A big minus for plus-size menswear

Body positivity may be a buzzing trend but when it comes to menswear, the fashion industry has been slow to embrace size diversity

plus-size, menswear
Plus-size inclusivity also depends on a designer’s perspective.

If you are a follower of fashion trends, you will know that size diversity has been under the microscope for a long time now, with a growing conversation leading to different body sizes being considered and accepted by the fashion industry.
The good news is that brands and fashion designers have started work on sizing inclusivity, and an impetus for gender-neutral clothing has led them to surge their efforts to appeal to a diverse range of people. The not-so-good news, however, is that while plus-size fashion is trending with body-positivity campaigns for women, it has barely scratched the surface in the case of men.

“The plus-size community is stretching to new peaks of exemplification and inclusion but their male counterparts are still debarred from the discussion. Menswear trails behind plus-size womenswear as men keep hush about their needs and struggle to dress more fashionably,” says Richa Mittal, founder and CEO of lifestyle label SPACE, which has launched an all-gender collection called ‘All Inc 1.0’ and a size-inclusive collection called ‘All Inc 2.0’.

According to Manu Sharma, group business head of Reliance Brands that houses labels like Armani Exchange, Bally, Bottega Veneta, Brooks Brothers, Burberry and others synonymous with luxury, in fashion, men still happen to suffer the burden of societal pressure and toxic masculinity that affects open conversation and acceptance. “The fashion industry has seen a rise in the quantum of campaigns and movements around body positivity. However, the men’s fashion segment remains majorly untapped,” he adds.

Plus-size inclusivity also depends on a designer’s perspective. Whether men or women, it makes a huge difference. Jigar Shah, co-founder of bridal wear brand Bindani, says, “Whatever may be the size, everyone wants to be able to find clothes that they love and feel comfortable in.”

There is still a dearth of plus-size all-inclusive menswear, feels designer Kunal Rawal, who applies his non-conformist and multifunctional approach towards design, promotes functionality and versatility giving people the creative freedom to style and pair the outfits separately. The focus is on customer personality rather than gender.

Evolving sector

“We have seen bigger boys on runway and in campaigns in the past decade. Having said that, plus-size menswear has a strong commercial value too. That’s why I have an all-inclusive runway casting. It’s an important aspect of retail in a market like India which is flooded with diversity, culture, lifestyle, different drapes, languages and we really cannot generalise the body type ever in India,” says Rawal.

Menswear is still evolving and is now more about personal style, comfort and not about one-style-suits-all. “Some prefer bold, some take it easy on colours; fashion and design innovation has undergone a transformation. Men are dressing in all colours and there is freedom to wear all styles and experimentation, especially in menswear. Like a dhoti salwar or cowl pants or pathani pants for men in all ranges can make for a good fashion statement,” says fashion designer Anju Modi.

According to the latest Future Market Insights Research report, the United States leads the market, with the largest obese population and the most money being spent on plus-size clothing. Asia-Pacific is anticipated to witness high growth potential in the plus-size clothing market with an estimated value of $601.7 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $1,044.3 billion by 2032. The plus-size clothing market is expected to register a CAGR of 5.7% during the forecast period.

If the sales increase, the need for products that give the same level of luxury as customers in other sizes will also increase the market for plus-size clothes between 2022 and 2032, the report states. The male category is expected to lead the plus-size clothing market in terms of customer orientation. The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to grow at the highest rate, resulting in rising obesity rates among individuals in the next few years.

Globally, several brands have made a foray into this segment. Walmart launched a new plus-size brand named Terra and Sky in 2018 for women and George, a men’s collection in an inclusive size range. High street plus-size apparel retailers such as River Island, Marks & Spencer and New Look offer a wide range of plus-size wear to suit demand.

“Over the past decade, menswear has witnessed an accelerated growth with brands offering diverse portfolios including luxury, traditional, formal, athleisure, casual and seasonal wear. Brands have become more inclusive, with increased focus on plus sizes and customised options as the buying pattern in menswear has evolved, in not just the metros but Tier 2 and 3 cities as well such as Bhubaneswar, Tiruvallur, Vijayawada, Kanchipuram, etc. New trends have made way for more prints, colours, styles, fabrics and textures in menswear,” says Saurabh Srivastava, director and head, Amazon Fashion India.

Amazon Fashion strives to meet customers’ needs and provide a seamless shopping experience with carefully curated stores for premium brands, plus-size and seasonal needs that cater to varying needs of customers.

“We host a number of shopping events that provide a platform for brands to surface their wide selection at relevant shopping moments while we have a large selection of over 10,000 domestic and international brands such as Allen Solly, USPA, Levis and more,” adds Srivastava.

Sizing it right
There is negligible data available on Indian body structure across genders and age. The right fit for Indians has always remained a big issue. Either you visit a tailor to get that well-fitted pair or compromise on a UK or US size. Alteration in clothes has been a common phenomenon. But have we realised the need for a size that fits the Indian body type?

Most fashion schools and brands work on UK body sizes which are extremely different from Indian body structures, says designer Varija Bajaj. “Almost 99% of the shirts that men wear have their shirt shoulders dropping because Indian men have narrower shoulders than their international counterparts. Also, 100% Indian men will have the top button of a collared shirt open, unless mandatory in school or if wearing a tie. They have very short neck height. With a closed button, the illusion is that the upper body torso leads directly to the face without the existence of any neck. Open shirt button shows at least 1-2 inches of neck that Indian men have,” she says.

The India size survey, titled INDIAsize, is also working to standardise size charts in the ready-to-wear clothing sector in which 60-70% of the population will find the right fit from the current 30-40%. The joint initiative of the ministry of textiles and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) will create an anthropometric database of measurements for Indians which will further help boost the retail garment industry. What it means is that the survey will result in the creation of a size identification number for a customer through mapping, categorisation and defining the body size and type.

While the term ‘plus-size’ originally came from the clothing industry and has been used for women, men have traditionally had the ‘big and tall’ label applied to them. Most couturers prefer keeping the standard size outfit in store and have them customised according to the specifications, measurements and comfort of a client while brands have included the plus-size and double and triple XL as an offering without mentioning it in the plus.

A search on the Internet gives a list of e-commerce sites like Myntra, Pluss, Johnpride, Amazon, Bewakoof selling plus-size products. Westside has trousers till size 40 and shirts till size 46 from a host of brands.

However, brands still grapple with the technical aspects and acceptance of their products in the market. This is because there is a different data analysis for plus-size men with limitations, especially since men in India are disproportionately sized.

“In north India, men would usually have a beer belly while down south, men will have broader shoulders. There is an absolute need for extensive consumer research that is India specific and more so state specific. It’s a Herculean task which is a deterrent for most brands trying to venture in this space,” adds Bajaj.

Standard pattern and pricing

Men’s fashion brand DaMENSCH has products available in XL and XXL sizes. “Brands that are truly inclusive and develop true relationships with people of all sizes, colours, sexualities and other identities will find loyal customer bases that stay with them for decades,” says Gaurav Pushkar, co-founder of the brand, who is looking to move deeper into the space and offer 3XL and 4XL sizes. He says, “There is a 3.5% market in India in this area. We want to be a part of it because inclusiveness is a key pillar of our business.”

Plus-size menswear in India starts upwards of XXL size. So, if fashion is limitless and beyond colour, size and race, plus-size menswear must never show that it has been designed for a particular body type. At Sulakshana Monga, a fashion and wedding designer brand, the brand value and bespoke designing overpower any other factor, says Dhruv Monga, its head of design. “That’s why we do not charge extra for plus sizes,” he says.

“Today in the market, plus-size is designed in a certain way, it’s made to look plus-size, which I feel should not be the case. How can we speak about society being inclusive and open minded when the designs at times are narrowed down?” asks Monga, who has launched a collection for grooms in ethnic and festive wear, cocktail attire and customised garments.

Technically, creating an XXL or XXXL garment means using more raw material, which may, in turn, increase the price points. Fashion entrepreneur Nivedita Saboo, who exclusively handcrafts couture womenswear, menswear and accessories under her label Nivedita Saboo, feels menswear in India for plus sizes tends to move into the gamut of the bespoke business and the options for getting tailored fits in shirts, trousers, kurtas, suits and separates are easy and available in plenty.

“The plethora of fabrics available off the shelf in the retail market range from Rs 120 per metre to Rs 2,50,000 per metre. The proportion in creating the fit for jackets and shirts, of the shoulder to the chest and stomach as compared to the bicep and forearm measurements do not remain standard and vary from body type to body type. Trouser fits pose a greater challenge when it comes to standardising a plus-size pattern. Plus-size clothing is not only difficult to be perfectly fitted to the different types of plus-size bodies, it is also less cost effective to mass manufacture. It requires in-depth research of consumer psychology, and body type to start manufacturing plus-size men’s clothing,” says Saboo.

Ideally, if a brand is buying material in bulk and has a dedicated designing and tailoring staff, the final price of a plus-size product should not increase. Shah of Bindani adds, “One should not have to pay a fat tax and compromise on styles or looks just because they are a plus-size. All clients, regular or plus-size, should be offered a fair price.”

Nonetheless, extended men’s sizing is becoming more readily available, and all shapes and sizes can experiment with the latest trends. Siddharth Darda, founder of Tistabene, a retail e-commerce men’s fashion and accessories brand, feels men are spending more money on their clothes than ever before, and more men than ever are plus-size.

“For tailoring, because there are no sizes, there is no sort of setting limits at the end of the range. We don’t have to refer to it as plus-size—it either fits or it doesn’t. Brands are using scale and balance to make sure the clothing looks the best. When a customer checks the product on a website or enters a store, the first thing he likes is the design, then the cost, and after that checks if it fits. So, the cost is already finalised in their mind before the size. If cost increases due to size, it could hurt their sentiment,” adds Darda.

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 12-03-2023 at 02:45 IST
Exit mobile version