The Indian Bridal Industry Has Survived, But How Will It Now Thrive?
Industry experts weigh in on the past and the future of the bridal market
Weddings in India showcase a mixed-pot of culture, traditions and heritage that comes from its various regions. Unlike other countries, it’s not just about the two individuals coming together; it’s an emotional family affair. Hence, the grandiose of the various processions make up for a giant profitable industry. Over the last two years, the wedding market in India had to re-adapt and re-think its approach because of the multiple curve balls thrown by the pandemic in the form of the first and the second wave.
A KPMG (providers of risk, financial and business advisory) report in 2017 predicted Indian bridalwear to be a $50 billion industry. In the pre-pandemic era, this figure was achievable with back-to-back high-profile weddings, celebrities and industrialists. It created a niche sector for aspirational events that young brides and grooms were ready to invest in. But screening the current situation, the prediction is that the market will only reach 35% of its pre-covid position in 2021 (if things revert to normal).
In a detailed conversation with ELLE, bridal designers Rahul Mishra, Ridhi Mehra, Pankaj & Nidhi, and Abhinav Mishra speak about their strategies during this unprecedented situation and their plan of action ahead.
Sustainable Shift In Couture
The pandemic has played a pivotal part in creating consciousness towards life choices. When a health crisis of this stature hits home, it’s natural to reassess and shift perspective, even when it comes to fashion. Modern women are now gravitating more towards slow fashion and quality rather than plain glamour and opulence. There’s a growing demand for traditional handicrafts and textiles that generates employment across huge clusters in rural India. Rahul Mishra, an internationally-acclaimed designer whose brand’s USP lies in infusing indigenous crafts with contemporary clothing, shares his two cents on the subject. “During the pandemic, the brides have developed an elevated sensibility towards fashion that is mindful and sustainable. They’re looking to invest in versatile styles, clothing that holds values of craft and culture – pieces they can keep in their wardrobes for longer and style in multiple ways.”
The pandemic amplified the importance of digital in a way that it went from being the extended arm of the business to the main source. Various strategies were adopted from rookie labels to established brands to use this medium for better marketing and results. Designer Abhinav Mishra shared his experience from the last two years and revealed what particularly worked for him. “As I said, very early on, I had realised the importance of digital media. We have always had a strong digital presence and have built a strong customer base through our Instagram platform as well as through our website, where we are constantly trying to innovate and bring out new concepts. Our main aim earlier was to reach audiences in various countries through these platforms.”
“When the world was hit by the pandemic, these channels not only helped to connect with your clients overseas but also with our domestic clientele. We started adding new features such as video consultations where our clients can directly place orders online or have the opportunity to book a consultation to discuss customisation, enjoying a personalised experience from the comfort of their homes. Through these means. I have not only sustained and stayed in touch with my current clientele but also have had a surge of requests for clients all over the world.”
Luxury influencer Hanna Khan recently tied the knot in a dreaming wedding between the Jai Mahal Palace and Rambagh Palace in Rajasthan. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a big-fat crowd to have the grand nuptials you always wanted. Her fairy-tale union was intimate but not low-key, and she was the first Indian bride to wear a bespoke ensemble by international couturier Elie Saab. Her enchanting wedding made a strong case for re-allocating budgets to the bridal wear section, as the 5000-long guest list no longer exists.
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“I do believe pandemic brides shouldn’t have to compromise on the grandeur of their wedding. You can invest the same amount of money in every aspect of the wedding, especially your trousseau and have an intimate wedding on a larger scale. I feel it’s time people stopped equating the opulence of a wedding to the number of guests, as in my personal opinion, it’s only a myth. I met Mr Saab at his son’s wedding in Beirut and also visited the Atelier, where I was shown private samples and couture samples. I immediately knew I had to be an Elie Saab bride. The process was seamless, and the entire team made it a great experience. The outfit was shipped to me from Beirut and luckily fit like a dream.”
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Road To Recovery
With the festive and wedding season approaching us, designers talk about the different game plans they will be setting in motion to recover and replenish. “We have already kickstarted the wedding season by showcasing our Monsoon capsule curation, Mastana. We shot this with our friends across the border and felt it was a beautiful confluence, as several patrons of ours came on to put this together with us. Digitally we saw the potential of collaborations across the globe, and this will definitely be an exercise we’d be doing regularly. The world has become a smaller place, and the opportunities are endless. Also, for the next 6 months, we intend to constantly experiment with our craft and offer new collections regularly. We are also working on our jewellery line as well as a foray into home decor and furnishings,” shared Abhinav.
With uncertainty still looming, small businesses within the couture spectrum are finding it difficult to remain afloat. Designers Pankaj & Nidhi share a simple formula that helps them get through. “We believe that if you make timeless pieces, there will always be buyers for them. Maybe not immediately, but you will sell them because they are distinct from the rest. For young designers, a sense of individuality is important; because that is what the shopper is looking for. It may look bleak for a few months, but it will pick up. Things have been quite hard for all of us. I am hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel. With more people getting vaccinated, really looking forward to a boom in business in the next half of the year. Weddings are happening; they are smaller in number and are more personal. But the bride and the family will need beautiful and exquisite pieces. We, as designers, have to find our niche and design for the target audience that understands our aesthetic the best.”