A comforting and cosy environment is the first thing we think of when it comes to our kids and at every step we endeavour to provide them with the utmost comfort in every sphere of their lives. This is true when it comes to what they wear, especially their innerwear. In fact, kids are naturally intuitive and let us know if they are uncomfortable in something. They usually instinctively resist rough fabrics, tight waistbands and cuffs, scratchy elastics and any other garment that is harsh to their skin. With their skin being sensitive, we need to be extra careful with what we make them wear ensuring it’s soft to touch and feel. Here we trace what brands do to ensure that what they have to offer in kids’ inner wear is of the best quality at a reasonable price.
What do parents look for?.We’ve already established that parents prefer soft and comfortable clothes when it concerns their children. Seconding this Ms Sheela Kochouseph, Managing Director, V-star Creations Pvt. Ltd. tells us, “Quality fabric, attractive colours and fit are considered to be key factors while selecting kids’ innerwear.”
Mr Mithun Gupta, Director, Bodycare International Ltd. comments, “Comfort, fit and quality are the first and foremost demands by parents while buying innerwear for their kids. Bodycare International uses 100 per cent soft cotton single jersey, lycra sinker and rib fabric in their kids’ innerwear. However, although cotton is an evergreen fabric, apart from that we try to play with other body-friendly fabrics like lycra sinker, rib, etc.”
Mr Ankit Jain, Mini Mondo by Zoom says, “Earlier cartoon characters were in demand, now people are looking for comfort. Now they are focussing on quality of the product. Earlier, price was an issue, but now people are willing to spend if the product is of good quality. They may not spend on themselves but will spend any amount on their kids.”
The brand Chicita, too focuses on designs, fit, comfort and price as this is what parents look for.
Mahesh D Vora, Proprietor, Red Rose states, “Parents demand for soft fabric of superior quality with the designer look. The most common fabric varieties available in market are hosiery cotton, lycra and cotton/ polyester blends.”
While fabric, fitness, design, etc., are important factors while selecting kids innerwear, the brand too is important. Mr Vinod Kumar Gupta, MD, Dollar Industries Ltd. opines, “While purchasing underwear for kids, majority of the Indian middle class parents consider fitness and fabrics as the topmost factors. Apart from that, the variety of styles, designs and colours and the brand name gets second priority. Consumers look for brand names for ensuring quality of products with wide range and variety from the brands. Price is also a factor but the consumers are ready to spend for good quality and well fitted undergarments.”
Besides, Mr Ankit explains that they manufacture 100 percent cotton products. “There’s more quantity of lycra in the products, which gives comfort and is long-lasting as well. Three types of fabrics are in trend now—Single Jersey fabric, 1×1 rib, Interlock, which are all 100 per cent cotton. These fabrics are preferred for kidswear largely and 80 per cent products are made out of Single Jersey fabric. The cost goes higher for 1×1 rib and Interlock fabrics; also, the demand for this is less, hence, most kidswear is made out of Single Jersey,” he further adds.
Also, the fabric V-Star uses to manufacture kids innerwear is 100 per cent cotton. “We consider safety, hygiene, style, fit, comfort, trend, models, and colours while designing kids’ innerwear,” Ms Sheela states.
Innovation is the key
Though 100 per cent cotton is generally used to manufacture this segment, companies are constantly coming up with something new to better the product in every way.
Mr Gupta says, “Generally, while making kids undergarment, special care has been given regarding the selection of quality of materials, comfort and other necessary things. In Dollar we use 100 per cent combed cotton for kids’ trunk, 94 per cent cotton and 6 per cent Elastane for kids’ briefs. There’s no compromise in qualitative aspect when it comes to kids’ innerwear. From the manufacturing process, special attention is being paid on the quality aspect of kids’ undergarment.”
Mini Mondo too uses 100 per cent cotton for these garments and takes special care of the fabric. “Kids’ skin is very sensitive and chemicals are uses for dyeing the garments in various colours such as red, navy, etc. So, to eliminate the harsh effects of these chemicals there’s an operation in the processing itself called Biowash. We incorporate this biowash element our kidswear. Biowash eradicates the effects of chemicals,” explains Mr Ankit.
Single Jersey as the fabric is thinner and good for the hot season. “In single jersey more products are 115-120 gsm and so it’s light and people prefer it. The other two fabrics is 155-160 gsm and the fabric is a little thicker and heavier. So, it’s a matter of choice but most of our products are made in Single Jersey. Also, we use lycra waistband instead of regular elastic, which leaves marks on the kids’ skin and also causes itching during summers. We do not use the regular elastic at all for kidswear. The waistband contains 8-10 per cent lycra yarn and 90 per cent cotton,” he mentions.
Red Rose is another brand that uses bio-wash cotton, which gives the garment a soft feel and makes it durable besides always using 100 per cent combed cotton for kids innerwear.
“Customers are giving more importance to safety, quality, hygiene, and comfort. When it comes to quality, V-Star never compromises. It has a strong focus on Research and Development to ensure quality and safety standards,” says Ms Sheela.
Creating a quality product involves a lot of research and development and the challenge is also to keep the timelines tight to meet the rising market demands. So how long do companies take from the conception of the product to its actual development? How long have the brands taken to reach the stage?
“We are 22 years in the running now and development does not take a long time but it is a continuous process,” says Mr Ankit while explaining the timeline of his company. “We started back then but are still developing our products. But yes, when we started, we manufactured basic items, then after a while, when we got a hold in the market, we started creating something different such as lycra–based bands. Earlier, there was also screen printing, then it moved to cartoon strikers being made. And all this didn’t take a long time to develop.”
“As for the time taken to make a product, for instance from the ideation process to development, it takes a month or so. It involves, sourcing, designing, printing etc., which takes this much time. Once it falls into a routine then it takes hardly a week. For a new product to be manufactured it does take time as it involves sourcing the fabric; if we need something specifically for the product, then it takes time, then there’s designing, etc., which is time consuming as well. If we are doing something different, which is not available in the market, then it takes time. For e.g., for the lycra waistband, we showed the fabric to the supplier and scrutinised it and then he too sourced the yarn needed. Regular products take a week to 15 days and for a new product it takes about one month to a month and a half if everything comes on time,” he adds.
“From idea generation to the final introduction of products in the market, it’s a long process which includes systematic research and development,” says Mr Gupta. “Concept development, business strategy development, product development, test marketing, commercialisation…these are the processes that our R&D team gone through,” he further mentions.
Ms Geeta Singh, of Chicita opines, “Our brand has been in the market since 1994 and I think it’s a long time to understand the market and plan production and supplies. We keep innovating continuously to keep abreast with the market trends.”
Mr Vora says, “From product concept to product development it takes almost three months. Proper management and follow up helps to cut down the time lines.”
Prints, styles, colours, and more…
The kids’ innerwear segment is ever-evolving and brands are always attempting to meet the changing preferences of their young customers. So, when it comes to styles, colours, etc., most brands cater to the demands of the market.
“Ever since we have created young colours, such as lime green, pinks, corals coupled with licences like DORA AND FRIENDS have come in to the picture, we are adding new fun loving cartoons to make it creative and attractive. As mentioned earlier, we are firm on the fabrics of 100 per cent cotton, keeping in mind the comfort to the little angels, since we are a tropic climate country,” says Ms Geeta. Their price range starts from INR 150 to 250 for pack of three and their product basket includes panties, bloomers, tank tops, and sleepwear.
Explaining about Mini Mondo’s products, Mr Ankit states,“We have made colourful products in vests and briefs, which are in multi-tones. Earlier we used to make products in single colour and prints. Now also we focus on prints but we’ve changed our concept now and so we have dual tones and fluorescent colours. Also, we export our products and have developed them according to their requirements. We have changed the designs, etc. accordingly.”
For India, recently, in printed fabrics Mini Mondo has used Procaine fabric, which has print on top of it, which is single jersey fabric and has rotary print. They have made vests and shorts for girls and boys in this fabric. These products are for 1-14 year old kids and the sizes available are 50 cm – 80 cm for both. The price range is INR 85-125 and they have also come up with a variety such as panties and vests for girls in Pigment print.
Red Rose believes in providing innovation in fashion, designs and ideas coupled, with superior quality products to remain as market leaders and trendsetters in the kids segment. Hence, the popular cartoon characters are printed on the garment pieces, which include Minions and the Justice League, Barbie, Hot Wheels, Dora – The Explorer, and Ben 10, using heat transfer print method.
“Apart from making superior quality products we dedicate ourselves to personal and professional enrichment through an environment of open communication, teamwork, trust and respect along with entrepreneurial spirit. Extreme care is taken at the time of selection of fabrics to take into account the varied climatic condition,” says Mr Vora.
Bodycare International has a diverse range of comfortable and quality innerwear with printed licensee character in various colour combinations. The brand forecasts its trends on the basis of running themes and popular characters when it comes to prints.
Besides the brand offers over 50 shades, of colours and also includes prints all-over or partial or full plain in all varieties. They prefer using Lycra Sinker and cotton sinker and they have sizes from 45 cm to 80 cm to fit 1 year to 14 year olds.
Mr Gupta, on the other hand believes in what Dr Robert Hogan said, ‘innovate or die’, and says that “innovation is concurrent with our business development. We’re continually trying to innovate ourselves with novelties. Every product in our creation basket is innovative and unique in a way or another.”
Also, it may seem that a certain print envisioned may live on a garment. We were curious about the functionality of the product in this scenario. Would the function be a priority with brands even then? Mr Gupta explained, “When it comes to kids’ undergarments, both the functional yet fashionable categories should be concerned. Attractive and catchy appliqué or print is equally important just like that of fabrics to seek kids’ attention.”
Whereas Mini Mondo first thinks about the function and then the print; they first finalise the product and based on that they decide what print will look good on it.
Mr Vora says, “We use popular cartoon animation character prints, which are in trend. With this we create new styles, colours, patterns, fabric upgradation to develop a creative product.”
Determining price points
A few years ago there were not as many players in the kids innerwear segment as today and competition drives brands to constantly keep bettering their product while also keeping the price points in check. Says Mr Ankit, “Today there’s a lot of competition and we look at the minimum profit. Also, our price should not be higher than our competitors. We also ensure that our customer gets value for money through our products.”
“Price is the only matter that decides upon the sale ratio and we have prices starting from INR 50,” opines Mr Vora. He adds that considering the convenience of purchase, they provide reasonable prices with attractive designs in varied colours, superior quality and comfort.
Ms Geeta believes that the market is price sensitive and states, “The reason for this is that is there are way too many labels in the market. My personal take is that kids are on a growth trajectory, so they will outgrow in a short time, so from a parent perspective, price is a major concern.”
Mr Gupta has a different take on the aspect of price. He says that fabric, raw materials, labour and transportation are the preferred elements that affect the pricing of their products. “With the rise in the cost of these elements, the price of the products is also expected to increase,” he tells us.
As for where the brands stand in today’s kids’ innerwear market, Mr Ankit believes that they hardly have any competition. “We are present across the country. There are three brands, Bodycare, Mini Mondo by Zoom and Red Rose in the India. Red Rose’s presence is in Gujarat and Maharashtra. According to me, there are no other big brands in the country other than these three. After Bodycare, Mini Mondo by Zoom is the brand that comes next in kidswear.
Chicita has been in the industry for over 20 years and that speaks for itself. While Red Rose states they are getting almost 20 per cent growth every year.
Bodycare International’s latest international collection featuring designer innerwear for boys and girls is there in the market to cater to the needs of today’s kids. The price range of an innerwear top or bottoms pack ranges between INR 150 to INR 550. Bodycare International always tries to offer premium products at affordable prices. Since they have a wide range of products at various price points, it is not an issue for them to determine the same but they do take care of their consumer expectations and competitors’ price points while developing products.
To conclude, we can say that the kids innerwear market is only growing in leaps and bounds. With more innovation and intelligent use of technology, the products have gone from being basic to stylish and high on comfort. It seems that brands are increasingly becoming sensitive to the fact that they are catering to a segment that needs TLC in generous quantities. Hence, their innovations and care in using fabrics that do not harm the skin of their young customers while looking trendy in every way. Moreover, parents are willing to spend on quality now than ever before when it comes to their little ones.