Hotels in India » Fashion in India » Knitwear Industry India

Knitwear Industry India

The knitwear industry in India is poised for a major take-off in the world of fashion as designers find a lucrative outlet for their creative ideas.

With India’s rich history of textile traditions and the skills of her craftsmen, it is not surprising that the country should make a foray into the exciting world of woolen knitwear. With the help of the International Wool Secretariat (IWS) the Indian woolen knitwear industry has been groomed for the past three years to match its creative skills with international standards and also to improve its designing skills.

At the last knitwear show held in June 1992, nearly 33 knitwear manufacturers displayed 157 garments and 17 shawl manufactures showed 80 shawls for the local market. After the show retailers from all over the country were able to book for the autumn-winter ’92-93’ season. Booking was up by nearly 20 per cent from the previous year. This show has been held for the past three years with the help and guidance of the IWS Indian division.

For the woolen industry there are two types of wool used – the 100 per cent Australian wool for garments and shawls which is termed as apparel wool and the New Zealand or Indian wool which is used for non-apparel items like carpets, upholstery, blankets etc. Since the local wool is coarse it is ideal for no-apparel items. There are nearly a hundred different types of wool produced in Rajasthan in India.

The popular varieties are Chokla, Magna, Jaisalmer, Joria etc. These varieties are blended with New Zealand wool. “As far as the export market is concerned. India’s performance in woollen garments is quite negligible,” informs Dr. S.K.Chaudhuri, Director of IWS London, Indian Branch. With Italy being the number one woollen fabric manufacturer and Germany coming a close second there is not much chance for new entrants. In the knitwear division 80 per cent of the world exports are from Italy. Taiwan, Hongkong and Mauritius.

Every year India imports nearly 20 million kilogrammes of greasy wool from Australia for fabrics and shawls and nearly 16 million kilogrammes of clean scoured for non-apparel items. Nearly six million kilogrammes of wool is used per annum in India to produce knitwear.

“There is tremendous potential for exports from India of woollen knitwear,” enlightens Dr. Chaudhuri. But the West European market is fiercely competitive. “Fortunately in India it is a sellers market so it is easy,” he adds. But India can also be very competitive price-wise. The IWS has helped Indian manufacturers to learn about the latest trends in knitwear fashion. As a trend-setter they are able to forecast world trends. The IWS has also helped in bringing together Indian sellers and foreign buyers with the help of brochures and information on Indian knitwear. The first sample order of nearly 500.000 pieces from the UK last year will set the ball rolling followed by similar programmes in Germany and USA. A similar fabric sales export project of what garments and designs are in vogue was mooted in January 1992. A project is also underway to export woollen shawls to the European market. “ So far shawls were designed for the NRI market,” says Dr. Chaudhuri.

Wool that is imported into India goes through various stages before it is made into knitwear, shawls etc. In the scouring and processing stages the grease (lanolin) is removed and used for cosmetic purposes. After the blending, carding, combing and spinning processes the yarn is made into knitwear. Most of the units have their own designing forecast two years in advance. To give a further impetus to the woollen knitwear industry, manufacturers are in the process of bypassing two of the initial processes to reduce cost. The IWS is also trying to convert cotton knitwear manufacturers into woollen sections. In smaller towns like Bhiwandi in Maharashtra, a blend of wool and cotton will make the fabric more affordable.

The most popular wool used for knitwear is Merino which accounts for nearly 80 per cent. The balance 20 per cent is divided amongst various types like Mohair, Angora, Rabbit etc. Hand knitting wool is always 100 per cent Australian and there is a tremendous market for hand knitted garments for export all over the world. In the local market, knitwear has its major sales in north India because of the weather.

The interest in the woollen knitwear industry has definitely grown in the last three years. “At the first fashion show, the manufacturers were hesitant and only 14 took par. Last year the number went upto 33,” says Dr. Chaudhuri. Ludhiana in Punjab is the major centre for the woollen knitwear industry designers.

With the help of the IWS designers who come regularly to India the knitwear manufacturers are able to follow international trends. The IWS designers compile best selling collections from foreign markets and ask manufacturers to create garments accordingly. These garments are taken of UK, USA and other foreign buyers who then place their orders. To encourage the woollen knitwear industry further, design schools like the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, and National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad are encouraged to introduce their students to wool as a medium for design. A contest is held by IWS every year to select the best designer. The winning designer then wins a trip to the Hong Kong Wool Fair. Fashion trends for this autumn-winter as per the international and Indian predictions are exciting and vibrant.

For the autumn season three Indian spinners --- Punjab Worsted Spinners, Kohinoor Woollen Mills and Jayashree Textile – have developed new yarns and colours for ready sampling. The woolmark licensees get all the assistance required for their designing. The pure new wool yarn trends are in Merino, Lambswool, Misty, Roley and Dynasty. Merino is the classic wool in 28 shades. Lambswool is a high quality soft handle yarn. Misty is a natural brushed quality combining wool with Mohair in monochrome and multi-coloured shades softened by surface hair. Roley is a light monochrome stopino yarn which gives a soft dense look ideal for textural effects. And Dynasty is a precious fibre blend of pure new wool and kid Mohair Melange colouration. The fashion trends are divided into Morning, Noon and Evening colours and styles for ladies and gents knitwear.

The Morning section is city slick for a day at the office or at the shops. The colours are hazy morning colours of wool – white, light grey, fawn, mole brown, granite grey, camel with base shades like dark brown, sky blue. The shapes are the layered look for ladies which are over-sized with deep raglan or saddles sleeves and for gents it is the longer line cardigan shapes or a blouson pullover.

Noon colours are for casual lunches and relaxed sporty afternoons. The colours are warm shades of nutmeg brown, burnt orange, terracotta, sunshine yellow, light olive, sharp pink, lavender, mauve, sky blue. Women’s designs are once again with drop shoulders often slashed at the hemline for easy movement. Cocoon shapes are popular along with swinging cropped shapes. For gents the fisherman’s tunics are in, along with waist-coats to wear over pullovers.

For evening glamour there is a rich vibrant look for young collegiates and sophisticated party goers. Evening colours are more striking with forest green, emerald, cobalt, dark navy, dark purple, magenta, raspberry, crimson, dark brown and chestnut forming the basis with light olive, burnt orange and sunshine yellow accents. Shapes for ladies are Vee cardigan styles ribbed or tubular, belted to give a jacket look and for gents wear it is the short easy-fitting cardigans and pullovers to give a formal look. Even styling indications for shawls are distinct in colours and patterns.

With Indian Woollen knitwear manufacturers following the international fashion trends so closely it won’t be long before the domestic market in the country is flooded with high fashion knitwear and India will also be able to make her presence felt on the international fashion scene.