India is undertaking an apparel sizing project in six major areas that could impact how global brands size their clothes for the market.

NEW DELHI, India Global retailers and exporters may be forced to reformulate their sizing in India as a result of an undertaking that is expected to bring a whole new set of apparel sizing parameters in the country by 2021.

The 300 million rupee, or $4.6 million, “Size India” project is being backed by the Ministry of Textiles and led by the National Institute of Fashion Technology. It is expected to replace the more generic small, medium, large and extra-large sizes that are the norm in the market, which are progressively being found inadequate. The apparel industry is the second-largest contributor to the $750 billion Indian retail market (after food and grocery) and is expected to more than double to $123 billion by 2021.

According to consultancy firm Technopak, the Indian apparel sector is seeing some major shifts with the entry of international brands and consumers’ growing preference for branded goods, while India has the world’s largest youth population, which is becoming fashion-conscious, owing to mass media and social media penetration. “This has opened unprecedented retail market opportunities,” noted Amit Gugnani, senior vice president of fashion — textile and apparel at Technopak.

The size chart is expected to be an important facilitator of these opportunities.

“It is going to be transformative for the industry,” said Rajesh Shah, chairman of the NIFT board of governors. “Once you have the Indian size, it will not be just for clothes, it could be for any design related to the human body.”

Sunil Sethi, member of the NIFT board of governors, explained that essentially designers use sizes from the U.S. or the U.K. “It is very fluid at present,” he said, while explaining that in a large number of cases, sizes are created more out of the manufacturer’s instinct and experience.

“There are 16 countries that have done national sizing surveys and it has always been a combination of the government, academia and the industry who have together made size charts happen,” said Sarada Muraleedharan, director general of NIFT. “Today for the first time we all three aligned to take this project forward, understanding its national significance.”

The NIFT board has agreed to contribute 30 percent of the cost of the project, or 93 million rupees, or $1.42 million.

The six cities chosen for the survey include metro locations such as Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Shillong, to cover the various geographical areas in India. The project will map 25,000 people in those six regions, with ages varying from 15 to 65. This is expected take into account the physical characteristics of people in different geographical regions across the country.

Data collection will take almost two years, after which the analysis will be completed.

“We will try to tap the maximum diversity of ethnicity so that the data is truly representative,” said Noopur Anand, professor at NIFT Delhi, who is working on the project, while explaining the logistics of the survey. For example, while body scans for sizing are done in undergarments, body suits will be used, keeping Indian sensitivities in mind.

The data will be valid for 10 years, and then a smaller sample would work to revalidate it.

The size chart is expected to help global and domestic retailers, as well as consumers. “The Indian apparel industry uses size charts that are tweaked versions of size charts of other countries, so returns of the garments are in the range of 20 to 40 percent, and is increasing with the growth of e-commerce and the main reason for returns are poor garment fit,” Rajesh Shah commented.

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