Mother of all Styles!
Why should dads have all the fun? Forget the ugly, loose pregnancy clothing – maternity wear brands are determined to ensure that expectant and new mothers are styled like no other! Chitra Balasubramaniam shines a spotlight on this market segment.
A look at fashionale innovations in the maternity wear market in India
Gone are the days of loose clothing, oversized dresses and unflattering cuts dominating the styles available to pregnant women. The modern day mommy-to-be is as stylish while pregnant, as she was before. The driving force behind this style revolution has primarily been changing perceptions of maternity and stylish pregnant celebrities. Bollywood has had its share of glamorous moms – from Kareena Kapoor Khan, Soha Ali Khan to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan… many A-List actresses worked and shot during their pregnancy. They wore stylish clothes and showed off their pregnancy glow with élan. It has become a fashion requisite of sorts for women to dress well during this phase.
Previously, expectant mothers were dissuaded from spending money on maternity wear, reasoning that the clothes would probably go to waste after delivery, or that changing body shapes would mean constant refits. The fast fashion and highly documented culture of the 21st Century has challenged these notions – giving rise to the demand for flattering and fashionable maternity clothing.
THE CULT OF MOTHERHOOD
Marriage and childbirth are celebrated with much enthusiasm in India. There are ceremonies for the mom-to-be, but the maternity wear market in India was once the exclusive domain of the neighbourhood tailor. Often, other women in the household would also step in to tailor loose shapeless garments for their pregnant relative. Hand-me-downs were also used by many women. These were carefully preserved for the next mother-to-be. These practises are slowly being phased away.
Today, the maternity wear segment is a R1000 crore market and is recording good growth. The reasons for this are not difficult to fathom. Along with the rise in the purchasing power of middle income group members, the growing population of working women is also driving this new demand. These professional women need something stylish and elegant for the workplace and have to adhere to dress codes even while being pregnant.
Marketers have recognised this opportunity and have become eager to cash in on it. Ken Research has come out with a report titled 'India Maternity and Baby Care Industry Outlook to 2018 - Hybrid Expansion of Retail and Online Channels to Lead Future Growth'. The fact that this segment has been studied in depth and considered large enough to warrant a detailed report goes to show how important this segment is. As per this study, “The Indian maternity and baby care products market has been witnessing tremendous growth in the last few years in comparison to the other emerging markets across the world. The maternity products industry in India recorded a CAGR of 16.0 per cent from 2008-2013.”
Internationally, maternity wear is a lucrative market even where population growth rates are low. The reason for this is that with greater disposable incomes, women are looking for stylish options to wear and not just drape loose fitting garments. What’s more, there are now plenty of brands to choose from. As per a market research report on www.transparencymarketresearch.com, “Based on regions, the market is classified into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa and Latin America. Major countries covered under the scope of the research include US, Germany, UK, France, Italy, India, China, Japan, UAE, South Africa and Latin America. Europe, Middle East and Africa are expected to lead the market throughout the forecast period on account of the economic recovery which resulted in an increased number of women joining the workforce. Further, a number of pregnant women have continued to work even until the advanced stages of pregnancy.” Globally, given the huge numbers, there is plenty of competition and brands coming up with new launches. As www.transparencymarketresearch.com puts it, “The global maternity wear market is marked by some intense competition from the major players operating in this market. Frequent mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and partnerships product innovations and geographical expansions are some of the key strategies adopted by these players in order to ensure long term sustenance in the market. Notable players include, Amoralia, Arcadia Group, Gap, Mothercare, Isabella Oliver and various others. The competition among these players is majorly based on design, quality, variety and colour.”
Brands have responded to the rise in demand by launching a range of stylish clothes. These cover the baby bump yet also flatter the rest of the body. The casual and formal wear industry has been manufacturing a range of t-shirts, tops, trousers and western attire. The range of clothing available also includes active wear and sportswear. Since many women attend Lamaze classes, Yoga and other fitness programmes to help with labour and pregnancy, active wear is a popular segment for expecting women.
This trend is not restricted to urban areas; even tier II cities are showing an increase in the preference for such products. In India, the giants in the maternity wear business are Mothercare, Mom & Me, Firstcry, etc. Mothercare is an international brand which has been brought to India by Shoppers Stop. The Indian brands offer plenty of fashionable ethnic wear. Also on offer are comfortable maternity trousers with spandex, churidars with full belly coverage, and leggings with ribbed panels. Nursing tops and inner wear are made with particular attention to the changing bodies of expecting mothers. The need for new mothers to wear stylish clothes is also marketed by brands as contributing to the mother’s emotional well-being post delivery.
The internet showcases the wide range of maternity wear available in India. The ads show women with the baby bump so that the buyers have a clear idea how the dress would appear on them. Firstcry.com and Momzjoy.com, are some of the largest online portals which have a range of stylish clothes for moms to be.
The maternity wear market is a very price conscious one. Since these clothes are used for a short duration, the emphasis is on comfort, good fitting and affordable prices. Standalone stores in these categories are limited. Since it is a niche market, e-commerce is the preffered channel for sale, reaching a wide audience and also reducing the cost of retail space.
THE NATURAL WAY
As in every segment, the maternity wear market is also trying its hand at sustainable and organic fabrics. In India, Zeme Organics sells organic maternity wear online. However, since maternity clothing is already a niche market, and with organic clothing usually seen as a more expensive alternative, it is yet to make inroads in this segment.
Internationally though, there are plenty of brands which offer stylish alternatives in organic maternity wear, which offer 100 per cent sustainable clothing. The materials used include organic cotton, recycled cotton, lycocell, recycled polyamide and recycled polyester. What makes these brands stand out is their transparency in providing information on their products, the material (fibre and fabric) and manufacturing.
With so many innovations, the maternity wear market is only expected to grow, promising more bundles of joy to expecting mothers!