Think of jackets and what strikes the mind is a moving film of a lot of different images – from sports jackets to Rough leather jackets, the Evergreen Blazers, Harringtons and of course Nehru jacket. In India, the category of jackets is substantially coming out of its closet of being restricted to formal or winter wear to a fashion garment that can be flaunted as part of everyday casual wear.
Think of leather jackets in India and the mind invariably goes to recollect the scene from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), when Shahrukh Khan held a mandolin and opened up his arms for Kajol. Of course, any die-hard Bollywood fan can recount numerous similar scenes with the actor donning marvelous jackets on screen. In the western world too, leather jackets have been synonymous with practically every action hero. But it is interesting to note how a leather jacket that has a rough and macho feel attached to it, was so beautifully given a push by the movie DDLG for lover boys! It is believed that Uday Chopra had picked up that jacket from a Harley Davidson store in Bakersfield, California, for US$ 400.
The article that follows is by no means just about leather jackets and the crazy fan-following they enjoy. The reference above was just to set the context on the dynamics associated with this category. From helping create a personal fashion statement against the accepted norm, to being considered a prized possession irrespective of the actual price associated with it, jackets do not follow ‘fashion rules’ as such. They are completely dominated by a ‘person’s personal choice and preference’. Kuntal Raj Jain, Owner, Duke says, “Jackets are now part of everyday casualwear and are becoming an essential aspect of one’s life.”
WHAT’S IN TREND?
Talking about jackets that are trending currently, Neha Shah, Senior Manager – Marketing, Pepe Jeans shares, “Recent trends suggest that men like to make a statement in classic leather biker jackets, battle the cold in bright coloured bomber jackets or layer in style with woollen blends. Women are seen having a strong affinity towards tweed coats and bright coloured sleeveless jackets.” She further says, “Interestingly, young adults look at jacketsas a smart casual garment that can be worn as Friday dressing or for an evening out with friends.”
Our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru created a niche in the category of jackets with his Nehru style jackets, butjackets more or less have always been synonymous with westernwear. Hence, majority of the brands offeringjackets fall in this category. Parx, a casualwear brand from the house of Raymond, is known for the same. Talking about trends in jackets as seen specific to India, Sharad Walia, Brand Director, Parx points out, “Layering is the new trend in casualwear. Even formal attire is layered with casual jackets. Medium-weight to light-weight jackets are excellent for winters.” Furthermore, the fashion is moving towards a sporty look with technical details and fabrics blending in casualwear.
Being Human is another brand that is high on the popularity charts of the youth. Saurabh Singh, Design Head, Being Human reveals, “Sports direction is the biggest trend happening at the moment in both casual and formal segment ofjackets. Sporty bomber and biker jackets in casual category and classic suit jackets available in nylon and knitted versions are the latest bestselling trends in the market.”
Shradha Murarka, the designer and creative director of Kolkata-based boutique, Vizyon shares that is it variety that the customer is looking for and keeping that in mind, her brand has introduced jackets that mix different kinds of materials such as leather and zipper detailing with fabric cords, leather cords and rivets. Murarka says, “Women these days pair jackets with saris, mixing the traditional with contemporary, fashion with comfort to create a distinctive individual style. Pairing jackets with shorts and sneakers strikes the perfect balance between causal and dressy, creating a look versatile enough for a casual brunch or an evening at the club. Jackets have become trendier and are being worn all year round. Along with formal jackets, people are now seen sporting lighter and more casual jackets as well.”
According to Prem Dewan, Retail Head, Corneliani, casual jackets in India have managed to be a part of everyday style for people in North India and this is because of the extended winter months up north. Elaborating his take onjackets and their acceptance in India, he shares, “Jackets are becoming an everyday part of the look, especially in the last two years when jackets have picked up really well as a trend. With the latest innovation and styles one can choose from light-weight fabrics to suit the occasion. Bomber jackets are in trend these days.” According to Vikas Kapoor, Owner, Bodyguard Jacket Company, jackets have seen an upswing in demand over the last 10 years. He explains, “People are now accepting jackets as a part of dailywear. Another reason for the growing popularity ofjackets among people is their exposure to international fashion by way of travel and holidays.” Citing regional trends and the variation seen he says, “In parts like Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal, we offer jackets with double poly fibre-fill and use Sherpa in lining while in places like Delhi and Chandigarh, we offer trendy and fashionable jacketsthat are lightweight and bright in colour. In the north-east, say places like Assam, we offer earthy tones and again the jackets here are supposed to be light in weight.”
All said and done, the final word on what is trending has to come from a retailer and revealing this Suresh Sadhwani, Business Head, Brand Factory says, “In a country like India, we have summer almost 10 months a year. Only select parts of the country enjoy winters for full three months. Therefore, what is really trending all year round are linen-cotton casual jackets and biker jackets, which are more popular with the bikers.”
He further says, “Owing to the weather, our way of life and standards of living, we see that the demand for informaljackets is growing. Suits, blazers and jackets contribute 4 percent to our top line. Fifty percent of our jacket line is in casual jackets in brands such as theme.” Citing the changing dynamics witnessed by this category, he elaborates, “From the past decades where jackets were more of a premise of the matured, older age group, today it is more of a style statement. The younger and the new generation are latching onto the jackets culture. For parties, lounges and evenings, jackets in linen and casual cotton are gaining wide acceptance. The trend of casual and lifestyle jackets is poised to grow, with the introduction of several lifestyle brands offering an enhanced range and variety of jackets.”
IS LAYERING THE IN-THING IN INDIA?
Considering the Indian climate is not cold all year round, it would not be fair to say that layering has still not caught up in India. But with innovations in fabrics that are being used for jackets, we may soon see layering finding acceptance here. Reiterating its possible potential, Sumeet Soni, Brand Director, Raymond (Ready to Wear) shares, “Yes, we agree that layered clothing has still not made it big in India. Nonetheless, it is growing at a rapid pace thanks to Internet explosion, which has brought the world closer, media, and privatisation in the entertainment business owing to which we get access to international programmes at the same time, which eventually helps in people adopting global trends. A lot of Indians are globe trotters, who prefer being dressed up and last but not the least the growth of the hospitality industry and aviation has forced people to wear jackets.”
Animesh Maheshwari, Vice President, Riot too reiterates this point. He shares, “Unlike the West, wearing jacketsevery day will take time. However, the trend of wearing various styles of jackets is in vogue. Layering as a trend has been widely followed by the youth segment, thus enhancing the innovativeness in the styles.” Advocating layering dynamism as being witnessed, Walia of Parx strongly feels that jackets have now become a layering piece whether it is simple knitted casual style jacket, which could be combined with a nice shirt and trouser, or if it is a completely casual jacket in bomber style or a leather jacket in biker style; these are key pieces for a man’s wardrobe these days. He states, “It is more of a style than utility.”
BEING SYNONYMOUS WITH WINTERWEAR
Not anymore! As we have seen above, brand custodians have gone on record sharing that jackets are increasingly being adopted as fashion garments than just a protection against the winter chills. No wonder we are now seeing jackets in different lightweight materials as against the heavy woollen and leather fabrics.
Spykar has been one of India’s most coveted brands for the youth and it is interesting to learn from the brand that in spite of having jackets just in the winters, the sale of casual jackets is more than actual winter protective jackets(60-40%). Sanjay Vakharia, Director – Marketing, Spykar explains, “The perceived value of jackets is significantly more as compared to pullovers or sweaters. With the rise in cotton prices (raw material), prices of pullovers and sweaters have increased regularly. Consumers are not as willing to pay these increased prices resulting in drop of sales.”
Shah of Pepe feels that considering the fact that winters in India are getting shorter, the sale of winter wear jackets is seen to have suffered a blow. She is of the opinion that in recent years, men have come to prefer jackets over sweaters in the winters and the reason could be the outfit’s extreme versatility and relaxed feel.
For Maheswari of Riot, compared to last year’s fall-winter collection, the brand has a wide range in the current season, which consists of themes, silhouettes, designs, etc. He shares, “There has been an increase in the product category as well as in the line.”
Soni of Raymond Ready to Wear, on the other hand, feels that winters is the season when there is maximum sale of jackets. According to him, winter is always a bigger season for two reasons: people need more jackets in winter and a lot of festivals are celebrated during that period. A point well noted! Perhaps what would help some brands here would be adding some bling and design to the jackets to make them more versatile.
Sharing responses specific to what trends are in during winters, Sadhwani of Brand Factory says, “In more exposed and mature markets, tweeds in plains and twill weaves, finished woollens are popular in winters. Also, formal blazers take precedence in the north as they provide lifestyle along with warmth.”
REPLACING PULLOVERS AND SWEATERS
While jackets can be considered an all-season wear clothing, pullovers and sweaters dominate the winters. Though,jackets are now fancied as winter wear essentials as well with warmer fabrics being used. According to Soni of Raymond Ready to Wear, “Jackets have not been replaced by anything else, though the growth of jackets is higher than that of pullovers.” While, Walia of Parx feels, “Casual washed jackets in blazer style move more than the heavy jackets as they are more important for style. Heavy jackets, on the other hand, are more popular for utility purposes. The contribution of pullovers to the sales has been equally good when compared with winter jackets.”
Speaking on behalf of his brand Bodyguard Jackets, Kapoor points out that jackets and casual coats have definitely replaced pullovers and sweaters to a tune to about 70:30 ratio! He reveals, “In 1996, when we launched our brand, the ratio of jackets was only 25:75 against that of pullovers but in 2014, the ratio is 70:20 and in the category of jackets, the casual range is always high as compared to formal jackets. Our annual sale category wise is 70 percent from casual and 30 percent from the formal category.”
Singh of Being Human is of the opinion that more than fashion awareness it is the climate of our region which restricts people from wearing jackets on a daily basis. However, he adds, “Casual jackets should see an upward swing largely because of more options bring available to the consumers from various brands and MBOs and of course because of the growing upwardly mobile and fashion-conscious consumers.” As for the comparison between sweaters, pullovers and jackets, he adds, “Jackets have not replaced pullovers; rather, they complement each other as part of the layered winter look. The reason why pullovers and sweaters do not do as well in India compared to the West is because people still do not consider pullovers and sweaters as fashion products but rather just as utility clothing, which should change going forward as fashion awareness increases in the consumers.”
MEN TAKE DOMINANCE
Sporting a jacket in India still has to really come out of ‘it’s a boy’ thing image. This is a fact corroborated by the ratio of men’s jackets to that of women’s in this category. For Pepe, the ratio is as much as 80:20! For Spykar the ratio is 70:30. According to Jain of Duke, the market for women’s jacket is around 40 percent and the remaining 60 percent is that for men’s jacket.
Walia of Parx reasons, “Men’s jackets offered in India have a wide variety across various Indian and international brands. If we put together formal and casual jackets, the offering of this category is huge as compared to the womenswear jacket market.”
Maheshwari of Riot has a different point of view altogether. According to him, it is the women’s jackets that generate more sales than that of men’s. As he points out, “It has been observed that women wear jackets more frequently. They layer it on sleeveless top, razor backs, etc. The sales for women’s jackets or shrugs have always been up. In fact, even our specific shrug category has widely been accepted and liked by our buyers. On the other hand, men can be presented with a variety of style in casual jackets, which can be teamed up with a variety of clothing for numerous occasions. Men’s market has been rigorous with regard to shirts and casual t-shirts, and sale of jackets has been more in formalwear but now even the casual jackets have acquired their own consumer base and this category is on its way to expansion.”
Pure leather jackets are meant for a privileged few due to the price-point attached to them. Hidesign, for instance, has its range beginning from Rs 18,000! But what makes leather jackets special is their evergreen acceptability. Talking specifically about what Hidesign has to offer, Dilip Kapur, President, Hidesign shares, “Lamb leather is the softest and flexible leather so it offers great comfort. This is why leather jackets were the first choice for aviators and motorcycle racers. Our lamb leather is naked, with no paint to crack over time, and it is hand polished with natural waxes. The biggest advantage of leather as compared to any manmade material is that it breathes and stretches. This means one does not sweat in it, but it keeps the wearer warmer than any other material.”
Further on their acceptance across India, he shares, “Leather jackets with unpadded lining are good for wear during the cool evenings in Mumbai. When zipped up they will work in spring and fall European weather and anytime in Delhi. Lined with the warm lining (one of the men’s jackets), it will work for European and American weather.”
To sum up, jackets have ceased from being considered an occasional wear. The wardrobe of a man and to some extent a woman too is witnessing an active collection of jackets thanks to the innovations brands are adding to the fabrics. With fashion being made available online, the trend for jackets will only grow.