Retailing in India: Cutting Experience to Deliver the Best Fit

The growing popularity of bespoke garments drives the revival of the art of custom tailoring, blending craft and technology
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Posted November 30, 2018

Bespoke tailored clothing was a part of the Indian lifestyle until the late 1990s, when international and domestic ready-to-wear apparel brands entered the market, powered by the promise of convenience. And for some time, it seemed that custom tailoring had lost its sheen. However, the quest for the perfect fitting garment has led to the rise of a premium customized clothing segment that offers exquisite imported fabrics, craftsmanship and technology. According to a Technopak Advisors (New Delhi, India) analysis, organized customized fashion contributes to 15 percent of the $250 million luxury apparel and accessories market in India.

What is driving this obsession for perfection in fit? Perhaps the exponential growth of the Indian fitness market to about $13.5 billion (USD), which is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 16-18 percent! It is no surprise that they are millennials and Gen Z (the age groups between 20 and 35) seeking to build a fit, toned and conditioned body (source: The Economic Times of India).

Technically, a customized fit can be achieved by bespoke or made-to-measure (MTM) tailoring. The former is an art in which a new pattern is created by the master tailor from scratch for every customer and fitted with many trials. In comparison, MTM is a science of making adjustment to an original pattern by a well-trained staff or tailors using technology. Today, the potential of both approaches has garnered serious investments in store design, visual merchandising and technology. Here are a few of the leaders that have built considerable brand equity through the experiences they deliver via differentiated services and environments.  

SS HOMME SARAH AND SANDEEP – “The home for men’s bespoke”

Indian luxury bespoke menswear brand SS Homme  Sarah and Sandeep (Mumbai, India), founded by Sarah and Sandeep Gonsalves, launched a 3500-square-foot concept store in Mumbai recently, in order to offer bespoke ethnic and Western occasion wear. The store offers more than 15,000 varieties of fabric from all over the world to create custom-made suits and formal wear by appointment only.

The store concept is a seamless blend of geometric and symmetrical illusions that give an interesting twist to a modern architectural language. A material palette of marble, velvet and silk adds a touch of luxury to the experience. The highlight of the store is its exclusive Groom's Lounge, which is designed to offer a comfortable place for making bespoke tailoring decisions. Hand-made art installations tell the story of the intricacies of making an exquisite bespoke garment in store.

BOMBAY SHIRT COMPANY – “The made-to-measure shirt specialist”

Founded by Akshay Narvekar in 2012, Bombay Shirt Company (Bombay, India) is India's first online custom-shirt brand that blends old-school tailoring techniques with new-age technology, using digitized patterns to give its customers the perfect fitted shirt. Obsessive quality control ensures the uncompromised high quality of the materials used as well as the workmanship.

The store offers an omnichannel experience in an aspirational environment designed in the same ethos as its modern luxe offering. Stylists, master tailors and a user-friendly website, which uses a proprietary sizing algorithm, help customers pick the right style and fit for their shirts. Minimalist design in an earthy palette of warm blue and olive, mahogany wood, upholstery in luscious leather, crafted cane accents and Italian marble all come together to present an aspirational ambience.

RAYMOND MADE TO MEASURE – “A legacy of trusted tailoring”

The 90-year-old Raymond Group (Mumbai) is respected for its core values of trust, excellence and quality. Its textile and apparel business retails in more than 700 stores, while Raymond Made to Measure has more than 90 of its own stores.

The brand promise is a seamless experience of the finest fabric to a truly precise fit thanks to cutting-edge technology andstyle consultants.There are more than 200 curated fabric options to choose from, and customers can select the fit and cut, cuffs, collars, trims and even personalized monograms. A state- of- the-art facility blends “craft and science” to create the “no trial required” fit. An experiential store design is a modern blend of contemporary and classic materials. Visual merchandising helps customers experience the brand story in stylish visual cues and forms.

In conclusion, it is evident that the expectations of the Indian customer following global trends of personalization in lifestyle and products is driving the demand for customized tailoring on an upward growth path. Retail design and visual merchandising will need to be consistent in delivering inspiring environments that tell stories of the brand’s bespoke and made-to-measure expertise to persuade the time-starved consumer to engage and invest in this premium yet time-consuming service.

Surender has more than two decades of experience in the Indian retail industry in retail strategy, store design, planning and development, retail marketing, visual merchandising, writing and academia. He’s held senior positions at leading retailers like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, Mahindra Retail and as a senior retail consultant working with leading retailers and brands in India. Reach him at surenderg.retail@gmail.com.