‘Gen Z knows what it wants to wear. Many Indian designers don’t’ | Mint – Mint

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“The Indian fashion consumer has changed but designer brands haven’t,” says Narendra Kumar. In a career spanning over two decades, the Mumbai-based designer, known for his menswear, has worked in varied spaces. 

He was the creative head of Amazon Fashion India for 11 years; the fashion editor of Elle India magazine; a stylist for films like Priyanka Chopra-Jonas-starrer Fashion, and personalities, including Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Jeff Bezos; helped launch Anita Dongre’s westernwear label AND; and developed collections for brands like Westside. Kumar did all this while running his eponymous bespoke label as well as FKNS, his other brand that combines streetwear with high fashion. 

Now, he’s launching another brand that offers women clothes with contemporary-meets-traditional touch. Called Tamiska by Narendra Kumar, the offerings include long printed shirts, kaftans, kurtas and trousers that encourage the AM-PM dressing lifestyle—something that, he says, is in sync with the demands of today’s young consumer.  

In an interview with Lounge, the designer talks about how millennials and Gen Zers are affecting the fashion and design landscape, how streetwear is shaping menswear, and the importance of physical retail. Edited excerpts:

From working in retail to running your own business, you’ve worked in varied spaces. What has been your biggest learning?

The pressures are very different, you had to do whatever was needed to survive while creating a thinking person’s brand with value. Resilience is the most important story I have learnt. Amazon showed me the real world of the value customer. With my brand, I can reach a small number of people, the elite, because of the value of the goods. But Amazon gave a chance to change the way a billion and a half people live and shop. 

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Narendra Kumar

How has the fashion industry evolved over the past decade?

Social media has homogenized the entire country, as consumers have access to the same images and the same brands. Five years ago, you needed an influencer to tell you how to wear your clothes; it continues to be strong in digital marketing. But I think women are more confident with their style today, and don’t necessarily need the confidence from an influencer. You don’t even have to sell them a whole look—give them a pair of flared jeans, and they will put together a look. The Internet age has made the new consumer more confident and value-driven.

Also, let’s not forget that millennials have more money and are aware of what they want and pay for. Gen Z will buy stuff, repeat too, but at a lower value. Together they are a large market and will remain for the next 20 years. In terms of design, older millennials want to dress like Gen Z, because the older you are, the younger you want to dress, so Gen Z conversations affect both. 

What’s your approach to design, especially when it comes to Tamiska?

I always dress for the mind more than the body. Across the country, women have similar lifestyles, homogenized with social media. That is our consumer today—there is no difference between tier one, two or three cities. The consumer is more a mindset than an economic set. It is about making trends accessible through fit and with value. If you see the visual merchandising of any multi-brand store today, like, say, Shoppers Stop, you will see one colour story picked up from different brands to create one look. 

That’s how brands look at trends—they check colour trends on WGSN (and similar sites) and have different interpretations of the same colour story. With Tamiska, we offer that within one brand. We will have about eight colours every season and each colour will have eight to 10 different types of prints, so you have multiple aesthetic options in your favourite colour, be it abstract or florals. So, you can wear five different tops with one matching bottom. More like a Monday to Monday brand for a working woman, to take you from work to lounge easily. 

From Tamiska

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From Tamiska

What about trends in menswear?

The male customer, between the age group 28-45, has gotten more sophisticated. But what is available from Indian designers is only weddingwear. So, they need clothes that speak their language. Sales of big brands known for their woollen suits and blazers are going down, because the consumer today, even a banker, will wear a linen jacket if given an option. 

The consumer has changed, but the people providing the product haven’t really. Now is the right time to create brands for the next 20 years because Gen Z is changing the way fashion is consumed. They know what they want to wear but many Indian brands don’t.

Streetwear is affecting menswear too; and I’m launching one label in this category soon.

Your thoughts on fashion weeks?

For a long time, everything was just about weddings and I got bored of putting paisley in different places in different colours, season after season. I have only now started seeing new streetwear brands, so I think there is some hope. Otherwise, there is no newness in any fashion brand. When fashion weeks started, there was no social media and the press was the king, so fashion weeks gave the visibility a brand needed. They still do. Today, if you have the money, you can be all over social media. Press opinion still matters. But this is countered by the fact that Gen Z does not require all of this, as they are getting their inspiration from the streets and social media.

How important is an omnichannel presence?

Physical retail is important for your brand to come alive (Tamiska has a physical store in Parel, Mumbai); the older generation and millennials still want experiences. But Gen Z wants to be taken into the metaverse. So there is definitely value in e-commerce.

Also read: Social media has democratised fashion, says Mac Duggal

Dhara Vora Sabhnani is a Mumbai-based writer. 

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