The Growth Chart

Ravi Bajaj
Men's fashion in India continues to sell without depending on events, travelling fashion tours or even a dedicated fashion week

Twenty five years ago, when Ravi Bajaj made his foray into fashion design, most men would own two pairs of shoes — in black and in brown. Today, the designer admits that every single man he knows owns at least a dozen pairs. "Men are indulging like never before, be it in buying clothes and accessories or grooming products. Even red or orange trousers are not exclusive to Govinda; you see them all around," says Bajaj. And he's right about men being eager shoppers.

The India Menswear Market Analysis 2010-2014 by Venn Research Inc found that the total revenue from menswear was $11.8 billion in 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 8.6 per cent from 2005 to 2009. In another survey, retail consultants Technopak Advisors pegged the menswear market size in India to be Rs 72,000 crore, which is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 per cent.

The figures are impressive but what's really worth applauding is the fact that the upward trajectory continues despite the fact that vis-a-vis women's fashion, there is no lavish or frequent display of men's clothes through events, travelling fashion tours or fashion weeks. Such events are the mainstay of urban fashion, so the growth in men's fashion without them is an interesting evolution. "In fact, men's fashion needs much less peddling than women's fashion. Men are mostly stable customers. They know what they want and do not need much prodding to buy," affirms Bajaj.

Designer Raghavendra Rathore, who has a loyal male following for his label, agrees that if you understand your market then it is important to focus on the product rather than market it season after season. "Interestingly, a large population of women buy fashion for the men in their lives, but men expect a certain consistency in the temperament of the brands that they prefer," points out Rathore.

The Men's Fashion Week, organised by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), which offered a dedicated platform for men's fashion ran only for three editions. But that seems to be no cause for worry. "Where menswear is concerned," says designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed, "events don't make as big a difference as in the case of women's fashion — even though men have a high propensity to spend."

"When a fashion show takes place, the women are quick to adapt to it. The same doesn't hold true for men, whose dressing sense evolves over a longer period. The first time I showcased coloured jeans for men was three years ago, but it's only now that you see men wearing them," he says, adding that womenswear trends trickle down within six months. However, he is quick to say that menswear events, while not having a direct bearing on sales, certainly serve as a big boost and they push men towards being more stylish. "Then again, the absence of men's events can be traced to the fact that sponsors don't find them glamorous enough — a fashion show for women attracts a lot more attention," he adds.

According to Pawan Sarda, who, until recently, was the Chief Marketing Officer at Future Group, which owns Big Bazaar, part of the reason why events don't affect menswear trends much is that the designer fare shown at these events invariably falls under the wedding trousseau category. "That apart, men spend generously on formal wear. So it's mainly the casual wear segment that has men experimenting. For instance, the concept of Friday dressing has more takers today than ever before. This, in turn, is because of a major change in men's grooming; it's not just about clothes and shoes but even hairstyles and skin care reflects this," he says.

Also, men approach shopping very differently from women and their choices don't seem dependent on lavish showcases. "Men are the real spenders. While women do a lot of window shopping, men are more serious buyers. Men seem to know the shops they want to visit and don't waste too much time," points out Bajaj. That seems to be a global trend. In a recent article on men's online shopping trends, The New York Times reported, "Men want to shop, but they want to know more about what they are buying. They don't want to be hassled by salespeople. Brand loyalty is important to men."

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