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From shore to store: swim & beachwear ride the high tide

by Anjori Grover Vasesi

14-August-2018  |  8 mins read

Life is a beach for designers and brands, who are surfing the waves to meet travel and experience-hungry shoppers at the shores of fashion.

No longer restricted to a holiday season, the demand for swim and beachwear is surpassing seasonal requirements and instead translating itself as a more inclusive year-round market – thanks to the boom in frequent flyers.

According to data shared by Edited, the swim and beachwear market has been growing at a moderate pace since 2010 and is set to cross US $ 20 billion in worth globally, by next year. A lot of diverse factors come into play here – international travel is on an expedited rise, body positivity is a thing, and more and more people are adopting the fitness lifestyle.

Validating the same for the domestic market, Harshad Daswani, Co-founder of Mumbai-based The Beach Company said, “Potential sales for the beach resort and swim categories are expected to touch Rs. 65-85 crore in Fiscal Year 2018, and will continue to grow exponentially as it is a growing segment within the Indian fashion industry.”

Air travel is expected to boom in the next 20 years, with the global passenger count doubling to 8 billion travellers. The APAC region is poised to be the biggest driver here, making up half of those passengers.

This brings us to the impact of the fastest growing emerging markets of India and China, and the mega consumers: the millennials.

It is reported that 66% of millennials hold passports and spend more than US $ 200 billion on vacations annually. With such huge figures at their disposal, even luxury brands and designers are rushing to get a piece of the pie by setting up pop-ups at the fanciest jet-setting locations all over the globe.

There is an enormous untapped retail scope beyond the obvious travel items – consumers are demanding more and more pieces of vacation-based clothing and leisure activities.

A surge of vacation-inspired prints and beach-ready silhouettes swarmed the international runways, citing a spike in demand from international retailers.

For Spring/Summer 2019, the demand is for loose fit, breathable leisurewear in cotton, modals, viscose, sheer and semi-sheer materials and very light fabrics, and a lot of trends in this segment are led by crochet and lace designs. Pieces such as kaftans and ponchos make up a huge chunk of this market considering the large piece of market share acquired by the growing modest fashion market from the Middle East regions as well.

“Since ponchos and kaftans come in free sizes, our buyers mostly place orders for these styles as it is easier for the customers to pick these,” cited exporter Rahul Kumar of Reet International. Since these two styles have been a frontrunner in the past, manufacturers are experimenting with longer lengths and decorative techniques to fill in the demand in the market.

Versatile ‘beach-to-bar’ pieces – The Beach Company, Solids and candy pastels are in huge demand – Nothing Swim and Sheer and semi sheer materials are popular for their airy quality – The Beach Company

Harshad supported the statement by adding, “As far as styling goes, longer lengths are in high demand as they serve the dual purpose of beach to bar, i.e., you can wear these as a holiday pool-side garment or even for dinner, multi-purpose resortwear.”

A plethora of ocean-inspired print patterns such as coral reefs, star fish, sea horses, vacation-inspired quotes/phrases, tropical motifs, in a palette that mostly consists of popping brights and neons, dominate the market.

Tropical prints reign the market for Spring/Summer 2019

“The trend is shifting towards bright prints on a lighter base such as blue and red on white, green over white or neons over nautical stripes,” explained Exporter Arth Sadh of Ritesh Fashion, adding, “The look is achieved through digital prints over apparel, and flock print over bags and mats.”

On the domestic front, Tas Gabaji of label Nothing Swim, who forecasts candy pastels for Spring/Summer 2019 added, “Solid colours are performing well for swim. The demand is ripe for candy pastels – pastels that are not as muted as last year but brighter and more colourful.”

The beauty of India is that it is very diverse as a market. Prints and patterns such as animal, abstract and placement prints perform extremely well here, and is achieved using digital and rotary printing techniques, for their high level of colour fastness and print durability.

In this oversaturated market, established players are experimenting with new techniques not previously associated with beach and swim categories.

For Vijay Singh Sengar of Shilpayan Decor Exports, their USP lies in merging tradition with technique to create an internationally appealing style. Hand block prints and embellishments being their forte, the manufacturer experiments with the techniques from all angles.

“Our customers prefer hand block prints and motifs that are mostly scattered over sheer fabrics or velvet. To make the garment decorative, we add heavy embellishments over these prints which are mostly bead work, usually done by hand, and for the beachwear category, we do embellishments over chiffon fabrics.”

Motifs are bidding an adieu to traditional form of florals and are instead shaped in a more abstract and contemporary way. Another trending technique this season is the foiling technique, in which gold foiling is emerging as a fast seller across categories.

Retailers know consumers are vacationing more and are introducing a multitude of product assortments to cater to that gap. In comes the rise in luggage, belt bags and fanny packs, passport holders, sliders, espadrilles, sunglasses and casual pyjama dressing.

“Consumers are picking up a lot of oversized, large tote bags with metallic prints in materials such as canvas and cotton canvas,” Harshad stated, adding, “A good mix of slogan and printed styles such as the ikkat print are performing well in the beach bags category.”

Although basket bags made out of wicker, rattan, straw and bamboo have been an international mover this summer, the pickup hasn’t been too impressive in the domestic segment.

Potential lies beyond cotton and crochet… The runways are bustling with inspiration, with modest fashion showing huge prospect. Another target up for exploration is of the year-long water sport enthusiasts. Beachwear is currently riding the high tide, and spotting this opportunity in time would create the make or break moment for this category.