H&M teams with one of Bollywood’s favorite designers as its growth in India surges

A sample of Sabyasachi.
A sample of Sabyasachi.
Image: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
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Since H&M released its first designer collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld in 2004, it has put out a series of projects with top designers plucked mostly from the runways of Europe’s fashion weeks.

Its latest partnership, however, is taking a slightly different track and one that signals H&M’s ambitions in India, one of its fastest-growing markets.

The company announced today it is collaborating with Sabyasachi, the fashion and jewelry company founded by Sabyasachi Mukherjee, known as the bridal designer of choice (paywall) for Bollywood stars and India’s wealthy elite. The project is practically guaranteed to create excitement for H&M in India, where Sabyasachi is himself a celebrity with a reality-television show, “Band Baajaa Bride,” featuring couples telling their stories for a chance at a “Sabyasachi makeover.” It’s also likely to cause a stir among diaspora South Asians in cities such as London and New York.

The collection will mix “modern and traditional silhouettes with a nod towards athleisure and glamping,” according to the release, and will incorporate Indian textiles and prints. It’s scheduled to hit the market on April 16, when it will launch at H&M stores across India, in some of its flagships around the world, and online at H&M’s website and Myntra, the digital fashion retailer owned by Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart. H&M hasn’t released any pricing details, but it’s certain to be cheaper than Sabyasachi’s original designs, which reach easily into the thousands of dollars.

India, where traditional garments like the sari remain very popular, is still a relatively small market for fast fashion, but one with a lot of potential. Inexpensive Western fashion has caught on since big companies began making inroads into the country some years ago. Zara, H&M’s rival, opened its first store there in 2010. H&M followed in 2015. Both have launched e-commerce in India in more recent years as well.

H&M is seeing the payoff from its expansion as it opens stores in big metros and smaller cities such as Raipur, Indore, and Coimbatore, and ramps up its online sales, even starting to sell on Myntra late last year. In 2019 it had two quarters of around 40% growth, and then in the quarter ended in August 2019 (pdf), its sales in India were up 29%—still strong, even if those sales have moderated some from its prior numbers. The company will give its next update on Jan. 30.

The Sabyasachi collaboration may not bring in a huge volume of sales, since H&M tends to put out garments from its collaborations in limited quantities. But it could introduce new Indian shoppers to H&M, and as in the case of H&M’s other collaborations, it will give fans of Sabyasachi a more affordable opportunity to own his designs.