Fashion Fables
ISBN 9788119316212





We have busted some myths but there are many more to go!!

Many believe that design is an art, and the designer, an artist. But the reality is far from that. Designing, to me, is a commercial art - one which has rather big implication. A designer’s job is not to just create a beautiful design, but to create a design that sells and is accepted by a larger consumer base.

This part - ‘The myths in fashion design’ - is written with the aim to shed light on what really happens in the fashion industry and bust a few accepted and unaccepted myths.

CHAPTER 2.1: How Many Colours are Too Many?

This is a very interesting subject and one that I have been wanting to write on for a very long time. In this chapter, I will dwell upon the following:

    1. The importance of colour

    2. My three rules of colour

    3. How many colours are too many colours

    4. How ignoring these can impact business

Let us start this discussion by understanding,

The Importance of Colour

“Did you know that 84.7% of the consumers make a purchase decision based on colours?”

A google search revealed 32 pages of web links available on the subject; Importance of Colours. Colours don’t just affect emotions, but drive consumer choices, their buying behaviour, brand recognition & much more.

Why is the UCB logo green? Adidas logo black? And Levi’s logo red?

Are these colours randomly picked?

The answer is “NO”.

And the below infographic tells you why…

There is enough and more research available, yet when we look at our domestic fashion brands, we get a feeling that they lack an understanding of the Science of Colour.

Often, we see, brands & retailers trying to appeal to all with a riot of colours. How often do we hear these phrases, ‘let’s add some more colours’ or ‘can we do 10 colours in this?’

Why is there such recklessness in decision-making about colours?

Is it because the brands take decisions on colours without understanding that every colour decision is an investment decision?

Or is it because volumes are still not large in most brands, so taking risk on colours is financially not a big decision?

But I am getting ahead of the subject here. First, let us understand some simple rules in working with colours.

The 1st Rule of Colour

The rule is ‘Less is more’ when it comes to colours.

There can be 2 kinds of stores & brands: ones which are Directional (offering limited & unified colour range) & ones which are Multilateral (offering many colours).

Multiple studies reveal that a directional store holds the consumers’ interest for longer as it appeals to their emotions and has a calming effect on them. And the more time they spend in the store, more likely they are to make a purchase.

The 2nd Rule of Colour

The rule is ‘Balance the proportion of dare to easy’ colours in the line.

When it comes to colours in clothes, there are 2 kinds: ones which are easy to wear and ones which dare you to wear them. It is very important to understand the proportion of dare and ease in colours, designs and silhouettes, which you offer to the consumers. So, the rule is simple - do not have more than one dare element per style and make sure that there are enough easy-to-wear products.

If we study the average consumers’ wardrobe, we will find it to be dominated by easy-to-wear colours, with just a sprinkling of experimental colours, usually reserved for occasions.

Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do. A simple ‘what not to do’ can vary from mixing unpalatable colours to making experimental (dare to wear) styling in ‘dare to wear’ colours. It’s like a double dare.

The 3rd Rule of Colour

The rule is ‘Increase colour offering in key/signature fast moving products, keeping the rest directional’ to increase saleability and mitigate risk.

For many brands, colour is a strategy. The brand DNA is built around offering a plethora of colours. A classic example of this is United Colors of Benetton. But upon studying such brands, you will realise that a plethora of colours is offered in only some key categories (usually the bestselling ones). The rest of the categories are directional in offering.

While UCB is known to use many colours, classic colours dominate the product offering. Multiple colours are limited to few categories like polos, t-shirts, chinos etc. The same is true for most of such brands. Exceptions are very few and they also play out a strategy.

So, if styling tips are this clear on colour mixing and this logic is consistent across stylists, why do brands offer so many colours? Who is buying them?

But does anyone follow these 3 rules? Oh no. And why is that? Is it due to the following?

Because we lack experience?

Most design teams are very young. While interacting with international brands, we can easily find designers in their 40’s and 50’s still designing. In India, is it this inexperience speaking?

Because brands take aesthetic calls without studying and understanding colours and their impact on consumer buying?

Because decisions about colours are left to juniors without any guidance?

How many times have we seen that after initial design approval, the additional colour-ways never come out as well?

I have spoken about ‘plethora of colours’ offered by brands. This brings us to an important question, one which is the premise of this article.

How Many Colours Are Too Many?

Not sure there is an easy answer to this. It would depend on two things:

What is your colour strategy

How do you cluster and manage your colours by hit, flat, miss and the weightage given to those colours in similar proportion

This will automatically start rationalising the colour offering.

What is your colour strategy?

The colour strategy lays the foundation of the brands’ product offerings & forms the crux of its DNA. There are 2 ways to look at the strategy: Directional & Multilateral.

A Directional strategy is where the colour offering is limited & unified. The brand’s colour story revolves around a few key colours and their tonal variations, while 1-2 experimental colours may be used as accents. This colour story is extended to all consumer touch points like advertising campaigns, VM etc. Cavin Klein & Levi’s are some examples of brands built on this strategy.

A multilateral strategy is where the colours are vast with brands offering up to 25 colours in some categories. Brands in this case are identified with the colour itself and, many a times, it becomes a key story they tell. Lacoste, Desigual & UCB are some examples of brands who have adopted this strategy.

In a country like India, consumers demand variety - one that influences the businesses to shift towards the multilateral strategy.

While it may attract the consumers, it’s laced with challenges. One of the biggest challenges being the rationalising of colours and creating a unified offering without making it look like a riot of colours. By ‘riot of colours’, I am referring to the unplanned, unscientific use of colours.

B. Colour clustering

As mentioned earlier, brands with a multilateral strategy should follow a category-led approach. Multi-colour offering should be limited to some key performing categories, while a directional strategy should be maintained for the other categories. For eg: Polo Ralph Lauren offers many colours in polos, but limits to fewer colours in other categories. All successful brands, with a multilateral colour offering, usually stick to this.

Another important aspect is to study the hits and misses very closely and build this strategy upwards, thus rationalising the colour range offered.

The lack of a robust colour strategy leads to an inventory pile up, making the businesses suffer.

How Can Ignoring This Add to Financial Woes?

Let’s look at a hypothetical case study.

Let’s take the case of a new brand that has just launched T-Shirts in 20 fresh colours.

Unfortunately, the brand had to manufacture the minimum volumes basis channel and manufacturing requirements. Since, some of the colours were not well received by the consumers, the brand was saddled with inventory.

Now multiply this across categories and multiple geographical locations.

Can brand X afford to make the same mistake now?

As businesses start to scale, volumes per colour become very large making it difficult to keep introducing new untested colours as they can have huge financial implications. It can impact sell throughs, inventory, cash flows and open-to-buys - but who is listening?

I was taught early in my career to always go to the end of season sales and study the merchandise that has not sold.

And guess what! Most products were: daring colours and experimental styles in daring colours amongst the other usual suspects.

The pertinent questions to ask would be:

Does anyone look at loss of sale due to incorrect colour strategy or due to the use of unrestrained colour in product lines?

While we spend hours debating location of a store, just how much time do brand teams spend analysing colour and its impact on sales?

Does anyone look at the cost of carrying inventory vs. the rate of sale by colour?

Who is analysing cluster products by fast moving colours vs. fringe colour?


To conclude, I would simply say:

Learn and follow the science of colour. It can multiply sales exponentially

Design is a marketing tool, if used properly it can do wonders for business

Colours are simple, easier than innovation, and if managed well can have better impact on sales than any other lever. Yet companies spend endless hours focusing on getting that innovation, but how much time is spent on understanding and strategizing colour?

It’s unfortunate that brands do not fully appreciate the importance of colour. Otherwise, one would see this being discussed in business meetings.

But do we? No.

Well, it’s time for change, it’s time to understand the true levers of the business and focus on those.

CHAPTER 2.2: What’s in a Fit?

This is another topic that’s quite close to my heart. Do brands really understand the importance of fits? Can fit be a differentiator in business?

In this chapter, I will touch upon:

    1. Understanding body types

    2. What is a fit strategy

    3. My three simple rules for fits

    4. Is fit taken seriously by business

    5. Benefits of having a fit strategy

The Importance of Fits in Fashion

We all understand our own body type, and dress accordingly. Stylists from around the world urge you to dress according to your body type, yet brands do not seem to pay much heed to this.

After studying the brands in India, I realised that they think:

India is Filled with thin People & Almost 70% of its Population is Skinny

Wondering what has led me to this conclusion?

It’s the number of slim and skinny fits one sees in the market.

Usually, the brands profile the consumers to understand their requirements. They look at their income, education, age, gender etc.

But do they look at their body types?

Do we even agree that body type becomes an important aspect of consumer profiling?

It doesn’t just aid in creation of the right garment and fit but also becomes a designing, marketing and positioning tool.

To understand body type, let’s look at these infographics:

And if you thought men’s body shapes are complicated, check out the women’s body types -

These infographics are self-explanatory.

Have we clearly defined the body type for those buying our clothes? The first rule of marketing is - know your customer. Well, do we?

And that is the question I am asking?

Having understood the above body type segmentation, I would like to ask the reader if they can tell which brands are catering to which of the body types? Is it clear in their communication? Are their charts mapping fits to body types in the store for ease of buying or have you, after many mistrials, started to make a beeline for the few brands that actually fit your body type well?

Many international brands build their fits around a specific target audience based on their body types.

And this leads me to the next segment.

What is a Fit Strategy?

It’s surprising that ‘Fit’ is often ignored by fashion and retail businesses in India.

The pertinent questions brands need to ask themselves are:

Who is buying from me?

Age, Gender, Body type?

Size analysis?

Sales loss due to fit/size issue?

How is this data captured?

Once this is clear, brands need to clearly establish a fit strategy. These can be of 3 types:

    1. Focused fit strategy where a brand targets a single body type and makes clothes for them. For eg: if one goes to Zara, it’s clearly targeted towards a slim & petite body type.

    2. Segmented fit strategy where a brand targets multiple body types for key categories and those are available in multiple fits and sizes. All other categories are managed through generic fits where, with fewer fits and sizes, brands accommodate more body types.

    3. Generic fit strategy where brand tries to accommodate as many body types as possible by offering fits and sizes that are more generic. This allows them to address a larger segment of consumers while having fewer fits and sizes. Typically, family stores follow this strategy.

Having discussed possible fit strategies, let’s now talk about: My 3 Simple Rules for Fits, which have evolved over time. I am sharing it with the hope that our readers will benefit from these.

Fit rule number 1: In a brand, the same size should fit the consumer across all products & fits.

Make life simple for the consumer. In most brands, if a ‘M’ size, in regular fit, works for the consumer, he has to force himself to wear a ‘L’ size in slim fit. Why? For the consumer, if she/he wears a ‘M’ in a brand, she/he should be able to wear ‘M’ across all their products. It saves time on mistrial and retrial making it easy for the consumer to pick clothes without really trying them on as she/he is confident of the fit.

Fit rule number 2: Use standardised body forms and models for fit trials.

Standardise the base body measurements for the brand, develop body forms and use those for fit trials. Even if we keep a panel of live models, please ensure they are the right body types and measurements.

There is a tendency for the designers, buyers, and business heads to try the garments on themselves and personalise it to their own bodies. The brand must ensure it fits their consumer profile and should discourage teams from these ‘personalised’ fit approvals. If they binged at a party the night before trying a fitted garment, without a doubt the fit will go for a retrial.

Standardisation of these processes is of the utmost importance.

Fit rule number 3: Clearly define where to go for fitted garments and where to go with generic fits.

Fitted garments require more sizes, more variants. This increases inventory holding as number of sizes and fits that need to be managed goes up. Generic fits can easily be designed which are roomier and allow a higher number of body types to fit into, with lesser number of sizes, hence, reducing inventory risk.

Now, every brand needs to look at this clearly in terms of which categories they want to invest into more sizes and where they want to offer width.

But this is all common knowledge. So, why don’t we find brands focusing on clearly defined fit strategy? What ails us?

Is Fit taken seriously by businesses?

Every fit decision is an investment decision, yet what is the infrastructure we have built in our companies to get good quality fits? Do we benchmark, analyse, study consumer reaction to fits, invest in quality technicians, fit testing softwares, body forms, pattern making and sampling infrastructure to ensure that no stone is left unturned to ensure consumer delight?

Fits are clearly investment calls. The money invested in a fit is much more than the money spent on acquiring stores - but store acquisition may take up a lot more top management time than deciding on a fit strategy or finalising a fit into which crores would be invested in the form of inventory.

Most brands do not have a well-articulated fit strategy and leave it to designers and product teams, at mid to junior levels, to do that. And this leads to ‘fit personalisation’.

I remember being in a panel discussion where a department store chain MD was lamenting about the fact that in his own store, he could not buy most of the products as they were in slim fits, and it did not fit him.

He made a very interesting point that India has a large population and is capable of discretionary spend in the mid to older ages, but no one designs for them. The point is that brands need to move to a clearly defined or differentiated fit strategy. This will lead to some major benefits as I have enumerated below.

Benefits Of Having a Well-Articulated Fit Strategy

Consumer Loyalty

I have been in many discussions and meetings on consumer loyalty. But the unfortunate truth is that in fashion, most companies seem to overlook the obvious. The biggest hook for consumer loyalty, in clothing, is fit.

Once consumers like a fit, they just keep going back for it. Look at how Levi’s has created their consumer loyalty on fits, some of them going back decades. They may play within the fits, but fundamentally give the consumers jeans that fit well.

In fact, in stores, you can see consumers asking, ‘can you show me some new options in this fit?’ They are so sure of the fit that they buy it even without trying. That’s the power of loyalty.

It’s amazing how fits can define the fortunes of a fashion brand.

Lower Returns in E-commerce

With e-commerce increasing in scale and size, brands need to take fit-standardisation and strategy very seriously. How they communicate, the consistency of sizing across brand products, all will have a huge impact on returns, trials and consumer time. The brands need to decide how important their consumer experience is for them.

Once consumers start trusting the sizing and fits of a brand, they will start ordering with more faith which can have an exponential impact on sales. But this requires, well defined fit strategy, consistency and clear communication.


Fit can be a major differentiator in business. Particularly category-focused brands could have a field day with it. It is something which is a clear differentiator. A brand that makes great looking clothes may attract the consumers, but a brand that makes good looking and great fitting clothes will convert the consumer to a brand loyalist. Isn’t that what we all want?


To conclude, I would only say that fashion brands, including retailers, need to clearly understand who their consumers are and make a fit strategy to suit them.

In Europe and the US, there are a host of new brands catering to fashion for heavier women. This is because they felt embarrassed to try on clothes in stores and not fit into them. These brands understood their customers’ body types & started catering to them.

Sometimes, we are looking at so many reasons for why sales are declining and walk-ins, reducing. But very few realise that selling ill-fitted clothes is a silent killer. The consumer just walks away, and we don’t even realise why.

I am amazed at the kind of trivia that passes for reportage in the industry, but no one understands or discusses real issues the industry is facing.

CHAPTER 2.3: Is Fashion Design Commercial Art or Fine Art?

This is the third article in the ‘Myths in Fashion Design’ series. We have already covered colours and fits in my previous chapters. In this final edition, I will talk about a much-misunderstood issue in fashion - Is Fashion Design a commercial or fine art?

In this chapter, I will talk about:

Why the ambiguity

How to align commerce with aesthetics

My three simple rules for design

Benefits of driving a commercial design team

For this article, we will be discussing ‘designing’ in the context of mass brands and not couture. So, let’s move to our first topic.

Why is there ambiguity?

I always felt that it comes from the lack of understanding of which business function entails the design aspect. But it really hit home, one day, when I realised that business teams are mostly ignorant of the fact that their indecisiveness and last-minute changes on the production lines, lead to delays and cost escalations.

Their point is: Design is an art form, and they are producing works of art and, hence, indecision and changes even on the factory floor is okay because at the end of the day, it must come out perfect’.

Well, how does one define ‘perfection’ in the commercial context?

So, this brings me to the ‘mera wala pink’ syndrome.

Everyone who has submitted multiple lab dips will understand what I am talking about. Invariably, we come across designers who reject multiple submissions based on what’s in their minds, or because it does not match the said Pantone perfectly. But does the consumer know this?

All he/she sees is what’s on the shop floor and decides if he/she likes it or not. Unfortunately, I have witnessed endless arguments on this aspect from both sides of the table.

I remember a case where the designer rejected 5 submissions and I happened to be in on the 6th approval discussion. She was at pains to describe the ‘pink’ in a baby’s palm for which she could not find a perfect Pantone reference. Unfortunately, no one around could also get the right pink, and so was coined the ‘mera wala pink’ syndrome.

In my understanding, the problem lies in the misalignment of a designer’s expectation vs a consumer’s expectation. A consumer doesn’t know what Pantone the designer wanted; they only know if they like the product. Hence, I say commercial designers need to take commercial calls. Ensure that the end product is aesthetic and saleable, even if it’s not mera wala pink’.

So, then what is the designer supposed to bring to the table?

Ability to visualise

Ability to translate that vision and articulate it with tangible tools like Pantones, tech packs, fabrics, and patterns to enable other stakeholders to clearly understand what is required

Ability to look at products from a consumers’ lens

Ability to be consistent with brand’s visual and creative direction

Quick decision-making and closure and not get carried away with the myriad possibilities that exist

This job is made harder because,

A designer’s work is always judged by others, and this heightens the fear of failure in them

Everybody has a point of view on design

There is always an aura around designers that makes them look like they are from another planet. While I will not comment on why that happens, the reality is that it does. Many a times, this leads to designers not interacting with the rest of the stakeholders the way they should. The different functions also create an enigma around them, resulting in business teams finding it hard to relate to design teams.

How then should they objectively set expectations?

Here are my 3 simple rules for Commercialising Design Teams.

Rule No. 1

Being on time and good is better than being late but perfect.

‘It’s better to be roughly right than perfectly wrong’, quoting Keynes in a design chapter. Ah! The cost of perfection. Michelangelo took 12 years to create the Sistine Chapel but are we creating that one perfect piece or ensuring that the right merchandise reaches the consumer at the right time. ‘The cost of being late versus the pleasure of being perfect’, is the eternal ambiguity.

Rule No. 2

Design to cost, keeping the commerce in commercial art.

A huge amount of time is wasted by businesses in getting this right. So, working out the basic raw material components and their costs, and aligning it to business requirement before designing with those, is the key to successful commercial design.

Rule No. 3

Create marketing stories around product lines.

Most consumers buy products, not ensembles and looks. A lot of time and effort goes into creating differentiated design and products, but are these marketing ideas? Brands and their products need to tell a story, give a reason to the consumer to buy them. Everyone makes great products these days, have good aesthetics as well, but it’s the brands that successfully tell their stories that win in the end.

So, to answer the question on how to align is simple:

Develop a clear understanding of what the design function is supposed to bring to the table

Set clear expectations based on the above 3 rules

Allow a set percentage of the business to be steered through experimentation by the creative design teams; this should be their window of creativity beyond the defined set

And finally, what’s the benefit of driving design in the above fashion

This is the simplest one to answer, really.

Speed to Market dramatically goes up if design teams are aligned. It is this tug of war between designers’ ask and commercial viability that takes up to 6 weeks in the development process

Profitability Soars when commercials are aligned from concept to wardrobe

Sell-throughs increase and the brand scores when designers think marketing stories rather than purely aesthetic concepts


Design forms the foundation of any business, and an empowered design team becomes a big asset to the company as is evident from the benefits mentioned earlier.

Commercial design and designers have to re-look at the conventional ways in which they function and evolve into a business specific role. While creativity is the central premise of a design team and its objectives, it’s also important to align with the business outputs. After all, the success of a commercial designer lies in the success of the business at large.

Let’s look at some key points I would like to leave the readers with:

Designers should continue to pursue their creative endeavours but with a purpose in mind. If a designer is working for a brand, it’s important for him/her to work differently and add these skills to his/her repertoire.

Designers need to go beyond what they are doing and evolve into successful designers by understanding the business models, along with tweaking their output to better suit them.

Commercial design comes with many constraints. A smart designer will be able to understand these and work around them in creative ways. Designers in couture labels are very different in this respect. They are creating art and selling one piece of each, while commercial designers are making mass produced garments which must be liked by many, one that needs to fit into competitive costing models and be feasible for mass manufacture. Brands need them to work differently and need practical minds to lead the aesthetic and technical aspects of the products & design based on that.

Designers are the foundation of a business, and if the foundation is strong, businesses flourish.

CHAPTER 2.4: Are Seasons Relevant in Fashion Anymore?

This is a very controversial topic and not one that’s easy to write about. So, when I volunteered to write on this, I had no idea of what I was getting into. I don’t even think anyone believes there is an issue here. Then why was this troubling me? Well, let’s see if I can influence you on this.

In this feature, I will talk about whether ‘Seasons’ as a concept is relevant anymore in the fashion retail industry by understanding:

The genesis and evolution of seasons as a concept in fashion

Is this one of the reasons for the retail apocalypse?

Have seasons become a noose around our neck?

How should we look at the business going forward?

Let’s look at the seasons as we understand them.

To the world, these words denote weather patterns, but to everyone in the fashion industry, it’s a way of life. Seasons are ingrained into every process in our supply chain. A designer designs as per seasons, buyer’s OTB is seasonal, sales plans are seasonal, so on and so forth.

But are they relevant anymore?

To answer this question, we need to first understand the genesis and evolution of seasons.

The Genesis And Evolution of ‘Seasons’

In the fashion industry, the concept of seasons started because people needed season-relevant clothing due to the extremities in weather conditions. Warm clothing was a winter necessity and soft breathable fabrics, a summer.

Back then, clothes were considered essentials or a necessity. But all that changed when the world saw economic development. As more and more people became economically empowered and affluent, clothing moved from necessity to fashion.

The industrial revolution created large factories to mass-produce clothing and then came brands that wanted to increase per capita consumption. To that end, they started promoting fashion as clothes that needed to change every season. From the silhouettes to colours, something new was offered every season. What the consumers wore the previous season was denounced as redundant a few months later. Brands primarily dictated what was in trend and told the consumers what to wear and what to discard.

The whole idea was to promote more and more buying. And boy, did we succeed! Between 2000 and 2014, clothing production doubled with the average consumer buying 60 per cent more pieces of garment compared to 15 years ago. Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated US $ 46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets.

Over some time, this got adopted into the DNA of the fashion industry. Research developed on how to make seasons work for fashion. The whole supply chain from ‘yarn to brands’ calendarised this. Retailers started buying as per this - trade shows followed, marketing calendars, design, innovation and even ERP systems hardcoded this.

In the meantime, a curious thing was happening in the industry…

Is this one of the reasons for the retail apocalypse in the last decade?

The last decade has been devastating to the American retail industry as traditional malls and countless brands continued to shutter at record highs, some of them being iconic and heritage brands. As many as 9,300 stores closed in 2019, while 1.3 million jobs have disappeared during the last 10 years in the US alone.

There are many reasons attributed to this – most important being the ‘onset of online platforms’ amongst others. But can we just pause to consider these few other points like, inefficient inventory, built by incorrect sales forecasting, necessitated by long product lead times, led by a seasonal calendar, followed across the industry?

But this brings us to where we started.

Have seasons become a noose around our neck?

Seasons were simply supposed to be ‘go-to-market’ periods, with new products to compel consumers to buy more. But they have taken a life of their own and become an immortal edifice to the art of storytelling.

Unfortunately, trade shows, retail buying, design cycles, marketing and innovation calendars are all bound to this seasonal logic and do not consider, category nuances and supply chain logic. Instead, they apply seasonality to everything. Lack of transparency in supply chains has led to retailers using similar inventory norms for core, bestsellers, and fashion. For example, even if core could be replenished every week, retailers keep 8-12 weeks of inventory, just to be sure that they don’t run dry. This seasonal approach pushes the store to refresh 70 per cent+ of their merchandise every season. This forecast and push-based supply chain led to designing and planning 6-12 months in advance. Production commitments were made months before the consumer even saw the product.

This has led to over forecasting and inefficient inventory planning. Discounting & Liquidation became another menace the industry had to deal with, sometimes having to even burn the unsold inventory. These became large looming problems for the industry, which led to the unravelling of these fashion bigwigs.

Has the seasonal DNA of the industry become obsolete?

To answer that we need to figure out what happened to sales? If traditional brands and retailers were collapsing, did this mean that people were buying fewer clothes this decade?

Well, people are still buying the same amount of clothes, if not more. This only meant that there was a shift in ‘where the consumers were buying from.

Then the next logical question would be:

How should we look at the business going forward?

To understand this, we need to study the new kids on the block.

Let’s look at some of the new businesses that have come up like ASOS, Boohoo, Myntra and many such online platforms. These were primarily tech-companies, which disregarded the seasonal approach. They focused on understanding consumer behaviour on the tech platforms, buying patterns, data mining and last-mile connectivity. Their focus was on developing products that sold, challenging the status quo. They would introduce a product, monitor its rate of sale, and then decide how much more to make. Even the frequency of product introduction was different. The consumer bought when he wanted, not waiting for seasons and brand directions on trends.

Social media had changed the consumer forever. Brands needed to reimagine their relevance to consumers, who started looking at a multitude of influences beyond trend forecasts by fashion brands. Having lost the ability to influence trends like in the old days, brands that were following this seasonal go-to-market with forecast and push-based sales, started collapsing.

And brands that did not follow seasons and just tapped into consumer demands started flourishing. If you don’t believe me, just Google the list of brands that filed for insolvency in the States during the last decade!

The question that we therefore need to ask is – should we not look at different businesses, channels and events and work on go-to-market cycles independent of seasons? This would then mean:

Building ‘go-to-market’ calendars differently for different categories, keeping in mind supply chain nuances, lead times and planning inventory basis that.

Building the business calendar around events, festivals, seasons with equal fervour. Design and plan around these events. Many brands look at these as flash buys that are not part of the mainstream buys.

De-risk inventory by reducing season refresh percentages and moving to a clear try and repeat strategy.

Bring focus to replenishment business.

If we look around, we will see a lot of category-based brands and manufacturer brands who have started to play this game, and quite successfully so.

I leave you with the premise that ‘seasons’ as the industry DNA is obsolete. The consumer has moved on. Should we also not do the same?

Do share your thoughts with me and our readers, as this is a topic that requires more exhaustive debate.

CHAPTER 2.5: Do We Really Understand Innovation?

The word ‘Innovation’ has become a mainstay in our lives. Many industries have seen a drastic change in the past few years owing to this and the fashion industry has felt this change too.

Lycra by DuPont, AIRism by Uniqlo, Levi’s Commuter series, Boost by Adidas are a few examples of brands defining innovations. Consumers instantly associate these products with their respective brands. And that’s the Power of Innovation’.

With so many new innovations being tried out each season, fashion is one of the most innovative industries, yet only a few innovations come to mind when we think hard – like something big that became a trend or changed the industry.

In this feature, I will discuss what innovation really means to consumers through the below sections:

Innovation and its definition

Innovation in the fashion industry

Innovation from the consumers’ lens

Innovation and where it gets lost between all the stakeholders

But what does innovation mean?

While this definition stays true to the fashion industry too, we need to look at innovation with a more specialised industry lens. It can be defined as a multi-stage process whereby organisations transform ideas into new/improved products, service, or processes, to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace.

The fashion industry is a fragmented one. There are many stakeholders in the supply chain – farmers growing cotton, the spinning units making yarn, weavers converting yarn to fabrics, processing units and mills making this fabric wearable, the garmenting units creating the final piece of clothing, and finally the brands and retailers who brand and sell the same to us, the consumers.

In this landscape, consisting of so many stakeholders and each trying to innovate and do something different, it is very important to understand what is relevant for the final consumer. Do we really understand innovation or are we simply innovating for the sake of innovating to convince the stakeholder next in the pipeline to select our product over the competition, since we promise either better performance with incremental improvement in parameters or better cost for the same consumer’s benefit?

We have seen many innovations in the recent past. From fabrics with inherent antimicrobial properties to speciality yarns that save water, fabrics that regulate body temperature, colours that never fade, washes which use zero water and so on…

But the fundamental question I ask here is:

Does the consumer understand these innovations? What do these innovations mean to the consumer? When he/she walks into the store, or logs onto a website, what are they looking for?

The answer to this question is:

Consumers look at garments very differently from the technocrats in the industry. From wearer experience to visual appearance and finally unique features, each matter, but in different measures as is evident from the graphic below.

Unfortunately, aspects of the business that impact the largest consumer segments are usually the ones which get the least focus from the businesses. People seem to focus on aspects which drive niche audience.

How does understanding consumers and their purchase decisions help us understand innovations?

It is simple. Look at innovation from the consumers’ lens. If it makes sense to the consumer and drives them to buy the product, then the innovation and the effort behind it is worthwhile.

It is very easy to get swayed by the sheer number of innovations taking place on a daily basis. Everyone around us is innovating, yarns to fabrics to trims to finishes… fibre with a hollow core, foam dyes, silicon washing chemicals, so on and so forth.

We get so lost in the business-to-business branding and in incremental numbers that we forget the most important person – the consumer. How is he/she looking at this innovation?

Are the consumers understanding the benefits of these innovations? What does it mean to them?

A lot of effort goes into innovation, but unfortunately most of it goes waste because businesses are not focusing on the final consumer benefit. They are happy chasing incremental increase in parameters and their supply chain customers, hardly focusing on the final consumer.

And this is the fundamental problem we need to understand.

How should the various stakeholders look at innovation?

Here is a simplified example of what innovation can mean for the 3 most important components in our industry namely yarn, fabric and garmenting. The important thing being, how is every stakeholder understanding final consumer benefit.

Brands and retailers are closest to the consumers. It is they who market the end product.

When Adidas launched Boost, it changed the company’s fortune. People knew the brand, but Boost gave them a reason to choose Adidas over its competitors. Similarly, look at Levi’s commuter series, an innovation that combined many innovative components into a product beneficial to the consumers.

That is why there are a few examples of successful innovations, though the industry comes up with new ones almost every day. This is also because innovations have been turned into fashion. The market is flooded with minor innovations promising incremental benefit or a certain niche.

Unfortunately, these are not marketed strongly either. Hence the pressure to keep innovating leads to a number game that keeps businesses turning out innovation after innovation without looking through the consumers’ lens.

To conclude, I will reiterate that each stakeholder needs to look at innovation from a consumers’ point of view.

It is imperative that the whole supply chain is involved in understanding innovation as it should be from the consumers’ lens. The yarn manufacturer, the fabric manufacturers and all other stakeholders should understand innovation and consumer benefit.

Rather than too many innovations, one should focus on few but clearly differentiated ones which are easily understood by the consumers.

Market them properly and be consistent in driving that innovation year-on-year. Simply put, if the brand doesn’t believe in it beyond a season, why should the consumer?

Having written about different aspects of innovation, I urge everyone to think about innovations in this new light and then decide whether it should be innovation for the sake of innovation or innovation that has relevant consumer benefits.

CHAPTER 2.6: From The Readers’ Mind!

We, at Inside Apparel, take pride in being a platform where you, the readers, can express, discuss, opine & share your points of views.

Each article on this site has garnered multi-faceted comments, many of which are thought provoking & intriguing. With each opinion expressed, we all learn something new & insightful.

We are sharing some of these opinions & comments from The Myths In Fashion Design Series. We are unable to represent every comment here but would urge you to read through them at leisure.

The Myths In Fashion Design series consists of 3 articles:

    1. How many colours are too many colours?

    2. What is in a fit?

    3. Is Fashion Design Commercial or Fine art?

Now let’s look at the varied comments posted by our readers! Enjoy the insights…


An architecture of buying - selecting the blocks to make a brand, to give it a personality, be it Directional or Multilateral, is the primary step in the visualisation of a brand.

There is a science behind colours and selling pattern - to study that is important and give us insights like blue is the new black or green sells!!!”

- Sarika Arora, Corporate sales head, Royal Data Matics Pvt. Ltd.


Colours --the perpetual discussion. The reality is that it be menswear or womenswear ---there is core colour palette. It can change region to region with an accent but there definitely is a core colour range which sells. In a fashion brand, there has to be a core and some accent colours, based on the season’s forecasts. These are only fillers or for the look---this will never be the major sale. There was one brand which used to put black in every style and allow the designer to choose the other colour from the colour palette. This simple ploy used to drive up their sell-through per style. There are others who advise that core colours must have larger quantities and accent colours must have smaller buys. It’s the ones who allow equal buys in all colours of the colour palette who end up with the stocks. I’ve worked with the 7 top known brands of the world and found that their understanding of colour is what made half the sell through. This is indeed an interesting discussion”.

- Poonam Sood Lal, Consultant, Co-Founder Sash Exports (Buying House)


And this point is very true, that why we don’t follow these rules --- because we lack experience? Most design teams are very young. Interacting with international brands, you can easily find designers in their 40’s and 50’s still designing. In India, is it this inexperience speaking?”

- Swati Sriram, Design Consultant (Apparel and Home furnishing)


Very important topic and very well explained. I agree with you completely as these are the very basic principles of color play. I believe, most of the experienced designers do understand this and this should be a quintessential subject for Product Merchandisers and Sales managers also to study. I completely agree that a successful brand is successful because of the strategy it plans & follows. I hope this article is read by all in the retail industry, understood and well implemented too”.

- Prasenjit Adhikari, Creative Director Arrow @ Arvind brands


The conclusion on sales loss would definitely require a root cause analysis. Every EOSS has numerous reasons and I find one to be the choice of colors. We might think those as the best sellers and aren’t. This will improve the designers’ capabilities and correlate to customers’ choice”.

- Shankar


In the domestic business I’ve seen designers trying styles on themselves and commenting. This is absolutely unacceptable. In international business, the dummy and fit model are standardised and no one can tamper with it.

The question then comes – how to standardise a fit in India? Take your top 3 selling brands – study their fits and take the top 3 street side brands (critical to do this) and study their fit. The street side brands would actually know the customer better, otherwise they will simply lose the customer as most do not have fitting rooms. Do NOT try to invent the wheel by introducing new fits.

The fit is the most critical part of the garment. We allow designers to tamper with it. It must stop. With standardised fits, everyone can concentrate on the design element from the factory to the ultimate customer”.

- Poonam Sood Lal, Consultant, Co-Founder Sash Exports (Buying House)


Thank you for enumerating most important part of a garment which is fit. The process of fit development is extremely important and difficult part of a brand. But once it is cracked one should also maintain and update according to changing customer preference. Any fit the customer should feel comfortable, then the look and style”.

- Prashanth HV, Product Strategy, Royal Enfield Apparel


The biggest hook for consumer loyalty in clothing is FIT of the garment. I agree that sales will multiply exponentially once customers start trusting the size and fit of a brand. Customers getting discouraged when their actual size do not fit for other brands. Nowadays, customers are using various online platforms to buy their merchandise where they can’t do any wear-trial, in that case fit standardisation and fit strategy play a vital role. And you very well explained that whether online or offline purchase, great fitting clothes will convert the consumers to a brand loyalist. By understanding their consumer’s body types, study consumer reactions to fit, brands can ensure their consumer delight, otherwise the investment will end up into inventory only”.

- Ravindra Chawla, Operations Head - Quality at Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd


I agree with you on the approach towards handling fits by most of the brands and retailers in India. Many brands don’t really go through the process and the time taken for a fit creation. Either it is copied or tweaked from popular fits in trend. Like colours, fabrics, cost and brands, fit is very personalised experience of a consumer. Having standardised ‘M’ or ‘L’ across the fits might be challenging especially when the target customers’ age group is wider. Developing a fit without compromising wearer’s comfort defines the success of it. While developing the fit, we should know the purpose, target group, body anatomy and contours of gender and age groups of the specific geographical region. Creating a good fit begins here without having answers for these questions may not yield the desirable results. And developing a good fit is science - having said that, right technical skill set, and resources are important. This is really understood and implemented well in the fashion industry in western hemisphere. Here, we still contemplate with it and considered to manage on the go. Imparting the basic knowledge of fits and development process is essential to the PD, product, sourcing, and buyers”.

- Ramesh Ramalingam, VP Sourcing Operations, Arvind Fashions


I read the article couple of times to understand the ‘need for a FIT STRATEGY for a brand or retailer separated from the product strategy. I completely agree that FIT is one of the most important criterias for a product purchase. Having said that I believe, a good product/ Buying manager must embed Fit as part of the range construct. The basic premises of understanding the customer and the brand proposition, range construct would take care of category offering, fabric & colour selection, fit offering, and pricing. Depending upon the consumer buying behaviour, each category has its selection criteria - how well the buyer is able to map and align the offering to this, makes him/ her good or bad.

Alienating Slim/Skinny fit in favour of Comfort fit may not be the answer. With the whole fitness movement from gyms & fitness centres, healthy eating options, mind and body wellness programs, that have fuelled the Fitness & Sports industry, workout is becoming a part of average Indian.

Investing in studies and Fit researches, consumer fit testing is a better approach. Quality of fit technicians, investing in training a buyer & designer to understand how basic measurement, cuts and shaping could evolve into a desirable and well-accepted fit.

At Meraki, we understood Fit to be our most important component, we have ergonomically designed our silhouettes and fits to ensure they drape and fit well on various body shapes. Our floating size concept takes care of the ‘in betweens’ and caters to a huge ‘not-so-perfect’ body types. Being an e-commerce womenswear brand, by investing in identifying the right fit for our customer has kept our returns to a bare 6% as against 30% industry norm and our customer repeat purchase is 45%. It’s a different but complimenting perspective on the article, the teams to work their skills on bettering the RANGE CONSTRUCT. Thank you Anindya for bringing these insights and initiating the dialogues with readers for all rounded views”.

- Himanshu Singh, Co-founder, Meraki


Unlike Europe, Australia, Japan, USA – India still has not derived a standard measurement chart. With our diversified cultures and regions, the scope of FIT or measurements becomes very critical for any launch. Thus, we majorly attribute the fits based on running trends. If we look at the return stocks, we can easily analyze the sale trend. The question is are we doing this?”

- Ajay Ravuri, General Manager, Quality @ Arvind Fashions Limited


There is enough data to retrieve the standard sizes from sale’s history. However, I’d like to stress that this area requires a ‘Subject Matter Expert’ and strong technical know-how & intervention.

I spent my initial years in M&S, working as a technician, and learnt that fit is not just an outcome of a correct size chart, it requires technical skill and mastery. An almost perfect fit requires:

Basic construction guidelines

Deep understanding of fabric behavior

Standard size mannequins

Understanding in pattern making

Draping skills

Understanding in sewing, ease, allowance etc.

There’s plenty that goes into getting a fit right.

Designers & Brands must not take decisions on fits on their own, as it’s not their area of expertise, they must, at all times, seek informed decisions from technical experts”.

- Neeraj Katoch, Sr. Mgr B&M, Arvind Fashions


Fit is paramount in decision-making but also in customer loyalty, as you rightly said. Hopefully we are going to take a leap towards technology as an industry and will be able to answer the question ‘what’s in a fit?’ with ‘Everything’ soon”.

- Nitin Gupta, Design, Innovation & BD at Arvind Ltd.


Diligent data mining and fact finding on consumers across physical parameters. Consumer insighting across emotional parameters have a huge impact on off take. Should be taken very seriously”.

- Karunesh Vir Vohra, Catalyst @ Business of Design at BO


“I can’t agree more than this with you. It’s an amazing series with 360 degree insights of all the fundamental aspects of our trade. As I was part of many such conversations with design team, I exactly know what is ‘Mera wala pink syndrome’. Imparting the knowledge of apparel manufacturing processes and most importantly the timelines with design team are imperative. There should always be a balance between creativity and commerciality. I had seen designers who are very decisive, having strong commercial sense and upholding the brand DNA all the time”.

- Ramesh Ramalingam, VP Sourcing Operations, Arvind Fashions

Your observation on The Mera Wala Pink syndrome is hilarious and so true. I admit, I have done this too but later, better sense prevailed, and I learnt that it’s important to have a bird’s eye view and a wider understanding of the brands or business requirement.

I have also noticed that a lot of apparel designers bring in their personal tastes and preferences, losing sight of brand handwriting, positioning, and pricing”.

- Moutushi Dey, Design Consultant


I see these as two separate things.

Fashion designing is the art of designing clothing, fashion, accessories, etc.

Apparel designing is a more technical term–pertaining to the specific act of creating clothing from nuts to bolts. If someone is apparel designing, I see them more as a technician. For example, when a big house hires a team of designers to create a line under that house’s label such as Puma or Nike or Gap, those designers, who work for that house, would be referred to as apparel designers.

In order to bring speed to market, a brand, while hiring, should be clear on their requirements.

Does their business permit to hire Fashion Designer or Apparel Designer?”

- Sanjay Lal, Co-founder, Sash Exports (Buying House)


The transition from an artist to a designer starts with fashion education. The growth from a designer to a commercial designer is helped by acquiring technical, functional and production knowledge of product one works with. But to top it off and be really successful as a commercial designer, one needs to layer all the technical and production knowledge over a culture of imbibing the brand DNA (also called the brand signature/ design language etc). When one can seamlessly transition from concept to sample to production feasibility, incorporate top quality parameters into the final product, work with the production planning team to ensure best bulk output and finally also articulate how would it be displayed/catalogued, communicated/described and price it most effectively for a high sales velocity (effectively is not about being the lowest MRP achievable at a certain multiple but about fitting in with customer and pricing trends for similar brands). A designer’s mind needs to move from concept to revenue per option through the stages of shortlisting and finalizing, ruthlessly. Emotions have a role to play for most designers, right brained as they are. It’s a fine balance most designers will need to strike, and once they’re able to balance their emotions and commercial pragmatism, a designer is probably the biggest asset an organisation has, and the glue that keeps buying, merchandising, sourcing and retail planning stuck together on a journey to greatness”.

- Gautam Kotmraju, former Co-founder at CultSport, CultGear


Design lays the foundation of any apparel business. They are entrusted with bringing the brand alive and design clothes which don’t just look good, but also make the customers come back again and again.

With a systematic thought-through approach, as suggested in these articles, the design team will deliver business results and keep the customers coming back for more.

While there are a few notions which suggest otherwise, it’s important that the designers prioritise and look at the bigger picture.

I hope you enjoyed reading this series on The Myths of Fashion Design.