At a time when fashion e-commerce is vying with electronics for the largest online selling category label, several start-ups are targetting niche segments within the broader apparel category. One such niche segment is Western work wear for women, a segment that has witnessed much demand with more women joining the workforce, especially in the corporate sector. “Formal wear in India, in both offline and online retail models, is never awarded a mainstream space, and yet it is one of the most utilised aspects of the modern woman’s wardrobe,” says Shweta Sharma, who founded e-commerce start-up Ombré Lane with her sister Prachi Sharma in May 2017.
Ayushi Gudwani, founder of FableStreet, a Delhi-based start-up which offers Western wear for women professionals looking for formal attire as opposed to ethnic wear, puts the women’s work wear market at upwards of `6000-8000 crore. According to a BCG-Facebook study, the online fashion market in India is poised to reach $14 billion by 2020. Women’s Western wear is set to increase its share to 18% of the total online fashion market from about 14% today. “The buying behaviour for work wear is different from buying fashion. For work, women are looking for quality and distinctive pieces, which fit them well. On the other hand, for fashion, customers are looking for huge discounts and use-and-throw pieces,” says Gudwani who launched FableStreet in September 2016.
There have been offline players such as Van Heusen and Allen Solly in the western work wear space for several years, but it is only now that niche brands are attempting a play online though fashion e-retailers such as StalkBuyLove, Koovs, Limeroad also have non-casual wear/work wear for women. What is different now is that the smaller online players are doing the necessary research to understand the peculiarities of the Indian workplace and using technology to come up with clothes that meet the aspirations of working women. For instance,
For instance, FableStreet’s strongest point is its proprietary sizing algorithm designed by measuring more than 1000 women across India. Given that Western wear is very much about fittings, it enables its standard sizes to be a better fit than other brands which use European size charts. “We have an added feature of ‘tailored fit’. Using three measurements, we can extrapolate rest of your body measurements to significant accuracy and give you a great fit,” says Gudwani. Ombré Lane, meanwhile, describes itself as a vertically integrated direct to
Ombré Lane, meanwhile, describes itself as a vertically integrated direct to consumer brand. “Our garments are tailored with handpicked, soft feel premium fabrics, sourced directly from the top manufacturers and distributors that supply to luxury brands and designers. We use machine washable and durable fabrics, keeping in mind the busy lifestyle of today’s woman,” says Sharma. These niche brands have kept away from discounts and instead promise premium products that justify the price tags. While the price points for Ombré Lane’s collection start from `1945, FableStreet’s starts at `1600 for tops, and `3000 for dresses.
Gudwani uses a just-in-time model for production and gets the garments made post order. “The business model is designed to minimise pitfalls of retail and become profitable with zero inventory, low SKU complexity and minimal returns,” she says. Ombré Lane, which delivers to over 10,000 pincodes across the country is also using technology to understand its customers better. “We are a content focused brand, and work on helping our customers to find them the best designs and fit based on their personality, lifestyle and body shape via blogs, social media, style surveys and direct interactions,” says Sharma.