Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said that the domestic market for apparel and lifestyle products, currently estimated at $85 billion, is expected to reach $160 billion by 2025. The woolen wear industry in India is a rural based and export oriented and the country happens to be the 7th largest producer of wool and contributes 1.8 per cent to total world production of wool. Rajasthan is the largest wool producing state in India with 70 wool processing units and over 15 million tonnes of wool production per annum accounting for over 30 per cent of the wool production in India.
There are new collections from each brand. But the Best of Woolen woven collections in India are from the leading textile mills from around the world. The BeInspired collection from Bespocut is a curated collection of the best fabrics from Erminegildo Zegna, Vitale Barberis Canonico, and many others. Many other mills too are presenting their made in Italy labels. With increasing globalisation, industrialisation and spending power, there has been a continuous change in lifestyle which has led to the consumers developing a taste for seasonal clothing. “The Indian winter wear market is expected to register growth this year. Even Kids winter wear is expected to grow more as this is becoming a new trend this season. Our new collections in woollen wear for men include Woollen Blazers, Sweaters (in Cashmere, Lamb & Merino Wool), Fashion Socks, Mufflers, Skull caps/ beanies, Sweackets (A combination of Sweater and Jacket) and for women it includes Shrugs, Ponchos, Stoles, Capes, Shawls, Woollen dresses, Tunics/Kurtis, Cold shoulder Sweaters,” says Monica Oswal, Executive Director, Monte Carlo. Pearl Uppal, Founder & CEO Talking Threads adds, “Talking Threads is seeing tremendous interest in pure cashmere (pashmina) and pure wool products across the globe. If we talk about new woollen wear segment, our label is offering pashmina sarees, shawls, stoles and jackets. For contemporary wear, we offer innovations like lace Pashminas, crystal and beads hand embroidered Pashminas shawls and stoles. In the pure wool category, we also see a high interest in our signature embroidered Phirans (a Kashmiri overcoat) and signature embroidered coats and jackets.”
The new trends in woollen wear include different necklines and styles of sweaters, lightweight woollen blazers, dresses with complimenting infinity (woollen) scarves, cold shoulder trend in sweaters and tops, ponchos and capes with oversized pockets and fashion socks to ramp up your winter layers. Pradeep Kumar, Founder CEO, Bespocut, explains, “The mix of fibres with wool is something that is new in woollen wear in India. Blends of Wool with other natural fibres such as cotton is new. There are also collections like Di Camilliuo that offer wool, polyester, lycra and viscose blends. In terms of designs we have plenty of checks that continue going strong. Newer shades of blue and vibrant shades such as orange and pink in pure wool for jackets are also gaining currency. Also making a comeback are genuine Harris Tweeds from England with classic checks and herringbone patterns.” In formal wear, the lightweight wool blends are getting more and more popular. The superior feel and colour holding capacity of the synthetic component makes for a more vibrant collection. In terms of looks, expect more sharp short and contemporary jackets in thick traditional woollen fabrics with narrow lapels paired with narrow trousers or jeans. In knits, conversely, thicker knit patterns such as cable are making a comeback in classic whites and greys. A spokesperson from Limeroad adds, “winter 2017’s hotlist (rather haute-list) is out and the freshness is in order. Joining the classic raven blacks and nocturnal blues, we have the fawns, greys and winter beiges from the subtle side and ochres and reds representing the brights. As concepts flirt with creativity, there are a lot of new things to eye and embrace this winter.” Natascha Tate, In-House Stylist, LimeRoad says bomber jackets, military jackets, coatigan and cardigans are the perfect winter picks.
Budget 2017-18 raised the allocation of funds for the Development of Woollen Textiles from Rs. 23.01 crores in 2016-17 to Rs. 32 crores in 2017-18. The duty drawback rate on garment of blend containing wool and MMF will be 3 per cent from October 1, whereas the rate on all other garments will be 2 per cent. The duty drawback was one of the key policy support measures towards lifting industry’s cost competitiveness. The Government has set up statutory bodies to help the industry. The Wool and Woolens Export Promotion Council is to help introduce foreign businessmen to local manufacturers/exporters and provide them with the information useful in conducting business. They also invite leading exporters to visit India and gain firsthand information regarding the capability of the Indian Woolen Industry. This organisation also assists foreign buyers in their visits to India and chalk out their tour programmes, arrangements and works with the organisers of leading International Trade Fairs and Exhibitions, in order to project the quality and variety of Indian Woollen Products abroad. This apart they also promote and actively practice overseas public relations, monitor international fashion forecasts and transmit them to Indian Exporters, help the Textile Inspection committee of India to ensure that Indian Woolen Products are made as per International Standards. They also chalk out and implement programmes for enlarging and improving the production base of the Woolen Industry.
The other organization that helps the industry is the Wool Industry Export Promotion Council (WOOLTEXPRO) an autonomous, non-profit Export Promotion Council, sponsored by the Ministry of Textiles and set up by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, which has become the international face of Indian woolen textiles successfully facilitating exports. The major functions of WOOLTEXPRO include arranging Buyer-Seller Meets in India and abroad, maintaining close liaison with the International Wool Textile Organisation, Woolmark Company, Wools of New Zealand, Australian Wool Innovation and arranging trade fairs and exhibitions in order to project the quality and variety of Indian woolen products. The organisation also researches foreign markets and arranges delegation/study tour abroad and chalks out and implements programmes for enlarging and improving the production base of the Woolen Industry. This apart they also help explore overseas markets, resolve shipping and transport problems and also advise on export finance, banking and insurance.
India’s wool industry is now concentrating on new markets like Kazakhstan, Germany, China and Australia as exports to USA and Europe have seen a downfall due to warmer winters and economic slowdown. Apart from the changing climate, the rise in price of imported wool has thrown another challenge as exporters are now seeing competition from Turkey, Thailand and Bangladesh. The 30-35 per cent rise in price of imported wool this fiscal has squeezed margins for the domestic players, especially in the small scale segments. Increase in duty drawback rates, speedy release of drawback, abolition of import duty on raw wool, textile machinery and spare parts, and consideration of special package to boost exports are naturally some measures to revive the industry.
Exports also remain a challenge too. “Besides worsted fabrics, exports are not very good. Import and processing of wool in the country is not very cost competitive as compared to other countries and this hampers a robust ecosystem for wool processing, weaving and export. As a result, Ready to wear brands prefer to source their woollen items from other countries. Also, we don’t have much wool raised and harvested domestically so that is another challenge,” says Kumar. The key markets showing a strong uptake of our pure wool and pure pashmina products are India, US, Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands) and Canada. “Our label has an enormous range of premium and luxury products in this category. In pure Pashmina customers love our heritage hand embroidered and Kani weave pure Pashmina Shawls. Our discerning clients also invest in pure Pashmina Sarees and Suits from our brand. Our business in the Pure Pashmina and Pure Wool segment is seeing over 100% growth year on year both domestic and international,” says Uppal. The Indian woollen scenario can be salvaged by greater education of the customers vis-a-vis wool. The tendency of thinking of wool only in winter has to be changed as it is not accurate.
India’s top 10 wool producing states
- Jammu & Kashmir
- Himachal Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
- Andhra Pradesh
This story appeared in the Jan-18 issue of Apparel India here: Wollen Clothing