Jiggy George, founding partner at Mojostar, the joint venture between licencing and merchandising firm Dream Theatre and celebrity management company Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, is busy planning his next fashion lines with celebrities. A few months ago, he launched Just F and Prowl with actors Jacqueline Fernandes and Tiger Shroff, respectively. Both brands are in the performance wear space. Now he’s looking to launch a line of casual footwear, as well as a line of ethnic wear, with celebrities whose names are still under wraps.

Anjana Reddy, founder and chief executive officer of Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd (USPL), is also busy expanding Wrogn, the casual wear line for men that USPL launched in association with Virat Kohli. Reddy, though unwilling to disclose the nature of the tie-up with the cricketer, says the brand is doing very well.

In the past couple of years, there’s been a surge in celebrity-led brands entering the apparel market with at least two—Just F and Prowl—launching this year. Among others are actors Shahid Kapoor’s Skult, Sonam and sister Rhea Kapoor’s Rheson, Anushka Sharma’s Nush and Hrithik Roshan’s HRX. A number of these are in the fitness and athleisure, or active wear, space.

George says the company saw a gap in the women’s performance wear space and tied up with Jacqueline Fernandes. “She epitomizes fashion, fitness and fun—the three pillars of Just F," he explains. With Prowl, it filled the white space for an active lifestyle brand for 18-24 year olds–an audience that Tiger Shroff addresses. The brands are available exclusively on Amazon and on the brands’ websites. Wrogn, meanwhile, boasts of a wider physical distribution network and targets 22 to 28 year olds.

So what’s fuelling interest in casual and active wear? “For starters, there’s a growing culture to dress down rather than dress up. It is pretty okay not to wear formal clothes to work. And that’s spiralling the casual wear market around sports," says George. He adds that the sportswear market (comprising performance wear, sports-inspired and outdoor wear) in India is pegged at 44,010 crore in sales value, and is expected to touch 95,000 crore by 2022, as per research firm Euromonitor. The market is still under-served and, with fitness trend growing by leaps and bounds, the potential is immense, he feels.

It’s easy to see why celebrity-owned fashion brands attract consumers. India is known for its love for sports and Bollywood. Stars have a huge following, especially on social media such as Instagram, and bring a lot of attention to brands. Clearly, that’s a big pull factor for the glamour-struck consumers.

Besides, fashion as a product category, especially apparel and accessories, is very different from most other product categories, as fashion brands are rarely bought for their tangible attributes or any specific set of functional benefits. Instead, by and large, fashion brands are built on the strength of their projected imagery that conveys a certain mood or a personality to resonate with the consumer’s self-image and perceived social image.

“Since fashion brands carry badge value and are often a visible symbol of social status, their primary role is to help consumers allay social risks and enjoy social acceptance, approval and admiration," says Samit Sinha, brand expert and managing partner at Alchemist Brand Consulting. “With very few exceptions, the differences between one fashion brand and another are established by each one’s signature style and tonality, rather than any product USP. And since imagery tends to be abstract, and often quite subtle and nuanced, a celebrity does help the fashion brand sharply express its own distinct identity."

Sinha says when celebrities launch their own fashion lines, they are extending their own personality to the product, thereby transferring the perceptions that the celebrity already owns in people’s minds. “This makes the category of fashion brands particularly well suited for celebrity association. Depending upon the celebrity used, the core target for the brand would overlap with the fan-base of the celebrity itself."

However, George is quick to add that celebrities are no substitute for the traditional marketing mix: A good product, pricing and distribution. Besides, India is as yet way behind the developed markets in celebrity fashion, where stars such as Kanye West (Yeezy), Kate Hudson (Fabletics) and Kylie Jenner (Kylie Cosmetics) have their own hugely successful product lines.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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