Environmental issues, now on the sleeves
Environmental issues, now on the sleeves

 Probably, the issue that has united the world, the most, is that of global warming. Industries across the world are actively integrating social and environmental factors into business decisions. Consumers too have become aware about the gravity of the issue and thus there is an increasing demand for goods that are environment-friendly. Cosmetics and food have already gone organic, now apparels too have followed suit.

“Organic clothing has important environmental benefits, by not using synthetic fertilizers but natural dyes we reduce the pollution of ground water and promote biodiversity. In organic agriculture by using a balanced amount of insects we trap carbon in the soil, which naturally takes out pest from the cotton without using any external chemicals” describes Ms. Aarti Nagaraja, Managing Director, Zeme Organics Pvt. Ltd.

 The Indian Retail Scenario

The concept of organic clothing is new to India; it gained popularity with the launch of designer Anita Dongre’s label 'Grassroot', the eco-friendly clothing line showcased at Wills India Fashion Week, 2007.

Madura garments recently launched its new organic range for its brand Van Husen. Sports brands are not behind either, brands like Nike and Timberland, have started using organic fabrics, to some extent, in their sports wear. Also, international designers like Katherine Hamnett and Stella McCartney use organic cotton in their designer outfits. Levis is about to launch its organic line for male and female denims called Levis- Eco in India, which is already present in the US market. Bangalore based Zeme Organics and Ludhiana based UV&W are also retailing organic clothes through their exclusive brand outlets as well as multi-brand outlets, across India.

“The domestic market for organic clothing opened in November 2008 when recession had a comparatively stable front. That was the best time to have a fresh approach towards a novel idea,” said Mr. Rajat Mishra, Vice President Marketing ad Design, Venus Garments (parent company of UV&W).  

 The Price and Customer Factor

Are organic clothes costlier than normal cotton clothes? Are they affordable? Are the consumers keen to buy them? These questions pop up in one’s mind, while thinking about this new emerging apparel trend.

“The dyes and yarns used in making organic cloths are costlier, moreover, we need to pay advance to the seller, as the buyers for the organic products are a very few. The inventory cost is more and also training the employees with respect to the organic products also weighs heavily on the pocket,” says Mr. Mishra.

Commenting on the consumers and the target group, Ms. Nagaraja avers “Our target group includes anyone, who is conscious about saving the environment. But since these products are about 20-40 per cent costlier than normal cotton products the families with an income of Rs 50,000 and above per month can easily afford these clothes.”

Organic clothes are priced between Rs 140 and Rs 1800 at Zeme Organics, whereas UV& W has fixed the prices for organic infants thermals at Rs 59 and jumpsuits at Rs 400. Women thermals are priced at Rs 199. Organic sweat shirts are available for Rs 1000, and jackets for Rs 2300.

Upcoming Trends

Organic clothes were marked as uncomfortable and unappealing till recently, but now they are becoming a part of the fashion scene. Many designers are coming out with eco friendly attire, which will add to their success. The style range is lesser than that of normal cotton clothes but its catching up as new designs and merchandise are being developed to keep pace with the rising demand for organic clothing.  

“Other countries have all kinds of merchandise like garments, home furnishing, and accessories etc. When there will be an increasing demand for organic products in India, the cost of the product will come down and the other merchandise in organic clothing will be introduced. We at Zeme are coming up with Yoga wear in the next two years,” says Ms. Nagaraja.

Marketing Strategy

The organic clothing market is a very raw one; it needs a huge push to reach the level of regular clothing market. The main reason behind this is less demand due to lack of awareness. Mr. Mishra says “The strategy here is of word-of-mouth. Organic clothing is less of a commodity and more of an idea or concept; it’s a revolution towards a better living. The whole concept should be promoted and not just a product. We need to endorse that the best way to live is to go organic. This will in turn increase the customer base.”

Staff Training

Besides, the concept, strategy, consumers, and future plans, the most important aspect of any venture is the staff that sells directly to consumers. If the staff at the store is not well trained, knows nothing about the brand and can’t sell the brand according to its value, it’s a red alert, which makes staff training one of the highest priorities.

“People who work for us are made to understand what is organic cotton, how it helps our environment. So that they can explain it to the customers, which will help them, shed their inhibition regarding price etc” says Ms. Nagaraja.

As the awareness about saving the environment will increase among the consumers the demand for organic clothes/products will increase in the market. With huge benefits and tremendous potential organic clothing surely is a lucrative idea to invest in!

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