In focus High-fashion retail in the city has grown exponentially in the last decade. ZEENAB ANEEZ traces the fashion evolution

When couturier JJ Valaya visited Hyderabad earlier this year, he said that the city is at “that exciting stage in fashion literacy” where customers are getting exposed to various new styles within the city itself, but prefer to buy in the countries other fashion centres.

He is both right and wrong; we spoke to designers and buyers in the city to trace the evolution of high fashion in the city and what fledgling designers should keep in mind about the Hyderabadi buyer.

The retail market is growing exponentially as buying power increases, and fashion conscious Hyderabadis don’t have to look very far to find attire that matches their expectations.

Two decades ago, Elahe was one of the few boutiques that stocked big names from the Indian fashion scene, but today, it is near impossible to drive through Banjara Hills without spotting a store that sells exclusive, designer wear – by national as well as local designers.

According to Smita Shroff of Elahe, who has been tuned to the city’s fashion scene for the last 13 years, Hyderabad ranks third or fourth largest market in India and it is only growing.

“Earlier, designers were few but in the last six years, we have actually brought down all the big designers into the city. Previously, only a few customers who could afford it would travel outside the city and buy but not everyone could do that,” she explains. Exposure and availability, she adds, have played a major role in shaping the current customer base.

Traditional vs. western

When it comes to traditional wear, however, Hyderabad is right on top. While many young designers start out with a focus on western wear, they eventually move into Indian clothes too. Madhu Verma of local label Monk, says, “My strengths lies in drapes and western cuts but I end up doing more of kurtas and lehengas. Indian clothes are what sell here,” he informs. Rajeev Kanth agrees, “Traditional wear also sells at a higher bracket. Indo-western wear retails better in other cities.”

Even when it comes to the higher end of the market, according to Smita, Kanjeevarams and woven saris are always in demand in the city. However, young designer Archana Rao’s label Frou Frou is faring well, she says. She also showcased her stuff at Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2013 and retails in Bombay and Delhi as well. “I do sell more in those markets and I feel like my clients there are more fitting in their sense of style. However, the people here are open to new designers and experimenting with their style,” she says. Archana too has started making Indian wear which is very simplistic and contemporary.

Keeping it unique

Fashion blogger and stylist, Karuna Reddy says “Hyderabad is the next Ludhiana or Delhi when it comes to retail. Three favourite words which will guarantee a brand business are Luxury, Exclusive and Limited edition.”

These, it seems are the word on everyone’s lips and customers value the clothes less if they are available here. Echoing the point made by JJ Valaya, Smita says that customers prefer to buy their products from the designer’s flagship stores. This maybe so that they can create a personal relationship with the designer but there was also a misconception that we get the leftover pieces or the perception that what’s available here is more accessible to everyone else in their circle. “This posed a real challenge a few years ago but things have changed. The sector is a lot more organised now and us buyers have more control. You can say that Hyderabad has arrived in that sense,” she concludes.

Kanjeevarams and woven saris are always in demand