Luxury’s Big Menswear Opportunity in India

Canali recently staged an event celebrating its 90-year anniversary with the launch of a capsule collection in Milan. In the past, European luxury brands tended to omit India from the global rollout of special collections like this, but times have changed. In a sign of the market’s growing importance, the Italian menswear label said it will offer the capsule in its Indian stores alongside other locations around the world.

“India is not a secondary market in any way,” said chief executive Stefano Canali. “Business in India has always been profitable [and the country has grown to become one of] the top ten markets for us.”

“The Indian [luxury] consumer is knowledgeable, demanding and usually has an international mindset. When you want to approach such a consumer, you have to keep these features in mind [so]… you must propose the [full] collection that you propose everywhere else in the world,” he explained.

Over the years, Canali and brands like Zegna, Tom Ford and Brioni have all experimented with localising product for the Indian menswear market, designing their own versions of the traditional bandhgala jacket in an attempt to offer something novel yet familiar. Fifteen years ago, when Canali first reinterpreted the jacket as part of its nawab collection, it did so the Italian way, said Stefano Canali, by offering a glamorous and sporty iteration, using fabrics like silk, linen and cashmere.

“Indian consumers fell in love with this proposal of ours and this initiative was instrumental in speeding up awareness of the Canali brand in the Indian market,” said Canali, before cautioning that catering for local markets can be a delicate balancing act.

“Any international brand must pay close attention to the importance of playing with localisation on the one hand, but at the same time stick to its own DNA. Otherwise you end up diluting the brand perception and you might end up being a bunch of localised brands in every single country.”

The company, which has been in India for about two decades, opened its seventh store at the Reliance-owned Jio World Plaza (JWP) in Mumbai in March. It has come a long way since entering with a now-defunct store in a hotel. So has the Indian menswear market, which now features more brands than ever.

The Canali store at the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai, India. (Courtesy)

Zegna, another Italian luxury brand focused on menswear, opened a flagship at JWP this year, its second store in the city and fourth in the country. Last year, Kering-owned menswear brand Brioni launched its first store in India at New Delhi’s upscale Chanakya Mall, in partnership with conglomerate Dharampal Satyapal (DS Group)’s DS Luxury.

The Italians aren’t the only ones upping their investment in India. US-based Ralph Lauren, which has a partnership with Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail (ABFRL), opened a new Polo Ralph Lauren store in Mumbai last year. More recently, Armani cut the ribbon for its new Armani Exchange store at the Phoenix Mall of Asia in Bengaluru, taking the diffusion label’s total store count to 33, spread across cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata, New Delhi, Indore and Ahmedabad.

For company leaders like Ralph Lauren chief executive Patrice Louvet, the main motivation still seems to be India’s longer-term opportunity.

“We are starting to plant seeds in India…with a lens to the next ten to twenty years, to make sure we are building the right brand positioning [and] the right brand equity so that we can benefit in the many decades to come,” Louvet told CNBC earlier this year.

But that doesn’t mean near-term growth isn’t significant. Though much smaller in scale and growing less rapidly than India’s high-end womenswear segment, the country’s menswear market represents a meaningful opportunity for many players.

According to Euromonitor International, the size of India’s men’s luxury apparel market (comprising designer outerwear, underwear, nightwear and swimwear) is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 3.4 percent to touch $163.1 million by 2028, up from $142.7 million in 2024. The corresponding segment in womenswear is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.5 percent to $231.8 million by 2028.

Neither of these figures include the value of accessories, footwear, watches and jewellery, luxury goods categories which have traditionally been stronger performers in the India market.

What’s driving growth in premium menswear?

“Indians are more confident [so] they’re able to [be more discriminating] and understand what they want because they’ve more exposure,” said Anand Ramanathan, partner and sector leader of consumer, products and retail at Deloitte India.

Another factor is the increasingly comprehensive ecosystem connecting the local luxury industry, in the form of suitable new retail spaces and malls, more trained salespeople and joint-venture partners with growing expertise. In 2023, luxury brands leased 600,000 square feet of retail space in India, compared to 230,000 square feet a year earlier, according to real estate consultancy CBRE.

“Rather than setting everything up on their own, [men’s and women’s luxury brands] can now depend on the ecosystem,” Ramanathan said.

Powerful and influential, India’s diversified conglomerates are critical for most big brands to operate. Reliance Industries’ subsidiary Reliance Brands, which is the local partner for companies like Zegna, Canali, Brooks Brothers, Emporio Armani, Paul Smith, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace and others, has also invested in Indian designers, including Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla and Raghavendra Rathore.

Aditya Birla Group-owned ABFRL, meanwhile, counts partnerships with brands like Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Fred Perry, and Indian designers Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi and Masaba Gupta. It also runs an upscale multi-brand retail chain, The Collective, which sells menswear from brands like Etro, Kenzo and Polo Ralph Lauren in over a dozen cities nationwide.

Models in classic chikankari ensembles from Tarun Tahilani's Spring Summer 2023 collection.
Models in classic chikankari ensembles from Tarun Tahilani’s Spring Summer 2023 collection. (Tarun Tahiliani)

DS Luxury, a long-term partner of Tom Ford in India, started expanding its roster of international brands post-Covid, with the opening of men’s or mixed gender stores for Berluti, Brioni and Brunello Cucinelli in New Delhi. Ritesh Kumar, director of DS Luxury, says that while many Indian men still get their shopping fix on overseas trips, that is changing.

Interior of the Brioni store at The Chanakya mall in New Delhi, India.
Interior of the Brioni store at The Chanakya mall in New Delhi, India. (Courtesy)

“The [Indian luxury] consumer is always travelling and because of digital and social media, people have access to [more competitive prices outside of India] immediately,” Kumar said. “So brands have evolved [and] understood they need to have pricing similar to the Middle Eastern or the European markets.”

Like Canali, other international menswear brands in India increasingly offer a product mix that is comparable to stores in other parts of the world, making them more attractive to consumers. “Getting the right collection, the latest products, which might sometimes be difficult to sell, is important because you have to offer it to the consumer. Brands have started contributing there; they want to experiment [with the product mix] so they’re helping,” said Kumar.

Despite their progress in retail and merchandising, international fashion brands have some pretty big missed opportunities in marketing, insiders suggest.

For one, none of the major luxury menswear players have leveraged the popularity of Indian cricketers or Bollywood actors through a global brand ambassadorship. Notably, cinema superstar Shah Rukh Khan has been the Indian brand ambassador of watch brand TAG Heuer since 2003 but it is still open season for apparel-focused brands. By contrast, in womenswear, actress Alia Bhatt was named brand ambassador of Gucci last year, while Deepika Padukone has represented Louis Vuitton since 2022.

The style evolution of Indian men

According to Che Kurrien, head of editorial content at GQ India, there has been a dramatic shift in how Indian men express themselves.

“The subtlety has washed away. Being elegant was an important aesthetic in the past. That consumer still exists but it has been overtaken by someone who’s looking to be found, in terms of their fashion choices, labels, symbolism, in terms of signalling that they have arrived. More men are experimenting with clothes with a larger logo, which they may have been shy about in the past,” Kurrien said.

Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani, who opened his first menswear store in Mumbai last year, believes men are embracing their Indianness in their clothing choices more than before.

“In the seventies and eighties, I watched my Sindhi uncles get married in single-breasted suits sitting cross-legged on the floor at the mandap [wedding pavilion]. Nobody would do that today. We’ve gone back to our Indian roots. Men are wearing colours, embroidery and celebrating Indian craft. And in this respect, Bollywood has been a big influence,” said Tahiliani.

Indian designers clearly rule the traditional wear category but small initiatives, like the Canali nawab collection, which is reprised by the brand in different fabrics every year, demonstrates a route for foreign players to participate in the Indian wear segment, albeit in a very small way.

“You’re seeing traditional wear do really well. Going forward, there will be more innovation. This used to be traditionally an unorganised side of the market, but that is increasingly becoming organised,” said Deloitte’s Ramanathan.

Most big Indian designers, like Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal and the like, design traditional clothing for men, including kurtas, sherwanis and contemporary ‘Indo-western’ shirts and jackets, but womenswear usually dominates their sales. Designer Rimzim Dadu, known for her avant-garde designs and experimental materials, opened her first menswear store in New Delhi’s DLF Emporio mall in 2023.

Menswear designer Ragavendra Rathore, known for reviving the classic bandhgala jacket, says that more luxury menswear clients seek uniqueness now that they have greater awareness of trends and access to a variety of brands and merchandise.

“They prefer not to wear easily identifiable mass-market styles and desire clothes that exemplify personal style without necessarily being conversation starters,” said Rathore, who has stores offering bespoke services in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.

However, Kumar believes there is a more nuanced picture emerging for India’s luxury menswear consumer. “Every customer is at a different stage of evolution and is evolving depending upon how long he has been buying luxury. But there’s a long way to go where the customer is fully evolved, as is the case in Europe or in the US, for example,” said Kumar.

Kurrien similarly cautions against seeing the local menswear market as a monolith. “Each brand is telling their own story and different people get attracted to different stories based on what stage they are as consumers and aesthetically,” he said.

Customisation is another trend that both Indian and international luxury brands are seeing a spike in. Canali’s personalisation service ‘Me by Canali,’ which is an evolution of the traditional made-to-measure offering, is playing an important role in India, says the brand’s chief executive. It is not surprising considering the country’s rich history and culture of tailoring.

India’s menswear market — and indeed its design language — is evolving in other ways too, thanks to a new generation of young Indian designers who are pushing the boundaries and creating globally relevant aesthetics. Among them are Kartik Kumra of Karu Research, Dhruv Kapoor, Amit Babbar of Itoh and Harsh Agarwal who leads Jaipur-based Harago.

Model walks the runway for Kartik Research Paris Menswear Week Spring Summer 25 show.
Model on the catwalk at the Kartik Research Spring Summer 2025 fashion show in Paris, France. Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti. (Kartik Research)

“At Itoh, we strive to use Indian handwoven fabrics but in a way that is modern and palatable for today’s audience,” said Babbar, whose recent exhibition at Pitti Uomo was his fourth at the Italian menswear trade event.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Kumra presented his latest collection at the Paris menswear fashion week in June. “We’re definitely an anomaly in the Indian fashion scene in that we’re not making clothes for a wedding,” said Kumra, who has a new boutique in New Delhi and retails in about 50 stores around the world.

As the Indian menswear market develops further, the old guard of fashion brands — both international and local — will have to compete more and more with young labels and a contingent of luxury streetwear players finding favour with men. Indeed, a growing number of men crave wardrobes that are more diverse and nuanced than those prevalent just a few years earlier, when more rigid interpretations of traditional Indian wear, Western formal wear and casual wear characterised the market.

Itoh’s customers are a case in point. “We are small and really niche in terms of sharing our story but our clients like what we do,” said Babbar. “They…also know [we can] be time-[consuming] and expensive — and they come prepared for it.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top