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Saturday, Jul 30, 2005

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Sindhu Bhattacharya

Many women professionals own several pairs of shoes, each meant for a different occasion. As for accessories, gold is out, but diamonds, platinum and white gold hold their fancy.

A friend was horrified to see me reach for a sari to wear to work. "Who wears a sari to work anymore? I wouldn't like to be seen in one, and what's more, I wouldn't like to be seen with someone wearing a sari to work either," she said, grimacing. Many working women today opt for western wear, and many eschew traditional Indian wear even when attending a formal do in the office.

But whatever the choice of clothing, one thing is clear — a well-stocked wardrobe appears to be a priority for a lot of people who allocate a substantial monthly budget for clothes and accessories.

Reema Bhatia, vice-president at a multinational company, says she prefers to wear trousers and formal shirts to office, and more often than not shops for her office wardrobe abroad. "I like the cuts and fabric that some foreign brands offer and, anyway, I do not have the time to run around getting my clothes stitched. Besides, shopping for clothes and accessories like perfume is fun. The brands I wear include Wills Lifestyle and Westside, and foreign labels such as Gracy's and Katies. I also wear Indian dresses such as churidar-kurta but this is rare."

Many women professionals prefer western footwear brands as well, owning several pairs of shoes, each meant for a different occasion. And when it comes to accessories, gold is a strict no-no. "I wear only diamonds to work, gold is slowly going out of style and I have exchanged many gold trinkets and even bangles for diamond-studded jewellery. Diamonds on white gold and platinum go well with both Indian and Western wear," says a senior marketing professional.

And the amount these middle-managerial level women spend on their wardrobe each month? Anywhere upward of Rs 5,000, with clothes, shoes and accessories largely bought on impulse.

Take Deepak, a young journalist who has just begun working in Delhi. "Clothes are important to me, some months I spend up to 50 per cent of my salary on clothes and accessories such as shoes, perfumes and other lifestyle products." He mostly goes for branded wear, as he is "assured about style and product quality".

And it is not only the earning classes who are sprucing up their wardrobes but also youngsters, who are spending out of their pocket money. Priyanka Iyer, mother of two daughters aged 19 and 21, says the girls' buying spree generally lasts over a six-month period, when each spends up to Rs 15,000 on clothes and accessories. Belts, shoes, chappals, bags and perfumes make up 20 per cent of the buys. "Low-waist trousers, big belts and tops are the usual picks. My girls shop both at the flea markets such as Janpath and also pick up well-known brands," she says.

According to the annual Consumer Outlook survey conducted by retail consultancy KSA Technopak, typically teenagers are spending the largest amount on books and music followed by apparel and footwear, so that eating out is relegated to third priority. The study segmented consumers into three categories — Technologies' Babies (8-19 years), Impatient Aspirers (20-25 years) and Balance Seekers (26-50 years). The Balance Seekers, comprising the largest chunk of 41 million people, preferred eating-out over other activities.

A robust Indian economy has meant ringing cash registers for retailers and lifestyle brands over the last few years, with consumer spending up 16 per cent in 2004 over the previous year. The KSA Technopak survey found that increased consumer spending has led to a boom in lifestyle products even as spending on routine, daily-use items has dwindled.

Picture by Bijoy Ghosh

Location courtesy: The Helvetica, Chennai

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