The year that has put the entire globe at a standstill has also rendered the apparel industry as non-essential in many ways, with the retail market in a stoic decline of both demand and supply. Yet, the category which has seen promising sales during this time when it comes to fashion apparel is intimate wear, as consumers continue to buy from this segment even if it is through online channels exclusively. Even before the COVID-19 wave drastically changed consumer buying behaviour, underwear was a hot category owing to the social movements such as inclusivity hiking its demand. The numbers are emblematic of the same, as underwear made up 4 per cent of womenswear products retailed online across the US and UK markets combined in February 2020, and on a global scale, lingerie was expected to hit US $ 325.36 billion by 2025 according to Allied Market Research, making that 4 per cent worth owning.
In the constant debate of what’s essential and what’s not, underwear poses as a grey category due to its need for the wearer; making basic yet comfortable, durable and multi-functional underwear is the sole category to be focused on during current times. In fact, in a recent webinar ‘What’s Next: Mindful Trends With Purpose’, hosted by Curve Expo, Jos Berry, Founder of Concepts Paris, shed light on the crossroads the lingerie/intimate apparel industry is now at, where every subcategory right from bras, panties, shapewear to lace and even hosiery are facing new challenges due to the crisis of comfort wear dominating the shopping bags as COVID-19 has eliminated the need to look good, as conformity and even trends are now being replaced with acceptance, sustainability, momentary need/want, and inclusivity of all shapes and sizes of women are in.
“If lingerie/intimate apparel wants to see more years of relevance, then it must merge with comfort wear, bringing together lingerie and comfort as one, lingerie investing heavily on innovation to make their fabrics and garments more breathable, eco-friendly, and easy-to-wear for every woman, weeding out exclusivity, having an actual purpose,” said Jos.
One such homegrown brand – that has constantly focused on innovating the classics in order to fulfil the needs of the modern women, who in times of coronavirus are focused on maximum comfort, while giving equal importance to innovating the minor details of the lingerie and intimate apparels offered by them – is the Groversons Group. Being one of the first players in the domestic lingerie industry of India starting its retail journey right in 1953, the company brings to the fore a sense of trust and promise in the tier-2, tier-3 and tier-4 markets. “It began with late Chaman Lal Grover, who took the first step towards achieving his vision of creating a truly Indian lingerie brand that would cater to women’s every need, and now, the Managing Director, Rakesh Grover and I are taking the tradition forward to deliver comfort, fashion and value in the right measure,” said Siddharth Grover, Director of Groversons Group, in conversation with Apparel Resources about the company’s five brands and their sourcing and buying practices.
Quality intimatewear at its best
Brands by Groversons and their offerings –
- Paris Beauty – bra, panties, shapewear, loungewear
- Miss-T – bras and leggings
- Sunaina – bras and panties
- Winta – winterwear and thermals for male, female and kids
- Shalini – bras and panties
With a strong presence in North East India along with tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the company is planning to increase its distribution network and retailers based in the hinterlands of South Indian market as well. “Planning a targeted expansion is easier for us, as we know what our customer demands in different parts of the country, and since our production is 85-90 per cent in-house with production capabilities of the group being around 25 lakh pieces per month, we can translate those demands with monopoly over quality of production as well,” averred Siddharth.
The company strives to ensure quality via an intricate network of sourcing with vendors that are first approved on quality and price, post which samples are developed and approved, which are then produced as per the defined specs and requirements. The majority of sourcing includes raw materials involving various types of fabrics, knitted fabrics, cotton and blends, polyamides, printed fabrics, different finishes, technical fabrics, laces, power nets and mesh, along with key trims that are the deciding factors about the functionality of the product. Most of their raw material vendors are based in different parts of India and the ones not available domestically are sourced mainly from Hong Kong, China and some parts of Europe.
“Each product is different, and as we look for an offering that supports the wearer for diverse end uses, we go to the fibre level, as different products come in different sizes and colours which require variety in yarn fibres to make them finer,” shared Siddharth, while also emphasising on the importance of accessories and trims of the products, such as elastics, as their application defines the strength and bounce required in each particular product. “A lot of variations in the accessories are required depending on the coating strength and use in the products,” he added. The most important material sourced for any player in lingerie segment are the cups and pads that come in different thickness, shapes and styles with different fabrics and decide the functional properties of a bra.
All these requirements need to be aligned from various vendors and all of these come together in the making of each garment. The company focuses on incorporating innovation at the time of assembly of these materials for the end product, as Siddharth believes the need of innovation for a traditional brand such as theirs is the key to sustain, and therefore, his company always offers something new to the customers. Its vendors have been associated with it for decades and have helped the company improve its offerings to the customers by creating new products as per market trends and the brand ethos.
Industry in times of COVID-19
The company has strong hopes of expansion with some of the renowned large format retail outlets and few Delhi-based EBOs also. By the end of FY 2021, its target is to be placed in almost 35 top-end MBOs and LFRs. Siddharth expressed his high hopes for the Indian intimatewear industry, “Keeping aside this pandemic which is an unforeseen scenario, Indian innerwear industry is on the cusp of a big boom and I see better and bigger future in this category. But this pandemic might have an impact and overcoming this shall take a while. Being optimistic, we shall come out strong from this and the future will be good.”
Now that China is losing out on orders, India might gain momentum in improving as a sourcing hub, and Siddharth emphasises on the importance of improvement of the Government policies to help the country grow as a sourcing hub, along with freshness in trends at the global level. Introducing better technology and machinery with availability of knowledge to operate such technology is also important; besides, educating the new generation of garment industry students is another scope of improvement.
“In order to improve India as a sourcing hub, innovation is the key, as I said earlier. Every segment has scope for improvement. How fast and good one can do – that makes all the difference with the Indian manufacturers,” he added.
COVID-19 has been a breaking point for many domestic players, causing major dent in the global economic position and markets at a time when the world is not in a very strong economic position.
Siddharth discussed about the need for it to be contained as soon as possible and the need for immediate economic relief policies for local companies to come out of this situation. “The coming future is going to be tough for all, and in these tough times, we all as an industry and as nation must come together and support the economy. In my personal opinion, what I feel is that as soon as the Government is sure of containing the cases of this virus, and it is safe to resume all businesses, we all must not slow the buying and selling cycles. People must spend money and not hoard it, help the economy get a momentum and start the velocity of money. This can be a major factor in recovering from the damage. As far as the trading of stocks is concerned, people need to stop shorting stocks and be calm and optimistic that the market will recover its position.”