India's fashion trends have for decades been driven by Bollywood celebrities and western design houses. But with India's smartphone user base touching 200 million in 2015, it is the smartphone users from tier-2 cities like Patna, Trivandrum and Baroda who have taken the lead when it comes to defining what is going to be most in vogue.
Smartphone users in India are using fashion-focussed apps like never before. Apart from fashion commerce, social apps like Instagram and Roposo have made its way into smaller pockets of India inspiring people from cities, big and small, to share photo stories of what they are wearing, what they love and what’s going to rule the trends in the days to come. They are embracing apps that share makeup tips, DIYs, Mehendi designs and home decor ideas and are sharing them with alacrity with the people in their network.
Fashion discovery spurs offline retail
When a person posts a photo story on fashion-focussed platforms, it acts as social proof for other users looking for fashion advice. People in tier II cities have also taken to product tagging features to add products similar to what is seen in the photo so items can be bought directly from the story. Traditional e-commerce companies like Myntra are also shifting their product focus accordingly to capture this growing tendency of fashion lovers and shoppers. Local markets in smaller cities are still the biggest source to buy clothes. People save online stories as a photo on their phone gallery offline and show it as samples at the local seller or tailor. Location-based discovery helps in finding content around the user which includes seller posts from local designers.
Rise of fashion influencers
The rise in location-based discovery also means aspiring fashion influencers of today don't have to relocate to bigger cities anymore to connect with a fashion-conscious audience. Take the example of Vishwa Bhavsar (@acupofvish), a fashion blogger based out of Vododara, who has over 6000 followers on some of the leading social networks who depend on her for daily fashion tips and advice.
Accessibility of India-specific content
While the styles available on western fashion blogs are not always suited to the Indian sensibilities - stories from people in Indian cities balance the trendy with the practical. Local users from smaller cities use brands available in their vicinity. Also the beauty tips posted by locals suit the weather and Indian skin types.
Leading fashion brands have caught onto the trend and use these platforms to target relevant audiences for building their brand and also to check the latest trends in the Indian fashion scene. The rise in companies hiring local stylists in smaller cities indicates how these networks will evolve significantly in the days to come and incentivise influencers who wish to grow their audience base tremendously.