Pi Attitude Zone: Material Status

Indian Women And Traditional Dress

Women in India, Pi learns, are thinking again about their traditional commitment to the sari and other long-established forms of female dress across the sub-continent.  They are increasingly switching their allegiance to Western fashions.  Acceptance of European and American styles in women’s formal and evening wear, particularly, is already described as “huge”.

The growth of Western-style dress is too big to be just a flash in the pan.  It already represents a quarter of the domestic Indian market, and women’s-wear market experts are projecting further growth of perhaps half as much again.  One estimate is that Western fashion sales are already growing at 30% a year. 

Part of the demand is being satisfied by domestic producers.  Nonetheless, international fashion brands have seen an opportunity.  Sweden’s H&M has committed to investing in India, and the American fashion brand Forever 21 has announced a plan to double the number of its stores in India within a year (from six to twelve outlets).  Such international interest could easily accelerate the sales growth of Western-style apparel still faster.

Interestingly, the trend seems to be a predominantly female thing.  Western wear for women is growing a lot faster than for men, implying that Indian males are clinging more firmly to their country’s traditions. 

So why are women making the switch, while their men continue to resist the trend?  The suggesting is that attitudes between the genders are diverging.  As middle-class disposable incomes rise, more women, and especially more younger women, are expanding their cultural horizons.  Women’s rights movements and growing social challenges to male hegemony look like having something to do with this.

Pi says: expect to see fewer Indian women in saris with meekly down-cast eyes.

Zone: Material Status Country: Asia / Pacific Product – Consumer Products