THERE SHE is, sporting an elaborate hairdo and wearing a flowing embellished yellow frock, perfecting her catwalk behind the scenes. Her parents are watching from the sidelines, cheering every kiss she blows. Perhaps a little too confident for her age, this eight-year-old is ready to rock the ramp at the India Kids Fashion Week (IKFW), a three-day fashion week dedicated to children's fashion. There is a buzz around the place. With their excited babble, the children are the most audible. Then there are the parents, taking photos of their fashionably-dressed children. "This one would make it to Instagram… that one will be uploaded on Facebook," is what I hear. Young boys sporting chic hairdos sashay down the ramp confidently.
I am at Ambience mall in Gurgaon, where the IKFW is showcasing the collections of over 20 children's wear brands and designers, including Max, Nauti Nati, 612 League, Archana Kochhar, The Children's Place, A Little Fable, Sheena Luxury, Kilkari, Biba, among several others. From layered dresses, ball gowns, embellished frocks and studded tiaras to flowery hats, embroidered lehenga-cholis and Jawahar jackets, the children's wear on display here ranges from the extravagant to demure.
The market today is flush with kidswear brands, both luxury and affordable, catering to the sartorial needs of new-age parents and their children. But is this euphoria justified? Vasanth Kumar of Max, the value fashion brand of Dubai-based multinational conglomerate Landmark Group, thinks so. "With one-fourth of the country's population below 16 years of age, this category has immense potential. In the past four-five years, children's wear alone has delivered about 45% growth for Max," says Kumar, executive director of the clothing brand.
As per a recent report by Technopack, kidswear in 2013 contributed to 20% of India's apparel market and this share is expected to increase to 22% by 2023. Additionally, the children's apparel market in India is expected to grow from R72,000 crore in 2014 to R95,000 crore by the end of 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate of about 20%, as per a recent Assocham study.
The segment is also forcing well-known names in the fashion industry to stop and take notice. Fashion designer Masaba Gupta, for instance, made news in May this year when she announced her entry in the kidswear segment. Gupta isn't the only couturier venturing into children's wear. Leading fashion designer Archana Kochhar, too, recently launched her debut children's wear line. "The question was why not design for children? The world has changed in the last decade. The kids' fashion segment has become extremely important now," says Kochhar.
But what exactly is driving this interest in the sector? "Parents are now extremely style-conscious when it comes to their children. Due to higher disposable incomes, nuclear family system, etc, they are able to spend lavishly, too," says Manoj Mahla, director, Craftworld Events, which organises the IKFW.
As per experts, children, too, are extremely style-conscious now. "They are more discerning now and very particular about what they wear," says Ankur Mittal, co-founder, Kidology, a luxury children's wear brand. Kidology, conceptualised as a one-stop destination for children's occasion-wear by Neha Sachar Mittal, Karina Rajpal and Ankur Mittal, launched with a flagship store at DLF Promenade mall, New Delhi, in 2010 with collections from fashion designers like Ritu Kumar, Gauri & Nainika, Gaurav Gupta, Malini Ramani, etc. Kidology's luxury collection is priced between R4,000 and R15,000, while its couture collection starts from R15,000. It has also recently introduced a prêt collection priced between R2,500 and R4,000. "When we launched, we approached several designers to check if they were interested in designing for children. We got extremely positive feedback. Our brief to them was simple: we needed designs that weren't just mini versions of their collections for adults, but made keeping in mind children and their comfort," says Mittal, who is targeting $1 million in sales for FY2016-17.
Another luxury destination for children's wear is Mumbai-based Mal the Store, which caters to infants and children up to nine years of age. "The adult designer-wear market is saturated. In addition, the Indian population is growing younger, so the scope of children's designer-wear is huge and everyone is vying for a slice of the pie," says Minoti Sampat, director, Mal The Store, adding that their collection's average price is between R5,000 and R6,000. But isn't this all too extravagant, one wonders. "We have clients with bespoke needs who are willing to pay for high-end couture. We once created achkans for a royal family priced at R50,000 per ensemble. It was handwoven zardozi with special fabrics," says Sampat. Clearly, sky's the limit for new-age parents.
There are also plenty options for those who are looking for affordable fashion. Take, for example, 612 League. Focusing on children from the age of three months to 12 years, the brand offers a complete range of trendy, as well as affordable apparel for children priced between R395 and R1,495. "Maintaining a cost price balance is very important, as this segment is highly price-sensitive," says Mohita Indrayan, co-founder and chief creative officer, 612 League.
Another affordable children's wear brand is Kilkari. With clothes priced between R399 and R3,299, Kilkari offers ethnic wear, dresses, party wear, etc, for children. "Being affordable is one of the most important things for us. Even while designing a certain outfit, we keep this in mind. So we refrain from producing 'dry-clean-only' clothes, as everybody can't afford it in India," says Neha Gautam, founder and managing director, Kilkari.
Then there is Max, where the prices start at R149. "The idea is to provide latest fashion at value prices to our consumers. I have seen parents cutting back on spending on themselves, but loosening their purse strings when it comes to their children," says Kamakshi Kaul, vice-president, design, Max.
Sweetening the deal
To make the segment even more attractive for buyers, many companies have come up with interesting concepts and initiatives. Take, for instance, 612 League, which launched its first virtual store 'Wonder Store' in April this year at DLF Mall of India, Noida. With the help of Wonder Store, a gesture-operated kiosk, which employs augmented reality technology, a child can try different outfits from the 612 League catalogue on himself/herself or on a pre-set dummy. It's a win-win situation for both children and parents: the former can try a whole bunch of outfits by just a flip of their hand, while parents save a lot of time in making their children try different outfits before picking the best ones. "We wanted to provide an interesting and fun-filled platform for children to participate in, as we noticed that they are not too excited to undergo the trial process," says Manu Indrayan, CEO and co-founder, 612 League.
Besides apparel, another lucrative and attractive area is children's accessories. With an increasing number of family functions, theme parties, school activities and cultural events for children to attend these days, parents are forever on the lookout for 'the complete ensemble'. From shoes, caps, jewellery, hairbands, clips and sunglasses to handbags, hats, booties, purses and bow ties, most children's wear brands these days stock a zillion accessories to choose from. "Parents love being able to complete the 'look' of their child at one store itself without needing to go to different stores. Accessories are also good for gifting purposes. Plus, unlike clothes, children don't outgrow them," says Kidology's Mittal.
The segment sure has immense potential. "Kids' fashion in India is growing at a fast pace and we will soon be the biggest market globally for kids' apparel. Also, India has a very young population compared to other countries, so players are witnessing increased demand. Kids' brands are entering tier II cities as well, as this is one of the most attractive categories that holds a 20% market share," says Mahla, adding, "We are also planning to take the IKFW to the UAE."
Clearly, kids' fashion is serious business now.
Rs 72,000 cr – The market size of the children's apparel market in India in 2014
Rs 95,000 cr -The projected market size by the end of 2016
20% – The contribution of kidswear to India's apparel market in 2013; this share is expected to increase to 22% by 2023
What's in fashion
* Embellishments, appliqué, zip detailing, off-shoulder and layered silhouettes, rosette danglers, tassel detailing
* Cummerbund sets, berets, cowls, peplum tops, farshi kurta ensembles
* Elaborate headdresses with feathers, flowers, etc
* Costumes inspired from films like Bajirao Mastani
* Family emblem on jackets
* Gold thread and crystals hand-embroidered on clothes
* Customised embellished footwear, studded with crystals, coloured stones, diamonds, pearls, etc
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