is important otherwise online can dilute the snob value of a fashion brand. "The online retail market is excellent for brands that manage their own portals or have tie-ups with very exclusive high- end portals," said Rathore. "But it may not be a good strategy for a luxury brand to be present with different price points at too many websites and portals as it will eventually affect the exclusiveness of the brand."