Over the years, formal structures across various facets are being broken and new fluid ways are emerging as winners. Be it interpersonal relations, lifestyles, careers and job roles etc. this trend is visible all across. The new generation is iconoclastic and does not want to be ruled by ‘structures and definitions’of the past. The trend is extremely visible in not just our attitudes and behaviour, but also in our dressing.

Casual and unstructured clothing, with a mix and match across products, has become a global phenomenon. People from New York to Tokyo and anywhere in between, are being driven by convenience and comfort when it comes to dressing themselves. Old rules of dressing up are being re-written and consumer segments are driven by casualisation, inclusivity and active lifestyle, giving rise to athleisure, genderless and modest wear.

Casualisation is mostly driven by millennials, who are now buying individual items that appeal to them, such as T-shirts, jackets,sneakers, denims etc. and then mix and match them to create a personal statement. Many brands are buzzing the market by catering to these young consumers, mostly through the power of social media and celebrity push, which are acting as a news feed for brands and giving a sense of urgency to fashion trends.

As markets in US are saturating and uncertainty revolves around European economies, the global stronghold for apparel and casual wear sales will no longer be derived from the west. With leading global economies having the bulk of the population in the middle age bracket, the main growth geographies for casual wear are going to be emerging markets like India and China, where the median age is around twenty seven and thirty years respectively. With growing economies and higher disposable income, apparel sector has been evolving expeditiously in these emerging markets.

In India, growth in casual wear is again catalysed by the changing preferences of consumers, who are more refined and aligned to global on-trend fashion. Earlier, Indian consumers had a very limited wardrobe choice, but now they have proliferated variations and segments available to them. Also, given that India has the largest Gen Y population in the world, there can be seen a meaningful evolution in the shopping and buying behaviour of Indian consumers.

What Constitutes Casual Wear?
Smart Casuals: An informal attire such as round-neck T-shirts, denims, printed & check shirts etc.

Business Casuals: It is one of the recent additions to traditional business attire and includes Polos, Chinos, Cords, half sleeve shirts etc.

Athleisure: This category includes apparel made for exercising and playing sports like tennis, football etc. Lately, more and more people are inclined towards these apparel for casual outing purposes too. Athleisure is not about playing a sport, but more about comfort of the wearer. Athleisure generally includes – track pants, jeggings, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets etc.Outdoor Casuals: Though still not in the realm of performance sportswear, these garments are for more outdoor and adventure activities like cycling,hiking, trekking etc. These include shorts, cargos, capris, jackets etc.

Key Trends Driving Consumption of Casual Wear in India

Casualisation of Indian Apparel Industry – Currently, apparel industry in India stands at Rs 5.43 lakh crore in FY 2019 and is expected to reach Rs 9.57 lakh crore in FY 2024, growing at 12 percent CAGR. As of FY 2019, Men’s Wear and Women’s Wear account for 36 percent and 34 percent respectively, of the total apparel market in India.

Within men’s wear, casual wear has a 51 percent value share, while it is 20 percent for women’s wear, in FY 2019. Further, while men’s casual wear is estimated to grow at 14 percent CAGR, formal wear will grow at 9 percent CAGR between FY 2019-24. Thus, the share of casual wear is progressively increasing.

Women’s apparel market currently pegged at Rs 1.83 lakh crore, is estimated to grow to Rs 3.22 lakh crore by FY 2024. Casual Wear is estimated to grow at a faster pace than the Ethnic Wear between FY 2019 and FY 2024. Growth in Casual Wear is largely driven by athleisure, which is followed by Denims and T-shirts categories.

Further, a woman’s western casual wear segment is much more versatile than man’s. A woman’s western casual wardrobe typically comprises of chic skirts; blouses and shirts made out of georgette/ satin/ linen/ denim etc; Various kind of bottoms – culottes, flared pants, jeggings, treggings, denims of varied colours and washes; jackets made of leather/denim etc.

In FY 2019, casual wear as a category accounted for 36 percent in the total apparel market for men and women in India. It is further expected to grow at a CAGR of 16 percent from Rs 1.37 lakh crore in FY 2019 to reach Rs 2.84 lakh crore in FY 2024. Thus, casual wear category will account for 43 percent of the total apparel market for men and women, by FY 2024.

Currently, ~75 percent of the casual wear market in India is dominated by Men’s Wear, which stands at Rs 1.01 lakh crore in FY 2019. This is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14 percent to reach Rs 1.95 lakh crore in FY 2024. Though women’s casual wear seems to be a smaller market in comparison to men’s,it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 percent to reach `0.89 lakh crore in FY 2024 from Rs 0.36 crores in FY 2019.

Global Apparel Brands Tapping Growing Indian Aspirations- Consumers, especially millennials, consider fashion as a form of self-expression. They consider it as a reflection of their personality and status. Increasing number of global brands in India such as H&M, GAP, Aeropostale, ZARA, etc., focused on young and trendy streetwear and casual wear are catering to this demand, and further fuelling the market.

Brands like Zara, H&M, etc., are the fastest growing brands in the Indian market. Success of these brands, coupled with more relaxed FDI regulations in retail, catches the fancy of other large global fashion brands to enter India. Following is the list of brands that have entered India in last five years, most of whom are targeting the casual wear segment in Indian apparel industry:

Inclusion of Casual Dress Codes at Work- In the last two decades India has emerged as a strong service sector driven economy. Further, there has been a trend towards entrepreneurship and self-employment. These trends along with growing economy have also fuelled the casual wear sector.

Employment in the Government & Semi-Government sector and those that require more formal clothing has not been increasing at the same pace as that in sectors like IT/ITeS, Retail, etc., where casual wear is the acceptable office dressing. Many start-ups like Ola, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy, Policy Bazaar, etc., have propped up which have led to the creation of newer job profiles and work cultures. Backed by investor funding and aggressive expansion plans, these companies continue to grow aggressively and employ large number of Gen Y population. Being dressed in casuals in these new age jobs is considered to be more relaxed, non-bureaucratic and the new normal. It is not considered out of place anymore to wear a denim or coloured chinos or experiment with similar combinations that allow for greater inclusion of casual wear.

Formal work wear, on the other hand, is being classified as boring and needing a re-interpretation to make it contemporary, fashionable and stylish.

Thus, even the jobs where strictly formal clothing was necessary, today one sees inclusion of ‘smart casuals’ or ‘semi-formals’. Creative informal dress codes are slowly and steadily replacing traditional formals such as ‘sari’, ‘business formals’ and ‘suits’. Across most sectors today, there areno guiding principles or dress codes anymore, the only aim is to offer a productive, comfortable and enabling work environment.

Given the above swing towards casual wear, many of the leading formal wear/ office wear brands like Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Arrow, etc., have also launched their sports/casual wear lines. These lines now contribute anywhere between 40-60 percent of the revenue of some of these brands.

Emergence of Athleisure as a Segment- Athleisure as category that is an amalgamation of utility, comfort and sporty style is growing by leaps and bounds. As India’s fashion preferences are bound to make a shift towards comfort, the concept of athleisure has evolved. As of FY 2019 active wear segment, which forms the part of casual wear, has the market size of Rs 0.42 lakh crore and is further expected to continue growing at a CAGR of 25 percent in the coming years. With target customers beingin the age group of 20-40 years, athleisure is perfect for millennial consumers, who are always looking for options that bridge the gap between sportswear, gym wear and casual wear.

As athleisure is considered to be worn both in gym, playing sports as well as for casual meets or even parties, this enables today’s working millennial population in switching effortlessly between these day to day activities.

Along with changing preferences mentioned above, consumers in India are also getting inclined towards health and well-being. Millennials, who are more into building a healthy lifestyle for themselves, are creating a tremendous demand for active wear in India. This is creating a huge opportunity for various global and domestic brands to enter this burgeoning athleisure segment in India.

Another growth driver that is giving a forward push to the athleisure segment is the celebrity push. The athleisure airport and gym looks of celebrities, becoming viral through social media is driving a whole new trend towards this category. Celebrities riding the wave, are not only embracing athleisure look but are also launching their own private labels. For example, Mojostar partnered with actor Tiger Shroff and Jacqueline Fernandez to launch their own brands, Prowl and Just F respectively. Other celebrities like Virat Kohli, Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor etc. have introduced their own clothing lines in athleisure category (Wrogn, OneX, HRX, Skult). HRX, in joint venture with Myntra, has seen 110 percent growth in their sales since its launch in FY 2016.

Several non-sports brands too have started offering athleisure ranges, like Van Heusen which has ventured into this segment in FY 2016 by introducing premium and innovative athleisure ranges for men. According to the brand, its product offerings received phenomenal response from consumers across the country. As of FY 2018 the category contributed up to 20 percent to the overall sales for Van Heusen. Due this phenomenal response, Van Heusen is targeting 7,000 sales point by the end of FY 2020 from 2,000 sales point in FY 2019.

Way Ahead for Casual Wear Brands Based on the above mentioned trends, it can be concluded that an impressive growth is expected in casual wear market over the next five to seven years, thereby creating a huge demand and opportunity for various players in the market. Further, more international brands and retailers are seen entering the Indian market and focusing on casual wear. In order to win the casual wear market in India, brands will need to combine quality with a unique mix of fashion quotient and trendiness.

Further, brands need to integrate fashion with aspects like convenience, affordability, innovation and sustainability. Lastly, it is important for brands to understand the fact that these preferences of Indian consumers should not be considered as passing trends anymore, as they are now part of Indian consumer’s fashion psyche. New age Indian consumer are as aligned to global fashion trends as anywhere else in the world.





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