Uniqlo tries ethnic wear to fashion India success

Uniqlo India CEO Tomohiko Sei with designer Rina Singh. The retailer has tied up with Singh to launch a kurta label in India (Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

New Delhi: When Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo opens its first India store in New Delhi next month, it will have something few foreign fashion brands have tried out in India: a sought-after ethnic fashion collection.

The retailer has tied up with local designer Rina Singh, who runs the ethnic label Eka, to launch a Kurta Collection that will include tunics, dresses, pants and stoles.

The Kurta Collection, to be sold as part of Uniqlo’s 2019 Fall/Winter LifeWear collection (along with the retailer’s global range), will also be retailed in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Uniqlo’s India collaboration stands apart as not all foreign brands that have entered the country have drawn inspiration from the unique ethnic wear and prints worn by millions.

Singh said the collection has been in the works for over a year after a brand representative saw her collection at a fashion trade show in France.

Early last year, Singh met with the retailer’s global head of research and design, Yuki Katsuta, in Japan.

They felt a kurta would “touch a local chord since they were working with an Indian designer, they wanted to be more democratic about the launch,” said Singh.

“We are excited to be launching the Kurta Collection along with the opening of the first Uniqlo store in India. The special collection is the result of our dedication to create high-quality daily wear that will meet the daily needs of our customers in India and other markets,” Tomohiko Sei, chief executive, Uniqlo India said in a media statement on Wednesday.

“Kurta is one such silhouette which is much adorned and worn daily by women in India,” Sei added.

Foreign brands have been making a beeline for India as younger shoppers spend on the latest western trends and brands available in global markets.

However, ethnic wear, the attire of choice and convenience for millions of women across India, is seeing revived interest as contemporary designers and online retailers sell casual fusion indigenous wear.

In fact, ethnic wear is still the largest sub-segment among women’s apparel in India in terms of sales, according to an April report by CARE Ratings, largely fuelled by the popularity of sarees and kurtas that are worn daily by women here.

And its relevance in the Indian shoppers’ wardrobe is set to grow.

According to the marketing head of an Indian ethnic wear chain, ethnic fashion is seeing steady growth. “As the taste of people and the entire concept of Indianness is evolving, I don’t think the Indian ethnic space can ever shrink,” he told Mint in an interview, requesting anonymity.

Besides, with contemporary cuts and silhouettes, ethnic wear is no longer frumpy. “It can be rendered in a chic style and is not a compromise,” he added.

The collection can be seen as an attempt to reach a wider consumer base for a brand making an India entry, said Delhi-based designer Rina Dhaka.

“Uniqlo is a modern- day GAP and everybody wants to own a piece from them across economic status and the kurta collection will further amplify its appeal in India,” said Dhaka.

She added that a kurta is a multi-functional piece of clothing that can be styled in multiple ways for different age groups.

The collection features polkas juxtaposed with twill checks, developed by Singh using hand-woven yarn dye and block printing.

The designs use premium linen, 100 % cotton and a specially-created rayon fabric, jointly developed by Uniqlo and Toray Industries to make daily care even easier, the company added in its statement.

Uniqlo, part of Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. Ltd is set to open three stores in India soon, starting with its maiden shop in October in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area, followed by two more stores in the Delhi’s Saket and Gurugram’s CyberHub area.


Author: Roky