Most men can’t bring themselves to shop. After a while, indigo starts to look like Prussian blue, so female company is always welcome on any excursions that involve the wardrobe. This, it turns out, has not only worked out well for the men doing the shopping, but more so for the labels they shop at.

A number of menswear brands have now introduced women’s workwear lines. A growing market for officewear is the main reason, but men’s brands also realized that since women were already familiar with their brands, and regularly visited the stores anyway, it made perfect sense.

In the past, Western-style officewear for women has never been an area in which a large number of players have wanted to set up shop. Today, the tide has turned, even at Raymond. The ‘Complete Man’ may not have to share shelf space with the ladies just yet, but two brands under Raymond’s umbrella—Park Avenue and ColorPlus—have recently launched collections for women. Miss Players, the female sidekick of ITC’s John Players, was launched in June. Madura Garments has had a headstart—Van Heusen’s women’swear line been around for almost a year, while Allen Solly launched five-and-a-half years ago and have been showing their collections at Lakme Fashion Week for three seasons already. A select number of these brand’s stores will sell the women’s collection, besides setting up exclusive stores for the ladies. Currently, though, there aren’t too many of these combined stores, so a couple might find their joint shopping spree turn into a one-sided affair.

Smart casuals from ColorPlus

Shreyas Joshi, president, Raymond Apparel Ltd, says the firm has been working on launching womenswear for two years. In their research, they found that working women were unhappy with the fit of trousers and jackets currently available in the market. The second complaint was that the styles were limited. Joshi says they made the first grouse their main focus—the designers for Park Avenue and ColorPlus conducted trials and sizing on different body structures and currently have two fits—slim and comfort—for trousers and will soon introduce another.

Even at Miss Players, the fit was the focus. “We undertook research to arrive at fits which are appropriate for the silhouettes of women in India. After that, trials were conducted across cities to validate the fits developed," says Atul Chand, vice-president, marketing, ITC Lifestyle Retailing.

Park Avenue and ColorPlus were already known names so, Joshi says, they wanted to ride on the same brand names as consumers were confident of them and “were excited to know that brands from Raymond were doing womenswear".

The company set up a separate unit in Bangalore to design and manufacture the new additions. Park Avenue Woman offers business formals, business wear for leisure and even evening business wear. “We’ve tried to make it a seamless solution from work to evening," says Joshi. “Jackets, trousers, skirts and blouses are all sold as separates, but fabrics match, so if you want to go from office to a party, take off or put on a jacket and you’re set," he says.

At ColorPlus, it is a bit more easy-going. Smart casual is what the brand is aiming at and there are options if you want something for a semi-formal business meet, a sporty or outdoor event and a casual night out. It also includes add-ons such as belts, bags, shoes and scarves. Besides shirts, blouses and trousers, Miss Players’ Autumn/Winter collection will have additions such as belts and bags, besides a range of business suits, jackets and sweaters.

The brands offer complete looks, with accessories, because, as Dikshit says, women are always looking for a full ensemble. “Men look at shirts, then they have a look at the trousers. Women want to try on a whole look together," he says.

The brands have also made a few changes for their women customers. Dikshit says Allen Solly and Van Heusen introduced female sales staff in the stores which carry the women’s line. Their women’swear designers travel frequently, keep close track of fashion trends and interpret them to fit the brand. It’s a good start.