by Tanya Krishna
16-May-2019 | 16 mins read
India’s retail industry has very recently woken up to a ‘ready to erupt’ market: Plus size women’s clothing. Retailers across the country are slowly adapting a playbook for rolling out plus-sized collections that mirrors their product lines. The plus-size segment in India alone is estimated to have about US $ 5-6 billion market by 2020. This indicates that brands and retailers are dedicating more time and resources into developing plus-sized collections which says that they are seeing huge potential in the segment.
FabAlley is one such home-bred brand that has taken this category rather seriously. Curve, its sub-brand, was launched to cater to sizes from XL to 4XL. “With Curve, we are trying to become an inclusive brand. We want to appeal to the people to accept themselves the way they are. We realised that no brand was offering the trendy collections or the mainstream collection for the plus size women. We got a lot of queries for this category and then we deep dived in to the category, studied about the market, brands present in the market, size of the industry, etc. There was a huge gap in this industry and few brands catering to the segment were only offering shapeless garments and no one was doing enhancement garments. We saw this gap — both in terms of quantity and quality– and decided to do a small collection and that’s how our journey for Curve started,” maintains Tanvi Malik, Co-founder, FabAlley.
The Development of the Segment
‘One size fits all’ does not apply today and the fashion industry has realised it; so it is gearing up to tap this so-called ‘plus-size’ market. FabAlley successfully gave it the much-needed push when it launched the collection and campaign #FabFitsAll. It was noted that the clothes designed for women in double-digit or extra small sizes do not have the level of design or quality of regular sizes. “FabAlley aims to bring attention to style, trend, fit and fabric, all at the same time, and emerges as an on-trend label with a fashion-girl aesthetic, which is size-agnostic. The brand’s objective is to ensure that the garments not only flatter a variety of body types, but also seamlessly transition time, lifestyle and seasons,” asserts Tanvi.
Many parts of the fashion industry exhibited both overt and unconscious bias against the women who did not conform to their unrealistic ideals of feminine beauty and this is why the industry has been slow to represent an appropriate spectrum of women in advertising and product offering. This is changing in a huge way as the market size of plus size apparel is considerably growing with demographic changes, people getting larger and the overall body positive movement which has heightened drastically. Also, the recent times have witnessed criticism of the fashion and advertising industries’ obsession with thin models and the growing social media popularity of certain key celebrities and influencers have all contributed to important shifts in perspectives. Keeping pace with the development and growth of the segment, FabAlley initiated a capsule collection of about 50 pieces which garnered ‘brilliant sell-throughs, lot of repeat customers and good feedback’. “Curve has less than 30-35 products in our entire website but the sell-through is insane which is more than 60 per cent. Cohorts are very strong in plus segment and there is a lot of loyalty as well. For now, we are doing more of core product range for Curve and are planning to also include occasion wear in the category by this year,” informs Tanvipositively.
Not only this, the segment has grabbed the attention of other brands as well. For instance, Lifestyle introduced Nexus (its plus size clothing range) two years ago, Gia was launched by Westside, among others.
An Assortment Of Collections
Besides Curve, FabAlley also prides in offering occasionwear assortments under its brand Indya. “Indya was born out of the need for the FabAlley girls who were falling short of options for festive and wedding seasons. We spotted this demand and the gap in the organised retail space for ethnicwear in 2015 and that’s when Indya was conceptualised. We wanted to give FabAlley women to wear something during their evenings keeping in mind that she is western in her approach but at the same time is rooted and has requirements for Indianwear. A traditional retailer might not see that today’s woman likes to bring out her uniqueness through her clothes, but we know what exactly she wants. So, we work on lot of separates, we give out a lot of quirkiness and uniqueness that one can derive from picking three things and making two sets with them. Started as an occasionwear brand, Indya is now a day-to-evening brand where occasionwear is still strong,” points out the Co-Founder of FabAlley. In terms of price range, it starts from around Rs.1,400 and goes upto Rs.3,600. However, one would need to spend around Rs.3,500- Rs.4,500 to make a complete outfit with a crop top and skirt and dupatta included will take it to around Rs.5,000. Similarly, for Faballey, the price range varies between Rs.1,200- Rs.2,800.
Unlike other traditional brands, Faballey does not work on regular six months calendar for its collection. Tanvi stated, “Our planning and our execution is super quick. Typically, at any point of time, we are working on two months cycle. In a season which is traditionally of six months, we do about 3-4 hits of FabAlley and 3-4 hits of Indya. On an average, we launch about 1,500 products in FabAlley in a year and about 1,200 in Indya because Indya is not a fast-moving category. Also, Indian wear trends do not change so frequently as do westernwear where we need to plan before time to keep up with the pace.” Faballey has only two divisions in its collection — Core and Fashion — and Core is very changeable for the brand in the sense that if a meta-characteristic like the print, buttons type, collar type, etc. stays really high across at least 3 collections, it moves into the brand’s Core collection.
If this was not enough, FabAlley has also forayed into denims. It believes that one needs to cover all categories to become a 360-degree fashion brand and the trend of wearing jeans is not going anywhere in India. Tanvi affirms, “While globally, it’s shifting and people are moving to pants and jumpsuits, and so on, but denim in India is a go-to product. So, we had to get into it but with a sense of differentiation. We approached it from the sense of doing fashion denim; we saw a huge gap in affordable fashionwear when it came to high waist, boot cut, rips and distresses, pearls and studs and that’s how we got into denims. Contribution-wise, we have about 65-70 styles of denims, sell-throughs are over 60 per cent and the contribution of jeans and bottoms on our website is about 8-10 per cent.”
What All Goes Into The Back-End?
Having a huge product assortment and going big on trends, consumer demand as well as social issues like body positivity come with a lot of hard work. So, what exactly goes into making all this possible a success? FabAlley does not have its own manufacturing units but rather outsources its products from domestic vendors, be it for garments or for fabrics. The brand does source fabrics from countries like Bangladesh and China, but that happens through middlemen (the vendors) who import from these countries. FabAlley believes in minimum inventory and being quick in response to the ongoing trend and market demands. “The most efficient brands generally keep about 45-60 days of inventory and the norm is 90 days plus. However, we work on a 20-25 day inventory cycle. How we are able to pull that off? We work on small slots and test the trend and saleability of a particular product/ collection. Then we know how much to replenish, how much inventory to stock per style and we also get to know what is going to move very well for us offline as well. So now in any season, out of the 600 products that we will make, offline will only need about 100-150 on an average. Deciding what those 150 are and blocking those quantities comes very intuitively to us because of the fact that we can already see how its doing on our website. It gives us that first exposure to the market at full price which otherwise, for other retailers, is a complete shot in the dark. In the history of FabAlley and Indya, which is 6 plus years old, we have had not even one inventory write off. That’s how reacting fast and being fast fashion pays us,” explains Tanvi.
FabAlley prides in having a dedicated capacity which includes the brand’s Co-founder Shivani Poddar’s parents’ manufacturing factory, 15 fabricators and jobworkers who are supervised by FabAlley’s teams. It distinguishes itself from the competition in India’s fashion retail market with its focus on Indian women. The brand offers clothing with silhouettes tailored to Indian women body types with lengths always at a more wearable point of view, using fabrics which will be more skin-friendly, given the tropical climate in the country and fits and cuts always conforming to what is acceptable yet fashionable and trendy and very specific to Indian women. Similar is the case with its Curve collections wherein the brand offers comfortable and trendy apparel for every Indian woman.
The Overall Performance
FabAlley started operations as an online brand and then later ventured into offline retail. The brand has grown over a very short span of time and connects with its consumers through its own website, online marketplaces like Myntra, Amazon, Ajio and its chain of offline stores which is a mix of own stores and departmental stores like Globus, Trends and Central. While there is no exclusive offline store for FabAlley and it sells through large format outlets and has 60 plus touchpoints, Indya owns 18 EBOs and has 75-80 touchpoints presently. FabAlley has had a great journey till date and prides in being an EBIDTA positive firm and the only profitable online company in this space in India. It had most recently received its series B round of funding from SAIF Partners amounting to Rs.60 crore (about US $ 8.5 million). Talking about the allocation of the recent round of funding, Tanvi says, “We are looking at offline expansion wherein we are planning on expanding to have 45-50 exclusive outlets. The other area which needs investment is always innovation in terms of products like athleisure. It has been there on the cards for us for the past 6-8 months where we are trying to figure out how to go about it because it is transcending from being a category and becoming a way of life. We will be moving in this category soon and that will require more R&D. Also, we are looking at more designer collaborations for Indya on the upper side. All of these explorations and product R&D will happen in next 12-18 months. Marketing is one big pull for us. We have been digitally very strong and loud over the last few years because our distribution has been online first. We will also invest in marketing and branding initiatives in the next 12 months for both the brands which will be ATL-led and not necessarily BTL and digital-led.”
Moving ahead, the Co-founders are planning on investing in exclusive outlets for FabAlley as well. Besides, the brand is also planning to enter lucrative markets in Tier-II or beyond areas in the times to come. “We have presence in Tier-II and beyond through departmental stores like Central and also through our website which caters to more than 15,000-18,000 pin codes. Interestingly, FabAlley is doing great in cities like Patna, Ranchi, Kanpur, etc. We also have Indya exclusive stores in cities like Lucknow, Bhubaneswar and Ludhiana. We are open to explore all markets if it shows potential but this is a slow and careful process for us and we take such steps very cautiously after studying the market,” Tanvi avers. For the current financial year, FabAlley would have grown 80-85 per cent on year-on-year basis and is looking at 100 per cent growth in the next two years.
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