Aviraté: Shaping a global journey

  • Expands intoCanadaandSouth East Asiathis year
  • Spring/summer collectionfor 2014 to be outon Friday
  • Corporate wear – the trend for autumn/winterthis year
  • Newtechnologyutilised tomake businessglobally relevant


Four years since debuting their brand inSri Lankawith a collection of stunning cocktail dresses, Aviraté, the country’s very own high-fashion label, has expanded across India and is now planning to take over Canada and South East Asia by storm.


Sharing their future plans andnew productline-up, Aviraté Global CEO Jagdish Chawla and Aviraté Sri Lanka CEO Asim Younoos noted that the brand has well understood the playing field of the business and is now ready to expand their reach, carrying Sri Lanka’s name international with the latest cuts and designs.


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Chawla, heading the global operation since October last year brings in awealthof knowledge on retailers and trends having worked with different retailers of different nature over the past years. Having been part of Reliance India, churning out 1000 crores within a period of six years under his area of expertise in a business that was started from scratch– a number no retailer has done before, Chawla is confident that Aviraté’s story will continue along the success lines in the future.


Sri Lanka: a ‘never-before’


Calling Sri Lanka a ‘never-before’ destination, Chawla noted that the country is now at the peak for brands such as Aviraté to move forward and grow bigger. Sri Lanka is now both consumption ready as well as production ready.


“This is a ‘never-before’kindof phenomena for me becauseretailworldwide is happening in such a way that it offers huge opportunities for us to make use of,” he said. “The never-before phenomena is also because the consumer is now ready to take us in.”


For the brand, having Sri Lanka as its roots also works as a plus point withapparel and fashionpersons from around the globe identifying the destination as a high quality manufacturer. “Last month I attended the Fashion Forum in Bombay, at which the opening comments spoke of Sri Lanka. This country has contributed a lot towards the global map of fashion and design, creating a name as high quality manufacturers.”


Sailing on this wave, Aviraté is now poised forinternationalgrowth – “We are looking at making Aviraté the most happening brandglobally.”


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Snapshot of the global market


What is happening globally is a roller-coaster phenomenon, he expressed.


One of USA’s biggest retailers, Loehman’s is gone bust and started selling out on Thursday before last with the aim of closing its doors permanently. In Australia rival companies Myer and David Jones are looking at merging together to increase competiveness as shoppers go online. “Overall, there seems to be a steep decline inbusiness.”


However, in Korea, department stores declared a 7% growth in the business last year. One of Thailand’s best retailers, Robinson is moving in to Vietnam, opening two stores there. China is showing substantial growth in department store business as well, with projections showing China to take over 30% of the all department store sales.


According to Verdict’s ‘Global Department Store Retailing’ report, despite struggles and general underperformances, global department store market is expected to grow by 22.2% in the next five years, boosted by a 38.1% rise in China, which will account for almost half of the US$ 100 billion incremental spend.


Why go global?


Even though projection in the future seems rosy, why does Aviraté want to go global now, when the market is unstable in its performance?


“Being in a mature market and a very competitive one, we are looking at a 2x growth within the next two years,” Chawla said. “We are one of the best chosen brands. Why is it that we are surviving when we are a brick-and-mortar brand when business is going online? Because we have the guts to be with the environment, changing ourselves and bringing about the ‘newness’ the customer wants.”


“We represent fashion,” he added. “Through our mother company Timex, we have access to the world. We know what is happening, what brands are doing and why they are doing it. One of the brands doing extremely well is Ralph Lauren, recording a 14% growth in the last quarter when the whole economy is going down. Because he is one of our customers we know exactly what right moves they are making, and we learn with them.”


Global fashion is therefore an inherent part of Timex and is in their DNA, he expressed.


Expanding its global presence


Timex Garments launched Aviraté in 2010 offering their own designs to the Sri Lankan woman after years of manufacturing apparel to some of the world’s biggest names in the industry. Rising to fame within a short span of time, theyexpandedtheir scope toIndiain 2011. With ten stores in India and presence at the UB City Mall, one of the most prestigious malls next to Louis Vuitton at present, Aviraté is the only retailer who is profitable at store level in the country.


“We are one of the best chosen brands. Why is it that we are surviving when we are a brick-and-mortar brand when business is going online? Because we have the guts to be with the environment, changing ourselves and bringing about the ‘newness’ the customer wants – Aviraté Global CEO Jagdish Chawla”


Pick for 2014 is Canada. Chawla acknowledged that there has been a 1.5% decline in department store business in Canada over the last five years. “However, our colleague in Canada is asking us to send more of ponté pants and other products,” he expressed. “Why? Because we are able to understand our customer and the nuances of what the customer wants. This is why we are confident of going global.”


Currently, Aviraté is in four states including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, in a number of retail chains to get the ‘feel of it.’ The aim is to open their own store next season after understanding the market.


Future plans for the brand includes Middle East and SouthEast Asia.


Singapore is the next step in expanding in South EastAsia. “We have already signed up a property on Orchard Road which will be made in to our flagship store.”


The next stop is Indonesia. With a growing population and a projection to become the third biggest populated country in the world by 2030, taking over the likes of UK and Germany, Indonesia’s over-population is an advantage for the retailer, Aviraté Sri Lanka CEO Asim Younoos added. “It is a consumption driven economy. They do not produce a lot but they consume. It is a huge economy and a great opportunity for us.”


Trend evolution


When Aviraté was launched in 2010, it did so with a line up of some incrediblecocktail dresses.


But when they opened in India, family oriented Indian women found it hard to fit in to the dresses as easily as it was here, Chawla said. “Indian women are traditionally family oriented and she puts herself after family. She lets herself go. To cater to this market we launched ‘shape wear’,” he explained. Evidently, this was what the market needed. With a projection of 60,000 pieces annually, the trend has caught on and is well accepted among the Indian women.


Aviraté then had the opportunity to work with a Victoria’s Secret designer in tailoring a collection which was categorised under ‘glamour’. Glamour is said to represent the essence of Aviraté. “It makes the woman feel glamorous and sexy but is very conscious about the woman’s body and what she needs to feel comfortable in.”


Expanding the wardrobe in 2014


This year, the plan is to make the wardrobe even bigger.


The spring/summer collection for the year will be launched this Friday (28 February) across all stores in Sri Lanka and India. Younoos divulged that 160 new styles will be out in the stores varying from dresses to blouses, pants, to kaftans and accessories including scarves. “We will bring in new styles every week and we will keep them coming under five themes for the five months of the spring/summer collection,” Younoos said. The collection will take shape under various fabrics such as chiffon, crepe, matt jersey, georgette, cotton, etc and will be coloured in pastel colours – grey, nude, lavender, a hint of purple and of course black.


Aviraté, known for its prints will continue its innovative print designs in this collection as well.


Next in line for Aviraté is ‘corporate wear’. A new segment for the brand, the idea to bring in corporate wear came with the realisation that the demand for this category is growing due to the large number of high profile corporate women in the country. It is destined to go big, Chawla noted. “There are a lot of ambitious working women who demand corporate wear. This is the right time for us to launch this.”


He also observed that going global; the brand must represent every aspect of a woman and have a complete wardrobe for theconsumer. This collection is to be launched during the autumn/winter season.


Ponté pants


The brand will also launch the revolutionary product, ponté pants this year.


Describing it as a ‘diet pant’ Chawla noted that you don’t have to be on a diet to wear the pants and that it would falter any body type. Made from a viscose fabric, these pants fit well, hugging the curves, enhancing shape and hiding the parts that women are not too proud of. It is also a two-way stretch, making it more comfortable for the wearer.


Additionally, it doesn’t carry the weight of denim, has no zips or buttons.  “The idea is based on comfort. You are relaxed wearing this. It is a trouser and can be worn as a formal or informal setting. It has the comfort of being casual and at the same time look formal.”


It also comes in different colours. This has become quite a hit in Canada, Chawla said.


Resort wear 2015


Think a year ahead, Aviraté projects the next big thing to be the resort wear segment. By 15 March this year, the initial concept of 2015 spring/summer resort wear collection will be ready, he said. “We are focusing on an aspect of business which is likely to be the most happening thing next year – resort wear. People want to be relaxed and free and this is the best option.”


Technology for development


Omni channel: Chawla described key trends that are being utilised by Aviraté to expand their global presence.


Omni channel retail is one such concept. This successfully mergers the use of online and offline methods to create a complete experience to the customer. “We are redefining ourselves and taking a hybrid model – best of both worlds,” he explained. “Our customer will have the choice to experiment with our various touch points and have a complete Aviraté experience.”


Mobile wallet: With mobile technology developing as a key trend in the future, the concept of mobile wallet will be brought in to the global shopping experience. Aviraté is already looking at using this to their advantage.  “In a store when there is a crowd, especially during seasons, sales staff could make a bill on the ipad or mobile phone through which you can make a payment and walk out of the store – those are the conveniences we are going to add to give a complete Omni channel experience. This is what we are gearing up for.” They have already looked at a partner in India for this.


“This is the type of a multi channel, multi touch point, seamless new business model we are looking at. We are looking at personalised in-store experience for Indian customers who want luxury by introducing various technologies.”


Pop-up stores: The emergence of mobile business is also likely to gather momentum in the future. Having already tried this at the Gurgaon DLF Mall where they created a pop-up store before the launch of the mall to get a feel of the business, Chawla anticipates that it is going to be used more widely in the future.


Redundant loyalty cards: Loyalty cards are now becoming redundant. “In US on average, a consumer becomes a loyal customer to 7.4 different programs a year, but within the year 68% of the people stops using them. We are therefore moving out of the loyalty program and going for a more appropriate program.” In India Aviraté has joined hands with technology partner Capillary, to design a system which identifies loyalty cards and points through the mobile number of the consumer. The points will automatically get added up at the point of purchase when the customer produces his/her mobile number. This would also help Aviraté give specific promotion tailor made for customers.