In September last when the story doing the round was that India’s retail giant Reliance Retail was planning fast fashion outlets to take on H&M and Zara, no one would have seen this coming. Late last week, the Indian fashion and retail sectors were set aflutter with the news that retail wing of India's largest polyester manufacturer was tying up with behemoth Shein.
Six months ago, it might have seemed that Reliance Retail Ventures Limited (RRVL) would go the whole hog—right from manufacturing to retailing. It would have seemed logical thus since fast fashion essentially is polyester-driven, and the parent company of RRVL is one of the biggest polyester manufacturers in the world: Reliance Industries Limited (RIL).
But a second look will not make it appear so much of a surprise. Reliance is not so much into apparel-making. At one end of the spectrum it produces polyester, and at the other—at least in the fashion sector—is known to market global brands in the country. Reliance Brands Limited is the luxury arm of Reliance Retail, and caters to the luxury, bridge-to-luxury, high-premium and high-street lifestyle segments in India. Its portfolio ranges from Armani and Burberry to Versace and Zegna.
And by bringing back Shein to India, after the global fast fashion behemoth’s three-year exile, Reliance Retail is about to set the mass market segment ablaze. In a way, it’s a return to the masses—it was RIL which had been instrumental in changing the contours of the apparel market in India with polyester which was affordable for ordinary people. RIL’s Vimal brand is now folklore