How Covid is Wearing Out the Ethnic Wear Market

The virtual work culture and covid led restrictions have caused limited participation in weddings and festivals lowering the demand for ethnicwear. Read to know how various brands are responding.

The ethnic wear industry in India is currently running on a rough patch, as the preventive measures to contain covid have limited people’s participation in weddings and festivals. In addition to this, for women, Kurtis and Salwar Kameez are a convenient option for office formal wear whose sales have impacted, as the workforce went indoors.

 According to Statista, the ethnic wear segment in India is expected to reach Rs 1.7 trillion by 2023 from Rs 925 billion in 2018. However, due to most shops and malls remaining closed and lower out of consumption, the segment’s growth will remain sluggish. A study from Wazir Analysis confirms this, revealing that the current ethnic market will now grow at 7.8 percent and is estimated to reach $30 billion in 2025 from $20.6 billion in 2020.  

The government during the lockdown paused the sales of non-essential goods of which apparel is a part. The demand for essentials like – food, medicines, and groceries took precedence over purchasing non-essential items. As the workforce turned virtual, the consumer preference for fashion shifted more towards leisure and comfort. 

Challenges encountered by the Indian ethnic wear market in the pandemic 

  • Increased rentals: Mounting rental costs and no relief from the mall owners, are resulting in brands like Aditya Birla Fashion, Biba, Global Desi, etc, being forced to shut their shops. 
  • Less labour: The labour workforce in the textile production, wary of contracting the virus, have left for their natives that have stalled the production of a brand’s new ethnic range. In addition to this, no sales of summer collection have led to the inventory pile-up that has further added to the losses.
  • Disruption in raw materials supply: The mobility restrictions imposed during the lockdown and curfews have disrupted the supply of silk and cotton fabrics that have delayed production. 
  • Reduced cashflow: As no revenue was generated, the brands could not pay their tailors and designers that resulted in unemployment and no new launches. 

A study from Wazir Analysis confirms this, revealing that the current ethnic market will now grow at 7.8 percent and is estimated to reach $30 billion in 2025 from $20.6 billion in 2020. 

How are ethnic wear brands responding to the change? 

The virtual work culture has defined new parameters of fashion. The working women and men are now focussing more on apparel that can provide maximum comfort. Consumers are showing a preference for clothes made out of soft cotton fabric and want to invest in clothing that can last longer. 

Biba, an ethnic womenswear brand has responded to this altered consumer behaviour by launching a new range of sleepwear. In 2021, it also launched the loungewear and athleisure category as with gyms closed, the need for activewear surged. 

Similarly, designer brand Ritu Kumar launched Label Basics, a range of comfortable ethnic wear range that includes fuss-free dresses, relaxed bottoms and easy-to-wear coordinated sets in muted colours that can be worn for virtual meetings. The colours are mostly neutral and earthy with durable fabric quality that caters to the style and comfort required by the consumers. 

The digital ethnic wear shopping in the pandemic 

Mumbai-based 14-year-old brand Kalki Fashion introduced video shopping in the pandemic. The brand opened its video shopping experience on various mediums like Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, and now, Zoom. It also revamped its website that allowed customers to book an appointment to shop through video. Kalki fashion offered an interactive shopping experience to the consumers of the digital native by live-streaming its products in collaboration with influencers on Instagram Live. During COVID-19, the brand clocked a Rs 50 crore turnover in FY 2020-2021 by leveraging video shopping and online sales. 

What lies ahead for the ethnic wear market in the pandemic?

With the news of the third wave covid wave lurking in the corner, there might be a fresh announcement of curbs, therefore it will be imperative for the ethnic wear brands to build and strengthen their digital stores. According to Wazir Advisors, the Indian online ethnic wear market is poised to grow at 36 percent. But, amidst unemployment and paycuts, people have tightened their purses to do need-based shopping. However, the demand for ethnic attires like sarees and Kurtis will not fade away as they can be worn on any occasion.

Meanwhile, ethnic wear brands can tap the tier-II and tier-III middle-class consumers as they are willing to make purchases due to the rise in purchase power and the burgeoning social media influence. The industry can expect a rebound with fully vaccinated consumers coming to stores.

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by columnists are their own, not those of Dutch Uncles

If you wish to contribute or have a story suggestion,
email to [email protected]


Mastering Impactful Communication: Essential Skills for Aspiring...

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful organization,...

Navigating the Path to Impactful Leadership: From...

In the ever-evolving SME/Startup landscape, the distinction between managers...

B2B Aggregators Disrupting the FMCG Distribution

The independent grocery store colloquially known as the Kirana...