Local clothing brands make their mark
Mir Fazla Rabby
Clothing brands in Bangladesh are drawing in a wider span of consumers over the last decade as they continue to offer fashion-rich items that conform to native tastes.
The affordable pricing range of the clothes has also been a key factor for the local brands’ growing popularity, especially among the youth.
Khalid Mahmood Khan, director of Kay Kraft, an emerging local brand, said they stepped into the market to change the cliché that rich people alone dominate clothing fashion.
“We focused on serving the middle-income groups of people with fashion-rich local clothes.”
Khan said they have experienced double-digit sales growth on an average over the last decade, and that indicates the increasing popularity of the local clothes — weaved, stitched, printed and embroidered in Bangladesh.
Kay Kraft currently has 15 outlets, including a recent one in Chittagong. The fashion house is also planning to open an outlet in Montreal, Canada, to satisfy the growing number of consumers abroad.
Cat’s Eye, another clothing brand that sells mostly menswear, saw 10-15 percent sales growth on an average in the last decade, said Ashraf Uddin Shiplu, the brand’s executive director.
The fashion house produced four lakh pieces of clothes last year, he said. Now, one of the biggest clothing brands, Cats Eye’s 37-outlet network covers five district headquarters, including Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Cox’s Bazar and Bogra, in addition to the capital.
Local clothing brands, like Cat’s Eye, Westecs, and Artisti, produce goods with imported fabrics. But brands like Kay Kraft, Aarong and Banglar Mela are different, as they completely depend on local fabrics.
Aarong engages some 37,000 rural artisans and handicrafts producers to produce its fabrics, according to a statement by the leading fashion house. Last year, Aarong’s consumption stood at about three million yards of hand-woven fabric.
Aarong’s sales in 2010 stood at about Tk 339.5 crore, says Q Pushpita Alam, programme manager (communications). Currently, the fashion house employs 2,113 regular people, she added.
Bangladeshi brands that import fabrics hope to go global and plan to open outlets abroad. Cat’s Eye also mulls exporting its produces, and an outlet will be opened soon in the West, said the Cat’s Eye director.
On the other hand, Banglar Mela, a fashion house that depends on local fabrics, has no intention to become an international brand, other than expanding its market in Bangladesh, said Emdad Hoque, product development designer and director of the brand.
In addition to expanding their markets, Bangladeshi clothing brands encounter various other problems, mostly associated with taxing.
Shiplu said the government increased the VAT (value-added tax) on imported fabric from 1.5 percent to 5 percent in June 2010, without any prior notice, which put them in serious trouble.
Moreover, customs duty on imported fabric is around 89 percent, he said.
“If the government allows us to buy fabrics produced by Bangladeshi names, like Beximco or Monno Fabric, we will be able to serve our clientele better.”
But according to government restrictions, the garment factories cannot sell more than about three percent of its fabric inside the country and must export the rest, he said.
The local fashion houses, to share their internal and external problems, have recently decided to form a platform — Fashion Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh (Fahsion Udyog in Bangla).
Khan said primarily, 56 fashion houses are members of the association. “Fashion Udyog will soon come out after the commerce ministry accepts the application submitted this month, and related modalities are finished.”