24 May, 2010

Bigger and better

Fashion is not limited to one dress size. Even the well endowed have a choice of appearing in the most sought after designs. For long, smart and stylish clothing was the prerogative of those with a perfect figure, much to the envy of the overweight. Not everyone can have an hour-glass or a Greek God figure, therefore plus size clothing has come up as a segment to cater to the need of stylish dressing, for those who are oversized whilst letting them be comfortable in their own skin. Earlier, plus size apparel was essentially lingerie and maternity wear, but, of late western apparel in women’s wear and men’s wear has gained prominence. Larger sizes, exposure to western culture and awareness about fashion trends have accelerated the demand for fashionable plus size apparel in India.

Plus size clothing is a general term given to apparel crafted specifically for men and women of a large build. A plus size would largely range from Medium to 5XL (size 14 to size 26) in women and it escalates to 7XL in men. Shivani Talwar, Director of ‘Just Your Size Designers Pvt Ltd, Bangalore’ states, “Most clients fall in this range; for clients outside this range or with special needs, we provide bespoke services. Special attention is paid on trendiness, right fit and fabric. The clients enjoy stylish and well fitting apparel and do come back for the same."

Though most of the fashion fraternity likes to cater to the needs of the market on the slimmer side but a few brands have come up with the labels specially dedicated to plus size. Brands like Revolution, ALL by Pantaloons, Gia by Westside, Mustard and Royal Classic Polo took fashion to a new level by introducing a different segment for plus size apparel. PLUSS, X’MEX, Geetus and Just Your Size have lent an identity to the large size clothing in general. PLUSS launched by Mr Sandeep Aggarwal (Director of Shiva International), especially deals with plus size Indian women clothing and it offers both casuals as well as formals. ‘Just Your Size’ a designer boutique in Bangalore recognised the potential of medium to plus size clothing in the country and provides both Indian and western wear in this category at affordable prices. Geetus, a designer boutique at citi mall is the brainchild of Anita Bhojwani and Deepti Panjabee which looks after the needs of the trendiest plus size clients. Popular international brands specialising in this segment are Evans, Lane Bryant, Igigi and so on, while brands like Next, Marks and Spencer have a special line of plus-size clothing.

Ample of styles are available in the category of plus size clothing. Men can choose from their variety of expandable waist trousers, jeans, corduroy pants and striped shirts that are priced decently. Women can choose from stylishly designed ethnic kurtas, salwar-kameez, long skirts, tee-shirts, Capri pants, trousers, tunics and jeans. Trendiest bridal wear is offered in this section as well and so is gym, sports and swim wear. These are specially designed so that a larger woman can run, jump and dive in them. These help to accentuate her assets and camouflage her concerns. They are available in a variety of colours, cuts and styles.

The garments are made with right cuts and fabric to make the body look healthy, instead of fat. The cuts are very flattering and can camouflage bulges and flabby areas. Most of the collections are contemporary as well as classic. According to Nisha Somaia of Revolutionary clothing Pvt Limited, "There is a huge change, women don't want to hide their bodies in hideous sacks anymore and are now willing to go funkier and not just wear loose, ill fitting clothes. They want what is contemporary and are in for comfortable fashion". Plus size garments are styled to the last detail, taking a note about the texture and fall of the fabrics (soft draping of Crepes, Chiffon, Georgette, Cotton, Linen, Jute and Satin), cuts, colours and combinations. They aim to make their clients, of any size, look and feel slimmer, comfortable, stylish and confident. Not only men and women, even fashionable clothing for plus size Teens (children) are available at the retail stores. Brands keep on updating their range with the latest trends as more and more demand arises in the market.

Plus size clothing was introduced in the 90’s and over a period of time it has got a strong foothold in the Indian apparel market. Mukesh Pursnani, owner of X’MEX states “When we first started it was tough to get customers simply because people weren’t aware,” But over the years the shop has seen rise in its revenues as well as client base. The plus-size market is still growing, and in the next 5 years it is expected to continue growing as more brands respond to its demand. Plus size apparel market (Rs 11,000 Crores) is virtually untapped. The domestic market in India was valued at Rs 122,400 crore in 2007, as per the India Apparel Report 2008. Plus size apparel contributes approximately 188 crore to the Rs 122,400 crore domestic apparel market. Currently, plus size clothing has a share of 0.15 per cent of the total Indian apparel market. With an obesity rate of 5 per cent in India, the plus size population in the country is in excess of 150 million, creating a huge scope for plus-size clothing. More than 12.1 percent of males and more than 17 percent females are overweight, according to the Third National Family Health Survey 2006. Forty years ago, the average size of a woman was a size 8, but now the average is seen somewhere around a size 14. It is apparent that more plus size clothing should be available to reflect the changes within an average shopper's size.

What really holds back the growth of this market is the absence of a proper study in body sizing and adoption of standardized measurements for the entire country. Also the prices are higher than smaller sizes. Anita Bhojwani from Geetus informs that the manufacture of larger clothes is expensive, making their sale prices shoot up. This affects in the creation of a regular client base. Though Shivani Talwar from ‘Just Your Size’ assures that difference in prices is not much between a regular and plus size apparel. Fitness industry and awareness has grown manifolds in the recent times in India. Market speculation suggests that it might affect the plus size apparel segment a bit, but overall growth cannot be hindered. Shivani Talwar states that she has had clients who lost up to 10 kilos but still came back to her because of the comfort and quality of her designs. Easy availability is another factor which affects this market. As more and more boutiques, retail chains and online stores are catering to this segment, the rise of the revenues and growth of the market is inevitable. Consumers just need the right pricing, fashion and quality in the apparel to keep coming back to it as often as possible. There is a huge opportunity in the plus size segment of the apparel market, which the retailers and brands need to realize, in order to fill the huge gap which is currently present in this segment.

Parimita Chakravorty

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