New Delhi: Consumers with an eye on fashion outside India’s biggest cities and living in towns such as Nashik, Raipur, Kanpur, Indore and Coimbatore are picking up clothes and accessories bearing the country’s top labels as they gain access to designer brands.

This growing interest has prompted Mumbai-based Kimaya Fashions Pvt. Ltd to launch Karmik, an affordable designer brand in Kanpur, Nagpur, Kochi, Pune, Surat and Vadodara through company owned stores and franchise outlets.

The few e-commerce sites that offer such designer labels are also seeing traction in small towns and cities. Pernia’s Pop-Up for instance sells apparel from established names such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal and Manish Malhotra as well as newer designers Masaba, Nikasha and Amit Aggarwal.

“Designers are responding to the need of the hour, creating bridging lines for easier access and selling them through e-commerce websites for a wider reach," said Pernia Qureshi, founder of the e-commerce website named after her. “More and more designers are coming on board and providing couture to a larger audience, keeping affordability in mind."

Although the bulk of the orders come from Mumbai and Delhi, people in Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Kanpur are also buying through the site. Designer wear in the range of 15,000 to 35,000 sells well, she said.

Kimaya’s website also offers consolidated inventory and merchandise from all their stores online. The online store was launched recently in a bid to amplify Kimaya’s presence in smaller cities and cater to international markets.

It plans Karmik stores in the state capitals of Lucknow, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. Shops were opened last year in Jaipur and Ludhiana apart from the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

Karmic stocks clothes designed by Rohit Bal, Shantanu and Nikhil, Ranna Gill, Neeta Lulla and Ritu Beri among others, priced at between 6,000 and 12,000. The brand offers anarkalis, tunics and saris.

“The potential of this new brand is immense. It is basically targeting the aspirations of women from both small towns as well as metros," said Pradeep Hirani, chairman and managing director, Kimaya Fashions.

Hirani has also expanded the flagship Kimaya brand to cities such as Bangalore, Surat, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Jaipur from its presence in Delhi National Capital Region, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. “With increased international travel, exposure and improved standards of living, these cities have immense untapped potential," he added.

The interest that people in smaller cities show in fashion has prompted several designers to tweak their business models and focus on this emerging segment.

Kolkata-based Sabyasachi Mukherjee, for instance, is eyeing cities such as Surat, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and Coimbatore.

“That’s where the money is right now. You have to treat these cities like a metro. Consumers here are going to go through a more conspicuous consumption pattern... more than the bigger cities," said Mukherjee. There are five Sabyasachi stores in the country.

Delhi-based Raghavendra Rathore, famous for his bandgalas and breeches on the ramp, is keen to make his brand a household name through partnerships.

“We have decided to divide the country into zones, which are classified on the basis of weather patterns, cultural behavior and accessibility," he said. “Our approach to these markets is through good partnerships. We intend to improve the design direction of the (partner) company, recalibrate our resources and explore every retail channel."

Designer Tarun Tahiliani said he wanted products that bear his name to be available to a larger but discerning audience and that mass production was not a priority.

“We have brought in specialists who are working towards introducing effective management and production methods. We are changing from an artistically run business to one that is rationally run," said Tahiliani, known for his contemporary Indian designs.

Designers and industry experts believe that money will come from these smaller markets, especially if the pricing is right.

“I think once you tweak your fabrics, change your price points, it becomes a far more democratic brand. We are trying to make newer products at more affordable price points," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee’s range starts from 2,500 with woven saris and accessories and goes up to 20 lakh.

Sunil Sethi, president, Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), expects designer labels will flourish in a multi-brand store format in markets such Indore and Raipur.

“I feel a multi-brand store format would work better in these markets as compared to single-brand stores. It leads to a more competitive environment where pricing will be key. Designers will have to reduce their margins as well as price points and work to achieve economies of scale," he said.

FDCI is a non-profit independent association of designers formed to propagate fashion in India.

The sector still faces challenges both online and off line in terms of secure payments, logistics and supply chain, apart from the prohibitive cost of real estate. But FDCI’s Sethi is upbeat.

“Almost a decade ago, designers were looking to get recognition from the West. Now they are focused on the Indian market. There is a customer throughout India. Tier II tier III cities would be a sure-shot winner and very relevant to the current fashion focus," he said.

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