Any woman in India who has tried to buy formals has undoubtedly thought to herself, "Why is this so difficult?"
Female formals are made by a very small number of brands, and even if they do, their distribution is extremely limited and difficult to come by. I recently visited a mall, trying to get myself a pair of trousers and a blazer, the hardships I came across were not any easier than building a boat. I must have visited more than ten shops before I found the closest to an appropriate outfit. As the stock is in short supply, many brands fail to provide variety in terms of design, patterns, style, and sizes. As a result, since exact sizes are not available, most women are forced to compromise and make changes, which can be time-consuming and exhausting for working women.
I was taken aback to see the men’s section filled with abundant choices, varieties in colours, perfect sizes. A whole floor dedicated to just men’s formals made me realize how the world still reflects its patriarchal views in these little ways. On the other hand, when I asked the salesperson to guide me to the female formals section, I am not exaggerating- but it was a tiny corner with very few choices, and no colour preferences, hardly any quality trousers. I was so disappointed but still had to choose because I had already been to several shops earlier.
Although Indian women have a plethora of clothing options, there is one area where they struggle: western workwear. Finding the appropriate pattern, size, and fit, whether offline or online, maybe a challenge.
I had never felt so discouraged or had ever registered this thought in my head that women are forced to try out other options and compromise on their comfort to work just because of the lack of western formals out there. This is one of the many examples our societies set to demean women as progressive our country seems or as hard as we work to break the stereotypical chains of tradition and prove our distinction. These setbacks do affect our determination.
This episode reminded me that no matter how far we've come, there is still a long way to go.
Many foreign firms have expressed interest in expanding their supply to India in recent years, as more women have entered the country's commerce. The market for women's formal jackets is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6% over the next ten years; reaching Rs 1,012 crore from its current level of Rs 565 crore. H&M, forever 21, Marks and Spencer, and Van Heusen Women are some companies that have tried to introduce diversity to India. However, availability is constantly limited, and there is not enough variety in terms of colours, styles, and patterns, particularly in terms of sizes. Many women go to great lengths to get the proper size, and as a result, they wind up compromising their professional appearance.
In India, there is an untapped market for women's western workwear. However, with an increase in the number of women joining the workforce, the industry is developing at an unprecedented rate. In the contemporary economy, it is the primary driver of growth. Furthermore, the industry is transitioning from an unorganized to a more structured one. With the advent of social media and influencers, the e-commerce industry is driving retail development.
However, things back in 2007 were worse, "Back in 2007, any female in management or anyone seeking for excellent quality professional attire never found it." I could not locate a single company that offered business suits for women when I was qualifying and had to go to interviews," says Ayushi Gudwani, the owner of Fablestreet. Ayushi said back when she was getting into the cooperate world, she found it so stressful to find well-fitting, comfortable, and quality workwear in India. She did quick market research. The problem that persists is finding the right fit.
Gudwani also adds that global brands which function in the formal workwear segment, such as Van Heusen and Allen Solly, are more appropriate to the sizes and measurements of women from other countries. Therefore, she decided to open Fablestreet, a place where Indian women found their well-matched fits.
In the contemporary workplace, wardrobe choice has become an important decision. It has to be professional and comfortable. According to a study, our appearance at work is significant since it reflects our personality and where we stand as individuals. Therefore, we are judged considering our distinction according to our appearance. Better-dressed employees are considered to be more serious compared to an individual in casuals. Thus, as women already struggle to find suitable workwear, the condition to dress optimum at work puts a little extra stress on the women.
There is another brand that goes by the name Ombre Lane. This brand has gone out of its way to undergo a survey involving more than 2000 women to understand the different body types, measurements and make sure every woman receives apparel that fits perfectly. As the demand has continuously been surpassing the supply for women’s formals, brands like this are doing a great job guiding the women of India towards a better cooperative lifestyle. Women's formal attire in India is only going to become more popular. Women, on the other hand, no longer desire men's western attire designed for them. For a formal dress, women seek fashionable, functional, and well-fitting clothing.
Even though the limited supply of female workwear has not improved, we believe that the women's formals category has a bright future. There are various opportunities for innovation and merging cutting-edge fabric and design developments to give quality formal dress at competitive rates. There is always a demand for high-quality items that are comfortable, long-lasting, and attractive.
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