At Fireside, we’ve always had an eye on fashion, and our investments in the space have grown and pivoted: The brand that started out as Fable Street is now FS Life, home to two other women’s brands, with a fast-expanding offline footprint. Solethreads is working on replicating its online success on a pan-Indian, omnichannel scale. And Pipa Bella is now part of Nykaa.
Why fashion? Well, it’s India’s second largest consumer category, with a TAM of $110 billion. Nearly 10% of this is online ($11 B), growing at a solid 25% CAGR. and expected to hit $35 B by 2028. Given our fund’s focus on new-age consumer brands, the fashion space is one we watch rather closely. The math is clear, if a platform or brand can capture even 0.2% of this online market, it has the potential to have a topline of INR 500 Cr in the next 5 years.
We have seen a fair number of brands put together the right formula, and scale quickly to a topline of 100 crores and EBITDA of 10-12% within a few years. But as any successful founder will tell you, it’s the next phase of growth – from 100-500 Crores – that often trips brands up. It requires you to think about (and invest in) scaling up from Day 1, so that your success story doesn’t flatline at the 100 Cr mark.
So what do we believe gives you the right to win in fashion?
How deep is your inventory?
“Less is more” is the new mantra. Building a business with an asset-light model signals that you can manage the assortment complexity that comes with the fashion industry. High-inventory fashion businesses can begin to see stock pile-ups over time, which in turn lead to high markdowns, and severe gross margin pressures. No wonder that even fast-fashion companies like Shein are now embracing machine learning to reduce inventory burden, and build a more just-in-time business.
… And how broad?
What percentage of your assortment drives the majority of your business? Typically in this category, 10-15% of the offering is responsible for 30-40% of sales. It’s slightly different for innerwear or footwear, where 10-15% of the assortment could drive more than 50% of sales as the long tail is not as high. This becomes a health indicator of product-market fit.
How loyal is your customer?
Winning on marketplaces as a fashion brand may be easier as it allows you to leverage existing e-commerce infrastructure. However, this we find is usually true for brands in the 0-20 Cr stage. As brands scale beyond this point, the brand story becomes critical.
At Fireside, we believe that having your own brand platform from Day 0 allows you to tell your story, while also optimizing for customer acquisition through more pull-based marketing versus push-based. Fable Street, for instance, has gained strong brand loyalty over the years, particularly in its custom wear segment, and this is significantly greater than industry averages, thereby building a solid brand equity.
How well do you see Gen-Z?
We believe the next phase of growth in the fashion industry is going to come from how well a brand can serve the growing Gen-Z population in India. We estimate that fashion contributes to approximately 30% of the Zoomer’s share of wallet for online consumption. Newme.asia is a great example of a brand that is solving for accessibility to global trends, keeping in mind the sensibilities of Indian Zoomers.
How are you approaching omnichannel?
E-com platforms, digitally native consumers, and lower price points are helping online fashion brand hit the Rs. 100 Cr threshold relatively quickly. However, to scale beyond this point, fashion businesses need to start adopting an omnichannel approach with “experience-led” offline at the heart of their value proposition.
For founders of fashion brands, answering these key questions should give you a good sense of how well you’re placed to win in this lucrative category. The last few months have seen the fashion industry undergo massive transformation, with VCs and private equity firms displaying a keen interest in this space.
It’s a space we continue to watch extremely closely here at Fireside, and we’re looking at brands that inspire consumer love, as well as an ability to penetrate Tier 2 & 3 cities.