Unstitched apparels still a popular choice

Unstitched apparels were always a favorite fashion staple until the readymade markets were introduced in the Indian market. The market for unstitched apparel was virtually non-existent for a few years when foreign brands and Indian designers alike entered the market with readymade clothing lines.

During the last few years, adoption has picked up at a herculean rate. Unstitched apparel is not a new offering. it is actually the oldest form of clothing in India.

In recent times, it is the scope for setting a personal fashion statement that people opt for unstitched outfits. Indian women love styling their own clothes, more for formal occasions. In a recent survey we conducted at YourLibaas, 86% of women claimed that they prefer buying unstitched apparel over readymade ones for auspicious occasions like marriages and festivals. Right from choosing the fabric, to how the neckline shall be, to the type of sleeves, to perfect fitting, type of embroidery, style, and the color palette, unstitched apparel offers maximum customizability.

Akram Tariq Khan, 26, Cofounder & CMO shares that when readymade clothes flooded the market, the primary factor that appealed to customers was their lower price point and more convenience.

He adds, "However, consumer buying power has increased in India and so is the demand for customized clothing, a characteristic possible with unstitched apparel. Moreover, with modern stitching facilities, it doesn't take weeks to receive the finished product - another key plus point. Ethnic apparel is where the majority of demand for unstitched clothing is. While talking to our long-term customers, we discovered that the feeling that every suit they wear is unique in some manner is a primary enabler for buying. They don't want to end up wearing the same dress as somebody else at a party."

Technology has also played a key role in increasing adoption - Personalization based on past purchases makes product discovery easier, Augmented Reality tools can be used for buyers to see how the end product would look like on them. We are building a virtual try-on tool for our customizable clothing: One would be able to select a patch (component) from the suit's set and place it to their liking to visualize how they would look like wearing it.

Another interesting feature is finding a suit similar to one you might already have, you need to upload an image and the tool will find suits close in design to the one submitted.

Akram shares, "Something special about the unstitched and semi-stitched lawn apparel we sell at YourLibaas is its scope for customization. It comes in different patches which an experienced tailor can modify as per the customer's liking. A strong advantage we have is WhatsApp commerce. We have the official WhatsApp business API to enable chatbot-based WhatsApp orders. Our target customers are non-working urban women who have a hard time ordering online. We achieved a 30% increase in purchase conversion rate since introducing the 'Order on WhatsApp' functionality. Users found it convenient to get in touch about product queries through WhatsApp and phone. They would send screenshots of products enquiring about the fabric details, price, delivery timelines, and so on."

To meet the unmet demand in India, they have established both exclusive and non-exclusive partnerships with luxurious designers like Sana Safinaz, Gul Ahmed, Saadia Asad, Asim Jofa, Farah Talib Aziz. These designers regularly release catalogues with 12-15 different designs and they are available in India at around the same time as UAE due to these agreements.

Akram further adds, "We have a subsidiary registered in a free zone in the UAE. Indian tourists would buy it while touring UAE, where lawn apparel is easily available. Majority of these designers have headquarters in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Indian tourists would buy it while touring UAE, where lawn apparel is easily available. Till date, we have featured over 160+ designers and brands and over 15000+ SKUs (designs)." Few popular celebrities who endorsed the designers include Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karishma Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez, Aditi Rao Hydari and Nargis Fakhri.

Pandemic impact and social responsibility

Akram shares, "We are exclusively online and the pandemic hit us hard as courier services were stalled and restricted to the delivery of essential goods. All our expenses - salaries, office, and warehousing expenses, website maintenance charges remained steady and the revenue dropped down to an absolute zero. Some of the employees have been with us since inception despite the initial salaries and benefits being lower than the industry averages. We discontinued their in-house stitching operations during the lockdown to save on costs and started receiving a few orders post-lockdown." They also started offering discounts with personalized coupon codes such as "COVID19SAFERAHUL", "SAFETYMAXSHREYA" and the orders started coming back to the pre-pandemic levels. Post the pandemic lockdown, they partnered with tailors in the NCR and Navi Mumbai region who had lost their livelihoods as consumer demand tanked. They discontinued their in-house stitching service and the idea was to provide them with a sustainable source of income.

"It was a win-win situation. We found tailors in close proximity to the customers and generated livelihood for them at the same time. We also support local artisans from parts of Uttar Pradesh as we have a loyalty program for long-time consumers who are sent handicrafts and private-label goods. Over the last 3 months, we have dealt with and lent livelihood to over 150+ artisans and tailors combined.

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