Cotton knitwear has acquired a new and fashionable dimension.
Already in vogue around the world knitwear has now become very
popular in the Indian market.
When one talks of casual
wear the first item that one thinks of is knitwear and that normally
means of T-shirt would have been termed as a vest and would have been
relegated into the underwear department. Today, come summer and it
is time for cotton knitwear and every year there is a seasonal spurt
of T-shirt manufacturers who take advantage of the season in India
and abroad. Since 1980 the knitwear market in India for the local
and export sections has acquired a new and fashionable dimension.
Initially a garment worm on the playgrounds, the T-shirt began to
attain a certain amount of dignity as world and Indian designers
looked at it with new-found respect. It is therefore not surprising
to see cotton knitwear at informal functions or even in offices.
Indian exports for knitwear are already quite phenomenal since India
is able to provide reasonably priced fashion knits for the world
Knitwear forms a
very important facet of the Indian readymade garment industry. This
can be gauged by the fact that it accounts for nearly 35 per cent of
the total garment exports from India, says Ashok Rajani,
Managing Director of Midas Touch Exports who have manufacturing units
in Bombay and Tirupur where most of the knitwear in India is
In the early days of the
knitwear evolution, Ludhiana and Calcutta were the prime production
centres. But today Tirpur which was at one time a small shanty
township in south India has developed into a major production centre
and accounts for nearly Rs. 850 crores of knitwear exports. This
amounts to nearly 40 per cent of Indias total knitwear outflow.
developed into a legend because of historical reasons and an abundant
availability to high quality cotton and skilled labour force. India
has a competitive edge in the manufacturing of readymade garments
including knitwear, explains Rajani.
The main items of export
in knitwear are elegant mens T-shirts, fancy ladies T-shirts
with exquisite embroidery and sequined work, night shirts for ladies
and mens pyjamas sets and sportswear and jogging suit and boxer
From the original
sinkerbody and interlock fabrics for knitwear which had a problem of
shrinkage and shape, the knitwear fabrics have moved onto double
sinker and interlock and a new liquid jersey which is a
blend of rayon and cotton specially developed by Midas Touch.
Techniques of designing,
printing, embroidery and dyeing of the fabric have become well
developed. Most of the countries where knitwear products are
exported from India cover a wide market area right from the mail
order and fashion houses in Europe to the trend setting boutiques in
USA and Canada. Japan, Australia and the Middle East are also
important markets for knitwear merchandise which have come of age.
With India doing well on
the export front for knitwear, it is only natural that the next step
was to introduce the knitted garments in the Indian market and this
was done by several established exporters who had the expertise and
background in the business. Since knitwear exports are limited and
seasonal, most exporters entered the local market to ensure
continuity in production as garments in knits were more suited to a
tropical climate with a year round demand. Where knitwear scores in
the export and local markets is in childrens wear section.
Cotton knitwear is the ideal fabric for childrens wear
worldwide because of its comfort and easy styling. Right from
newborns to teenagers both in India and for export, Indian knitwear
scores high on the buyers lists.
In the Indian market the
styles favoured are comparable to those available in the West.
T-shirts, skirts, dresses, leotards, bermudas, shorts and even
jackets are the best seller. While double sinker body is popular for
the export market its interlock that is favoured by the local market.
The most popular embellishments range from funky prints to slogans,
patches, appliqués, lace, sequins to wooden beads, shells,
hand painting and zardozi. The permutations and combinations are
mind-blowing. As far as silhouettes are concerned it varies from
from-fitted tube tops to the baggy sweat shirt and jogging pants.
With the body conscious look very much in vogue all over the world,
knitwear becomes the ideal form of clothing that can achieve the body
conscious look that is so much aspired for by designers and the
fashion elite. The Knitfabric has the unique capacity of stretching
to fit snugly over the body and yet should the style demand it, can
flow freely. Dresses, skirts minis, midis, maxis, coats make an
appearance. Colourwise the selection is wild and vibrant. There is
a lot of black and brights like red, fuchsia, navy,
turquise, emerald and purple. But there is an equal amount of
pastels as well.
In the local market the
credit of uplifting the T-shirt- a humble knitwear garment-goes to
Smash T-shirts by Apeego Corporation in 1981 and soon the
doors of the domestic business were flung open paving the way for new
entrants nearly every year. After the initial onslaught of brands in
the local market it was the professional who survived. Yet every
year new labels do make an entrance with fancy brand names.
besides exporting knitwear, also markets the local range of Zee Club,
Zee Kid and Miss Zee line of knitwear garment sin India. In he
local market the styling is far more exciting and intricate and one
has to be always ahead of competition, confirms Rajani.
There are no specific
figures available regarding the sales of T-shirts in the local market
unlike export. But on a rough assessment the market is worth around
Rs. 250 crores annually and growing. There are several branded
garments in knitwear in India and as many unbranded ones and the
competition is very keen.
Knitwear ranges for the
local and export market are presented twice, a year. While for the
local market they are geared mainly for the summer and festive
seasons, for exports they are only aimed for the summer season in the
West. Each manufacturer presents nearly 100 styles per season. Very
often in the local markets, blends and acrylic knits are very much in
demand though for export it is only the cotton knit that is favoured.
While India has to compete with Hong Kong. Taiwan and Bangkok in
the export of cotton knits, it had managed to carve a special niche
for itself because of its innovations in styling and quality control.
In the local market it is the styling that makes all the difference
while in the export market it is the ultimate quality of the fabric
and the finish of the garment that is important.
The manufacturer of a
T-shirt or a knit garment is very easy since it requires little
skill. Fabrics are easily available in the market and can be styled
and stitched without much effort. In India the competition is
keen not only between well known and little known domestic brands but
also from export surplus which is available at throwaway prices.
Knitwear today has become an accepted from of wear because of the new
emphasis on leisure and casualness. With the increase in jeans and
denims the T-shirt or a knit garment is the perfect accompaniment