Anita Dongre creates designer labels for masses


June 11, 2012

Abhinav Mohapatra, Pitch
Mumbai, 11 June 2012

The Indian fashion retail industry is witnessing a massive transformation with the growth of organised retail and increasing fashion sensibilities of the Indian mass consumer. Taking a cue from the emerging trends in the Indian fashion industry, Anita Dongre, lifestyle and fashion designer has created a niche in this space on the back of a strong market segmentation strategy and a well-planned retail presence.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

The upper and upper middle class of the consumer segment does look where it is investing its money, even in the small things like apparels, but also wants to carry a style statement for the same. Eyeing an opportunity in the growing mass apparel market, Anita Dongre is bringing high street fashion to the mass consumer.

“As more Indian women step out to active working lives, they are looking for styles that draw upon Indian design influences and sensibilities, but are fresh, with cuts and silhouettes that are convenient to wear,” says Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive, Third Eyesight. He also adds that the apparel market in India is far from saturated and in spite of the entry of international brands, there is ample scope for growth of Indian brands. “However, the challenge for design-based businesses in India is to create an organised structure that allows the business to scale.” Dutta adds.

Currently, Dongre’s brands’ retail presence is strong with 75 exclusive brand outlets and over 250 Multi Brand Outlets. She plans to expand her presence beyond Indian borders and fully transform into a global lifestyle brand. “We are looking to expand demographically, looking to expand to different continents.” Dongre shares.

Market segment must in fashion industry

In principle, for any successful business or marketing plan it is imperative to have a market segmentation strategy in order to understand who exactly the consumer/market is; and the fashion industry is no exception to this rule. Hence in order to expand her brand’s reach to various potential TGs, Anita Dongre categorised three kinds of probable consumer sets. Dongre explains, “We actually started with mid premium and mass segment and are now moving to offering a premium brand. We wanted to target all the segments and product the best in each. Our labels cater to various tastes and requirements and internally, we treat each brand as a separate unit when it comes to design, marketing and strategy.”

Her brand portfolio consists of high street Western wear label AND, Indo-Western fusion labels like Global Desi and IInterpret, Timeless bridal wear, Grassroot that caters to ethnic fashion and organic wear, and AD Man, which is her foray into menswear. Most of her brands have strategically occupied the shop in shop format in various lifestyle chains like Shoppers Stop and Pantaloons.

Though multi brand outlets sport many such designer brands which do create awareness for these products but also are not able to compete with mainstream brands such as Levis, Pepe, UCB and USI etc. Hence, Third Eyesight’s Dutta feels that the strongest brand is one that stands out as distinctive in a department store environment and also has the ability to support a stand-alone exclusive store. For that, the product range has to be both wide and deep, and the ‘handwriting’ of the brand must be distinct from its competitors, season after season. Dongre has hence kept the emerging fashion consciousness among men consumers and started an apparel line catering to the same. She adds, “We have also started small with Timeless and AD Man and are looking to take these two all over India.”

Explaining the fashion industry structure at apparel design segment, V Rajesh, retail subject matter expert says that there are three levels the top end, that have players like Rohit Bal who cater to specific targets and extremely niche category, at the next level there are these top end designers who have their own line of clothing and boutiques like Ritu Beri, and at the bottom there are those who are from the merchandising background and design for major retail outlets like Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle. Dongre fits all the three.

Hence, he adds that apparel is more a functional product with the change of trends and time the role of the designer who has a more hands on job also changes accordingly. “In addition, these affordable designers have a plus point, they have a craving to be unique and stand out. That is why they look for clothes that are affordable as well as have a signature design. The only minus point in that in India nobody has respect for intellectual property rights,” he adds. Thus, there is a lurking threat of imitation in the apparel market in India.

Affordable designer tag

Nevertheless, the retail expert thinks that today the mass segment obviously cannot afford apparel showcased in Lakme or Wills fashion week. Thus, if they get a chance of getting apparels by the same designer at a much affordable rate, it is a good proposition for both the consumer and the marketer.

Thus, the budding apparel entrepreneur has consciously kept the prices of her more popular brands AND and Global Desi between Rs 1,500 and Rs 4,000. Thus, the value for money proposition and a designer tag not only suit the pockets of her various TGs but also fills the aspirational need of the consumer.

In addition, according to brand expert and columnist Santosh Desai, Indians are bent up on value for money, they look at the price point and from that perspective there are many different designers to look at in today’s market. The Indians look at affordable apparels that have got the signature tags of these designers. “Therefore we see a balance being created between the seriousness of the designers and the price tag that comes with their signature apparels,” he adds.

Desai strongly feels that there is an overall need in the market today and there is a good opportunity for designer brands to flourish. As Indians look for originality that distinguishes them from the mainstream, these designer brands are changing their view from being on the top end of the pyramid to catering to the masses at the bottom too. “In the case of Anita Dongre, she has originality and distinguished design that attracts the market, also she has many brands running under one umbrella and a more than one line of apparel,” Desai sums up.