On Day Three of India Fashion Week on BoF, we take a look at the burgeoning menswear market, which is increasing in size, but also sophistication.
MUMBAI, India — We are witnessing a seismic shift in the menswear industry in India today. Indeed, the Indian man has finally come into his own. In a sartorial sense, he knows what he wants, isn't afraid to experiment, and is willing to spend on the best. He has a deeper appreciation and understanding of quality and enduring style.
The market has responded to his debut with gusto. The arrival of international luxury menswear brands, an ever-increasing choice of men's glossy magazine titles seeking advertising opportunities, and a growing number of Indian fashion designers that specialise in menswear, is evidence of this.
But the market has also been made more complicated and challenging given the economic downturn. So where do we find the modern Indian male now?
The search isn't a particularly long one. Just pick up a copy of the current issue of any society or high-end lifestyle publication and you'll find him on the cover, only too thrilled to invite readers into his home and wardrobe. He is getting younger and younger. 'Super' luxury today is enjoyed by young industrialists, entrepreneurs and bankers in their twenties and thirties, who display a passion for acquisitions of the non-business kind—magnificent yachts, private jets, multi-level mansions, a garage-full of bigger and faster cars, and anything customised that allows him the distinction of owning something that is 'one-of-a-kind'.
While the more brash 'why not' attitude of this young Indian man marks a stark contrast to the more low-key approach exercised by his parents, the desire to buy luxury goods in India is nothing new, as personalised luxury is deeply ingrained in the Indian mind-set. For generations, pundits of style and society have celebrated India's luxury heritage and cultural roots and the most prestigious European luxury houses have associations with India dating over one hundred years.
Personalisation transcends even socio-economic barriers. The owner of the corner sari store still calls upon his ancestral tailor to make his 'shirt-pants' and the erstwhile prince purchases his 'suit lengths' from the world's finest fabric makers. But this new modern man wants more. In the contemporary scenario, we are seeing him not only a return to his roots, but also emerge as part of a new sartorial elite—men for whom sourcing the finest fabrics is no longer good enough. Today, they also want their suits hand-crafted by the finest master tailors in Italy or Savile Row.
This new luxury client's importance cannot be understated for luxury brands looking to enter India, or those who are already here. The market for grooms who planning weddings, in particular, is expanding at about 25 percent per year. There appears to be no end to how lavish a wedding celebration one can orchestrate. In the past year, there have been high-profile Indian nuptials in the Maldives, Phuket, Bali and Mauritius, complete with block bookings of entire airplanes and luxury island accommodation for family and friends.
And while bespoke trousseaux have always been associated with brides, today we are seeing more and more men setting their sights on made-to-measure suits from the finest European brands for their special day. Much in the same way that a young bride consults with her designer of choice over samples of luxuriously embroidered fabric swatches and design sketches, the modern Indian groom has discovered the pleasure of a specialised made-to-measure service.
Sipping on a single malt in a private salon, he can choose from endless options of fabrics, linings, buttons, colours and cuts for a timelessly-designed suit which bears the ultimate badge of bespoke: his name.
It is a thrill unlike any other.
Natasha Malhotra, Head of Communications for Brioni India, was previously Managing Editor of the Indian edition of L'Officiel Paris.