The Evolution of Indian Fashion

The subcontinent of India is home to more than 1.3 Billion people, with a fashion industry that is relatively nascent. Many however, have began to suggest that the Indian market as a whole it not only incredibly lucrative but also seemingly untapped in 2019. Indian Fashion Week launched 18 years ago and has come a long way in that time. Initially it focused on showcasing more “ethnic” conscious designs. While more recently it has began to shift its focus to more fashion-forward creations, with some of the country’s most progressive designers bringing trainers to the runway. Igniting a culture that was laying dormant under the surface of Indian soil waiting to sprout. As India’s trainer market has very much been something that has only now started to establish itself in a global sense.

For their Spring/Summer 2015 presentation, designers Rixi and Jayesh of the brand Quirbox. Sent their models down the runway wearing Adidas Originals Stan Smiths and Superstars. Coinciding rather harmoniously with the first Yeezy’s arrival on Indian shores in August 2015, marking a turning point for trainers culture in the subcontinent. While this trend continued with the appearance of other trainers like Reebok Classics, Vans and other pieces from the Adidas Original catalogue in the highest echelons of the Indian fashion scene. The retail sector of the country was also beginning to develop a deeper involvement in the trainer landscape. A world that had until this point been seemingly avoiding them. While the kingdoms East and West of them had been clearly captivated by the obsession for quite some time.

India's trainer market

India’s ‘Sneakerheads’

Before the Yeezys debut in Mumbai in 2015 which I previously mentioned and Nike’s Air Max Day launched (around the same time) those who would consider themselves ‘Sneakerheads’ in India would unfortunately have to be content with general releases. Up until the arrival of coveted models like the Air Jordan 1 Bred and the Yeezy Boost 350 that really jump started the secondary market in India in mid-2016. With resellers beginning to take advantage of these limited release products to turn a profit, despite the fact that it still remains heavily dependent on word of mouth.

‘Sneakerheads’ in India have been said to split into two distinct groups. One kind that is truly entrenched in the culture and cares wholeheartedly about the game. With another that cares more about the trainers as a fashion fad. Implying that a vast majority of casual, fad driven trainer buyers will grow along a small, yet powerful community of serious ‘Sneakerheads’.

India’s trainer market, an ever-growing industry

In the global trainers and fashion conversation India isn’t exactly seen as a big player globally. This traditionally is down to a number of economic and social factors which see India previously lag behind big players in the industry like the United States, England and Japan. This looks set to change however. Shifting political dynamics, more widespread exposure to new trends thanks to social media, and growing disposable incomes across the country means Indian consumers are more connected to fashion and footwear than ever before. Consequently, as acceptance for the trainer industry becomes more widespread the country’s fashion community — both as consumers and creatives — could legitimately become an authority on taste at a global level.

In fact India’s “immense potential” has been touted by global economists for some time now. With American management and consulting firm A.T Kearney’s ranking India number one on its 2017 Global Retail Development Index. Traditionally speaking India’s population has only really shopped three times a year; Birthdays, New Year and on an applicable religious holiday. However, studies have shown that actually, Indians are now shopping up to 12 times a year on average. With a population of over 1.3 Billion this 4 times increase equates to big money. In fact, even small increases in shopping on an individual level means a lot more spending across the country.

India's trainer market
India’s trainer market, retail booming

The Indian retail industry accounts for over 10% of the country’s GDP and about 8% of employment opportunities. While the country has the fifth largest retail sector in the world. What all this means for an industry like fashion and more specifically footwear, is that unlike 10 years ago, there really is little difference between customers from New Dehli and New York. Aspirations have risen no end in India, and those who have the means are putting their disposable income towards apparel and trainers. The sportswear market in India has grown from ₹24,000 INR in 2014 to ₹37,000 INR in 2016 at more than 50 percent over the past two years. The segment’s global increase stood at 7%, in comparison.

In addition to spending more money. Indians are, like the rest of the world, spending more time online and that means more online shopping as well. About 60% of urban India has adopted smartphones. Roughly translating to 450 million users. Additionally about 55 million Indians shop online. Nearly 90% of which are between the ages of 18 to 35. It is also projected that by 2020 Indian e-commerce sales are expected to reach $120 billion USD.

All this means is that in pretty much every measurable category the Indian footwear market is growing, and that even includes retail prices. Popular trainers like Yeezy Boosts, Ultra Boosts and NMDs are priced 33% higher compared to American and EU markets because of import duties. Meaning that Yeezy Boosts and Ultra Boosts retail for about $200 USD in U.S. and Europe, but Indians can expect to pay $325 to $375 USD for those models at retail in the country due to import taxes.

India's trainer market
How to crack India’s trainer market?

It is evident for all to see that the market is there. No one can deny the potential of India’s trainer market. The one question mark really is how to cultivate it. After all a market is defined by its trendsetters, and at the moment India lacks those. They are very much followers as opposed to leaders in fashion. Adopting other country’s style icons as their own. It has been rightly pointed out that there is a huge amount of scope for trainer specific events in India.

Even if the street culture isn’t well established, having events like a Sneaker Con in India would definitely normalise the industry further. Combining trainer brands with homegrown street wear labels would also do a lot for helping get the population further interested in the trainer world. At the moment India has a market, they just don’t have their own market, or an online trainers market, as soon as someone can establish that, they will unquestionable reek the rewards financially.