MUMBAI | KOLKATA: India’s consumer market may have the blues, but denim wear is seeing a sharp resurgence driven by new, more comfortable fabrics, low pricing and inclusive sizes. Denim makers attribute it to a host of factors from innovation in design to increasing trend to party during weekends and embracing street wear as part of their work attire in favour of jeans instead of formal wear or chinos.
The numbers bear witness. Over the past decade, India’s jeans market trebled to Rs 21,993 crore, according to Euromonitor. And last calendar year’s growth at 14% is the highest since 2009.
“It is led by casualisation of work place culture fuelled by millennial and Gen Z. Denim, being the uniform of youth and beacon of this culture, has managed to lead the mega trend,” said Saneev Mohanty, managing director at Levi’s India, which posted its decade high sales growth of 25% in FY18-19 with sales of Rs 1,104 crore. The brand with the iconic two-horse design on a leather tag said it had the fastest growth coming out of women’s jeans.
To be sure, denim has been growing by 9-11% over the years and global brands such as Zara, H&M, Jack & Jones and Gap helped grow the market over the past decade, banking on young consumers increasingly embracing western-style clothing.
“Denim never went out of fashion. It’s just that people are more aware now and prefer authentic denim brands instead of fast fashion brands that also sell jeans,” said Rakesh Biyani, Joint MD at Future Retail that sells 9-10 million jeans annually across brands such as Lee Cooper, Buffalo and DJ&C.
The steady abandonment of formal attire as de rigueur office wear for young corporate executives wearing smart casuals has been a trend over the past few years. So what really changed now to trigger higher growth?
“Consumers migrating towards athleisure or work wear chinos slowed down and there aren’t too many claimants of bottom wear as strong as denim,” said Sanjay Vakharia, chief executive of Spykar.
From monochrome denims, athlesiure denim, flared denim, high waist fit and carrot fit to old classic Californian fit and mining jeans, consumers are spoilt for choices.
“The denim brands are driving innovation on washes, colours, fits and even vintage design and styles. Innovation is driving demand for this category which is the second highest revenue generator after casuals,” said Vasanth Kumar, managing director at Lifestyle International, India’s largest departmental store chain. “We have created denim line across private brands due to high demand.”
Arvind Lifestyle Brands CEO J Suresh said e-commerce and value retail is leading migration from unorganised segment to the branded segment. “Denim is one category which has bucked the consumption slowdown in apparel and lifestyle, and growing this year too,” said Suresh, who manages brands like US Polo Assn, Flying Machine, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Newport. He said denim sales have been consistent across brands, growing at about 10-15%, whereas most other categories have reported decline in sales.