Be it a hobby or a passion, finding one's own identity to stand out in the crowd has become crucial to finding one's individuality. Fashion connoisseurs also emphasise the need to look unique. Fast fashion can interfere with the idea of exclusivity. International apparel brands and retail groups are fast churning out designs, and with rising middle class income, customers are buying apparel brands that were once considered a treat for the rich. This is forcing exclusivity out. Individuality and exclusivity are tough to attain in today's ever-changing dynamic market. The shirt you bought, believing it to be exclusive, might be on a display in countless stores and worn by multiple people at the same time.
From accessories, with love
As people begin to care more and more about appearance and exclusivity, the world of fashion has become one of the most evolving fields. Designers are not designing for a particular market anymore. What's popular in the US or Europe is popular in Asia and vice versa. With the globalisation of fashion, apparel brands are designing clothes so that a new design is not constrained to a particular culture, region or society.
Accessories have played a major part in imparting a novel identity to apparel brands. Consequently, brands that were wary of dabbling in any segment other than clothing are now enthusiastically launching apparel accessories to charm customers. The task at hand for the contemporary apparel industry is to embrace everything that involves fashion.
Wrapping the world
While uniformity is not a flaw, wearing similar clothes at the same event can leave one red-faced. If only one of them had thought of accessorising! At a time when cultural designs are freely crossing borders, the apparel world has become more open to experiments. The biggest testimonies to this cultural cross-culture are the dupatta, stole and scarf. Carving out their own pathway, these accessories have emerged as fashion must-haves across the world. Traditionally worn by women in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and in other nations in the region, these long scarves have successfully found a place in everyone's closet.
Overlooking the traditional role assigned to scarves in female attire, designers all over the world are using these accessories to perk up men's fashion as well. Scarves have been a staple part of men's regular dressing style for many years now. Scarves are typically made from wool, cashmere, angora, cotton, linen, silk, synthetic material, or a combination of fabrics. Besides etching a stylish edge, scarves play a crucial role in enduring weather changes. A woollen scarf helps protects from that chilly winter wave, whereas a light linen scarf keeps people a tad safer from scorching heat. These not only add an element of individuality, surprise and class to an otherwise bland outfit, but also prove to be economical options in an expensive world of the accessories.
The rise in working women has also made scarves and stoles an important accessory for females. Wearing it casually or during formal occasions, a scarf is a chic and cheap accessory. Although dupattas are still a part of traditional attire in the sub continent, its contemporary avatar, the stole, is becoming an inseparable part of the elegant woman's wardrobe. What seems advantageous for the stole is that the dupatta can measure as long as 2.5 metres, but the stole is much shorter, which makes it convenient to carry around. The stole is racing ahead in the international fashion space. Luxury international brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Benetton, Louis Vuitton, Mango etc are selling scarves and stoles as part of their accessory line.
A structured industry
Accessories are a noteworthy part of style statement. Designers and customers take accessories seriously, which has further pushed up the demand of dupattas/stoles and scarves. The growing demand has helped in organising the production of these items. Unlike a decade ago, scarves and stoles are now part of a structured industry. The diaspora of Asians in other regions has helped to escalate demand. Apparel retail outlets like Meijer, Kohl's, Abercrombie and Fitch, K-Mart, Sears and Target focus on mid-price level apparel accessories. These stores offer an array of scarves and stoles, which are mostly imported from Asian and European countries. China is one of the major suppliers, followed by India, Germany, Philippines, Taiwan and Italy. Indian ethnic brands like Fabindia are supplying an impressive range of products including scarves, stoles and dupattas to customers based outside India.
The dupattas, stoles and scarves in India are available in a wide array of fabrics which, in turn, decides the price range. Dupattas that use rich fabric like raw silk, linen, ikat silk, banarasi silk etc can cost anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 10 lakh. Stoles and scarves that are made of rich fabrics like pashmina and silk fetch handsome prices.
The handicraft industry in India has also reaped several benefits with the mounting popularity of these fashion accessories. Some of the recognised names in the fashion industry have collaborated with weavers and are producing exclusive dupattas, stoles and scarves. Maheshwari, chanderi and banarasi dupattas and stoles are also exported to countries like United States, UAE and the United Kingdom.
All is not well
The apparel accessory market story is not same everywhere. In some parts of the world, the economic crisis had a huge impact on the sale of accessories. In Spain, consumers reduced their expenditure on products that were not considered as utility. This negatively affected the sales of apparel accessories. The category declined by 3 per cent in value terms in 2013.
In countries like Thailand, political turmoil has further dampened the economic sentiment. This has curtailed customer spending on fashion accessories. Consumers cut back on purchases of accessories that were higher-priced and considered luxurious, a reason that impacted the sales of scarves and stoles. The scenario looks similar in Egypt as well. The increased import duties on luxury goods, including fashion accessories, saw a surge in prices. The result? Depleted sales.
A few cheers
With a recovering economy and growing consumer confidence, the overall spending on apparel accessories is expected to improve in the coming years. Furthermore, increase in corporate events and outings are also supporting the growth of apparel accessories. Scarves are the favourable choice for women to mix and match with formal and casual dresses, particularly during winter.
International brands that are operating in India cater to the needs of the elite, with brands like Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Mango and Zara attracting the creme de la creme. In India, these brands are a popular choice for stoles and scarves. As these international brands follow global fashion, s customers have to depend on Indian brands for dupattas. Pantaloons Fashion & Retail Ltd emerged as the leading brand in apparel accessories in India, grabbing a 5 per cent value share in 2013. They were followed by Benetton India Private Ltd holding 4 per cent value share. According to a report, these brands have higher visibility in top cities in India, which positioned them as the best brands in apparel accessories in 2013.
South African customers have also been receptive to scarves and stoles. Women are particularly attracted by products that enable them to update their look at hardly any extra cost, indicating their inclination towards affordable scarves and stoles. Leading retailers like Edcon's offer updated range of apparel accessories like printed scarves and stoles in line with the global trends.
The growth in the popularity of style inspired by various parts of the world has also created the need for scarves, stoles and dupattas that complement the look. A surge in tourism has pushed up sales.
Scarves and stoles are a popular fashion accessory around the world. The dupatta, on the other hand, is region-specific. As a result, designers from the subcontinent find it particularly hard to manufacture and market dupattas in countries outside South Asia. Fabric designer Vaneeza Ahmad from Pakistan struggled to find manufacturers for dupattas in China. "China may be the world's factory floor, but its scarf makers aren't equipped for something that can be more than 8 feet long," the designer shared. She had to engage a curtain maker to meet her demand." They've got the only machines big enough to handle dupattas."
Variety adds spice
The global fashion industry likes to boycott the idea of uniformity in attire. Variety is clearly important in the wardrobe, as it tends to influence one's appearance. More than the number of pieces of clothing, it is the flair added by accessories that makes an ordinary garment exceptional and refreshing. Adding the right mix to the wardrobe with nice scarves, stoles and dupattas is an economical way to look new each day. Some of the popular ways for using these accessories include: wrapping around the neck, tying about the waist or simply worn as a headband like a bandana.
Customers have started viewing fashion choices as meaningful expressions, and the importance of consciously making those choices has increased manifold. The fashion industry is one of the most creative industries instituting the creative economy. Fashion accessories are the result of this creativity; and stoles, scarves and dupattas play a perfect role in incorporating cultural variety into a modern fashion statement. These valuable accessories give customers a range of appearances to look edgy, glamorous, sporty, casual or formal.