Ask an Indian woman how many times she has gone shopping confident about finding the right size and fit, right off the rack. Chances are you will receive disappointing stares or irritated glares. This explains why most Indian fashion retailers offer in-store alteration facilities to ensure that their customers leave the store with a smile on the face.
This however, could well be a thing of the past if the Government’s vision of ‘Size India’ is implemented. Indian retailers and manufacturers believe this project is a step in the ‘right direction’ to put India at par with other developed nations on the textile map. However, it may be a tad too ambitious to implement on the ground.
A LAND OF DIVERSITIES
During her recent attendance in the Vibrant Gujrat Summit, Smriti Irani, Union Minister of Textiles, announced the Size India project, wherein the country would have its own standard clothing measurements. This is an effort towards standardisation of garments, following the examples of the UK and US, which have their own standardised sizes.
Indian manufacturers largely follow these international templates for designing garments, with some variations depending on the regions they cater to. According to Irani, an India-specific measurement chart will not only help customers find the right fit but will also help garment manufacturers to alter their production patterns to create fits and sizes that are more specific to the Indian body type.
Tina Vincent, founder of XXLVincent, a plus-sized fashionwear brand catering to the South Indian market for a little over two decades, believes that a blanket standardisation is ‘difficult’ in the Indian context, given the diversity in body types from region to region. And even if it is implemented at some stage Vincent reckons “it will not make a large difference to established players” like herself who have spent 20 years in the business, putting in extensive research to come up with fits that cater to the specific region.
While the Minister has not announced a specific timeline for the completion of this project, media reports suggest that an ambitious project is already underway at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). With a funding of INR 30 crore from the Ministry of Textiles, NIFT has already begun a research project that spans the length and breadth of the nation.
Sophisticated technology such as 3D body scanners are being used on a cross-section of the population across six cities- New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Shillong between ages 15-65, for accuracy and creating prototypes. Approximately 120 parameters including height, weight, waist size, hip size and bust size are being considered for research. Given the project’s ambitious scale, the research is likely to take at least 3-4 years, after which standardisation formalities may manifest.
Sunil Goklani, Founder of Indifuson Apparels India believes that for Indian brands, the implementation of Size India project could prove to be a “make or a break” move as it may translate into “15-20% growth in sales or a 40-50% loss if they get it wrong”. “Indian brands who have spent years in getting sizes and fits right will be unwilling to bring in changes overnight, for fear of losing loyal customers forever,” he stated. “The first criteria for Indian customers with regards to apparel brand loyalty is the fit. If a brand gets it wrong, survival becomes questionable in the long run.”
A Delhi-based garment manufacturer and exporter called the project “utopian”. He believed that even though the project seems well-intended to put India at par with the Western countries, is likely to “present many challenges” even at the research stage. “Most Indian women are private about their vital stats and would rather get their garments tailormade rather than buy it off the shelf. Such ladies are unlikely to come forth and give their consent for 3D scanning,” he pointed out.
A RAY OF HOPE
Gayatri Thampi, Founder and CEO of Mumbai-based GAIA Bespoke womenswear, is however hopeful that ‘Size India’ will go a long way in boosting the confidence of women especially in the 30-40s who are unable to find the “right clothes for lack of standardisation”. “This feeds into their insecurities and fosters a sense of diffidence, despite the success they may have achieved in their respective fields”. Thampi affirmed that the research for Size India has to go beyond the vital stats and take into consideration a wide range of intuitive factors to make it successful.
The jury is thus out on whether ‘Size India’ research results in an Indian specific measurement chart. For now, however, the textile ministry, would like to count on the enthusiasm of the likes of Thampi, a fairly new entrant into the garment business, to make it a success.
- Gargi Banerjee