A Pool of Opportunities
Bindu Gopal Rao profiles the slow but steady rise in the popularity of swimwear in India, and offers tips for a stylish beach or poolside getaway.
Profiling the rise in the popularity of stylish swimwear in India
Indian beaches, while loved by picnickers, seldom contain swimmers with appropriate aquatic clothing. Cultural prejudices regarding modesty, lack of fashionable choices and low awareness have all worked to ensure that the swimwear market in India remained a niche segment. However, the past few years have witnessed a literal sea change. More and more people are developing a fondness for swimming and awareness about the need for proper swimwear is on the rise. Health conscious consumers are also taking up swimming as a worthy workout, and swimming as a sport is gaining popularity. There has also been a sharp uptick in the number of resort wear fashion shows in the last few years.
Swimwear today is not only a prerequisite to get into a pool but is also becoming a fashion statement. Naturally, the market has responded by offering a myriad choice of swimwear and beachwear, with the demand for the same slowly rising.
RIDING THE WAVE
With an increase in accessibility to weekend getaways, beaches, and international travel, combined with an acceptance of fashionable beachwear, swimwear has become an important category in the intimate wear space. The Spring/ Summer 2018 swim collection by various designers offer a good mix of silhouettes ranging from two-piece bikinis to swim dresses. “The colour palette has fresh blue, mint frosts and yellow, perfect for a trendy fashion statement on the next vacation. Bright coloured tribal and geometric prints are the dominant prints in the collection. Keeping in line with brand’s tradition to innovate with each new collection, and being in sync with latest global trend of new exposure – innerwear as outerwear, Amanté’s Swimwear ’18 collection features a fun crop top, with a halter tie-up, and matching shorts,” says Smita Murarka – Head of Marketing & E-commerce, MAS Holdings. Pretty Secrets has launched its new SS’18 swimwear collection and beachwear styles which include bikinis, tankinis, two piece swim suits, monokinis, sarongs and cover ups in a variety of prints and colours. Incidentally, swimming is slowly becoming increasingly popular and is driving demand not just from children but adults, too.
Changing perceptions towards swimwear in India represent the confidence of new Indian woman who is bold and daring, and is an expression of their freedom and self image. “The biggest roadblock in swimwear adoption has been the age old concept of the ‘Beach Body’ which has taken a strong beating, with women and men becoming confident in their own bodies. Retailers and brands are focusing more on celebrating all the body types and creating products to address various requirements,” says Utsaha Khara, Founder, Sitarrey. There has been a significant shift in the mindset of the urban Indian consumers, who are readily embracing swimwear of all styles and silhouettes. “However, conservative perception is still prevalent to some extent in the country. To tackle this issue and to empower women to feel confident in their own skin, we have designed swimwear suiting the Indian body type, and with styles that offer a flattering look,” says Muraka. Karan Behal, Founder & CEO, Pretty Secrets explains, “The perception has definitely shifted from conservative styles to glamorous cuts and new swimwear styles. The market is thus in a unique predicament, where designers are now exploring modest styles in smart
INSTEAD OF HAVING A BIGGER PERCENTAGE OF ONE PIECES, BRANDS AND DESIGNERS ARE FOCUSING A LOT ON BIKINIS, TANKINIS AND TWO PIECE SWIM SUITS.
cuts and stylish silhouettes. Instead of having a bigger percentage of one pieces, brands and designers are focusing on a lot of bikinis, tankinis and two piece swim suits to add to their collections.”
NO CHILD’S PLAY
Swimming has gained tremendous popularity over the last decade among the urban and semiurban markets. The perception of swimwear has changed; from being associated with only glamour and western, upper class lifestyles, to a form of clothing necessary to more active and healthy lifestyles. “Kids are the most popular age segment that is taking on swimming. Increasing access to infrastructure like pools, via clubs and housing societies, has led to greater adoption of swimming among all income groups. The idea of swimming as fun and sporty, along with its usefulness to fitness and as a useful life skill, have led to more and more kids taking up swimming. Besides, increased household incomes levels and bi-annual travel rituals have driven the spending in this category. The upwardly mobile consumer group that frequent beaches and spas have forced retailers to focus on this category with the intent of creating a niche for their customers,” says Khara.
The trend of burkini that started in Australia way back in 2004 by Aheda Zanetti has been a constant topic of debate, especially in France where it was associated with a certain religious group. “However, I do not think that burkini has anything to do with religion but it is about comfort and choice. It’s a fusion wear that mixes the comfort of being covered and yet being fashionable. Being in the water is one of the
best feelings in the world and no one should be devoid of that fun because of their body type or the choice of their clothes. On similar lines designers are working on sari inspired bikinis for Indian audiences,” says Khara. “With the rise of empowerment among conservative women, burkini is a new concept of swimwear which follows a modest cover to ensure there is not as much skin show and gives them an option in the swimwear category. This is a niche segment and is trending mostly among Middle Eastern countries,” says Behal.
The one trend that’s undeniably dominating the global trends in swimwear right now is the 80's style high cut bikinis and monokinis. This style is famously called the Brazilian cut. The Indian swimwear market is strongly influenced by cinema and the trends that celebrities endorse. Whether it is the sunrise monokini and blue Hawaiian bikini that Jacqueline Fernandes and Tapsee Pannu sported in the Judwa franchise or the classic black monokini of Deepika Padukone in the Fast & Furious sequel, Bollywood will always influence the consumption pattern. From a category perspective, while bikini still remains the biggest segment, it’s the one piece (monokinis) that has witnessed the fastest growth. High-waisters have made a comeback with strong adoption by plus size consumers. Scoop Backs are back on the shelves and retro lovers would surely not miss these products. Avneet Chadha, Style Expert, says, “The off-shoulder swimsuit is a fresh new take and emerges as one of the different kinds of swimwear, where one can wear a body-con one set swimsuit or even a two piece bikini set. Either option will make your beach style more fun and cute. The belted swimwear is quite a catch when it comes to style and adventure. Whether you go with a plain swimsuit or a sporty style, you can belt it up with a leather belt to make your swim wear look classy and different. Graphic neon or colour-block patterns or a bold colour would look great in neon for your beach outings. Make a statement at the beach, stand out among the more common looks and give your beachwear a new look and feel this summer. If you like it simple, go minimalist.”
The new nude shades for swimwear are quite a catch among the millennials. “We are also seeing the love for high waist trend and ruffles shift to the swimwear market as well. Flirty ruffled details are cute and add volume at the bust which works great for women with petite body types. We have incorporated such styles in our swimwear collection as well. We have seen global success with swimwear and athletic fabrics which are UV protected, resistant to sand, chlorine and sun bleaching,” adds Behal. Some of the latest innovations include advancement in the way the fabric is created.
With so many options and so much change in fashion, swimmers can get set to make a splash with trendy swimsuits. After all, a cool dip in the pool is still the best antidote to the hot summers.