Fashion plays a very important role in improving the economy of a nation and helps in changing the society by providing a transitional stage from one custom to another.
Nowadays, people of all ages desire to wear fashionable items because the price ranges of those items have become affordable. Today, with sustained economic growth, rising educational attainments and per-capita incomes, growing exposure to global trends concerning what is ‘fashionable’ and the effects of mass-media, the demand for all modes of fashion is growing quite strongly.
By Ashok Kumar Das
THE FASHION SECTOR FROM AN INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
The fashion industry is an exciting, fast paced and demanding sectors which attracts thousands of prospective employees each year to a spectrum of roles. Although western fashion is now popular around the world, Asian countries have developed their own style and fashion trends.
As a developing Asian country, Bangladesh is practicing and adopting fashionable products day by day. We have a hundred years of glorious culture and heritage. We have many social and religious festivals all the year round. Eid festivals, Pohela Baishakh, summer and winter come with its own trends every year. It helps the numerous fashion houses in Bangladeshto grow.
BANGLADESH’S FASHION DESIGN IN INTERNATIONAL MARKET
In Bangladesh, fashion houses that use local fabrics and traditional concepts of design have already been operating for over four decades now. Bangladesh is proud to have a variety of handmade crafts like Jamdani, Rajshahi silk, Reshmi silk. Perhaps, the most famous yarn from this part of the subcontinent is Dhaka Muslin, a superfine silk yarn embellished with intricate hand embroidery. Most of the designers of Bangladesh run their own boutiques and produce not only for a local clientele but have participated in various international fashion events. But the fashion design of Bangladesh is struggling to strengthen its position in the international market.
FASHION HOUSES IN BANGLADESH
Industrial revolution enhances the opportunities to grow many clothing industries and fashion houses. The modern industry, fashion houses run by individual designers, started during the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth, the first designer to have a label sewn into the garments. In Bangladesh Bibi Rusell is often considered as the pioneer of fashion industries. During the late 1990s, she started emerging the fashion industries in Bangladesh, bringing renaissance to fashion industrial growth in the country. It was her ideas to bring the nation together and promote the fashion retailing emerge in the country.
Aarong, Kaykraft, Yellow, Anjan, Vasavi, Mantra, Shoppers, World, Rang, Zara, Richman, Lubnan, Tendz, Sada Kalo, Ecstasy, Smartex, Menz club, Ahang fashion, Doors, Fit Elegance, Nabila fashion, Bibiana, Banglar Mela are the leading fashion houses of Bangladesh. Brands like Yellow, Richman, Trendz, Ecstasy, Menz Club are following western styles and have attracted a good number of crowds. In spite of giving priority to western fashion, they do not neglect Bangladeshi traditional dresses. On the other hand, many fashion houses mainly depend on Bangladeshi traditional dresses. Among them Anjans, Banglar Mela, Aarong are the mentionable fashion houses. These fashion houses give priority to handloom and handicraft products. Deshi Dosh, a purely deshi and attractive name has managed to unite together under one roof a total of ten local fashion houses with the common goal of promoting the culture, colors and the clothes of Bangladesh in front of its own people or the entire world for that matter. All these brands have succeeded to a great extent in making people passionate about homegrown products that contain the flavor of local cultures and also provides a wide variety of designs.
SCHOOLS TO MAKE DESIGNERS
There are a number of well-known specialized art schools and design schools in Bangladesh from where a significant number of designers come from every year. They play an important factor in helping this sector floruish. The most notable design schools in Bangladesh include: BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology, Bangladesh University of Textiles (Fashion Department), Shanto-Mariam University of Creative Technology, College of Fashion Technology and Management and etc.
SOME FIGURES ON THIS SECTOR
In total, 16 clusters have been identified in this sector, which are located in 10 different districts in Bangladesh. It is claimed that there are at least 4900 fashion houses of varying sizes, employing 5 million people where women’s participation is 70%. Approximately 90% of these are proprietorship businesses. According to Fashion Entrepreneurs’ Association of Bangladesh [FEAB] information source, around 1 million handloom weavers are directly engaged in the fashion industry, whereas around 2 million people from other sectors are indirectly dependent on this sector. This industry produces Tk. 29 billion worth of value added and accounts for approx. 2% of the export receipts of Bangladesh. Gross value of output per establishment is Tk 194 Lac; Total turnover is around Tk 6000 Crore. The average number of machineries in use per firm is 18.09. Unit replacement cost per machine type is Tk 5.08 Lac. The total replacement cost of core machinery per firm is Tk 91.97 Lac. The average value of fixed assets per establishments is approx. Tk 1 crore. The average number of employees per firm is 133 (including contractual workers). 40% of the enterprise operate within their own land and rest in rented premeses. The average bank loan size required for financing their activities is Tk 1.51 million.
Equity/Retained Earnings and debt at the start-up are Tk 30.86 Lac and Tk 1.39 Lac, respectively. The equity – debt ratio at start-up is 96% vs 4%. 88% of this sector for Medium, Small and Micro (Employee number less than 100) level business. At the start-up, this industry was fiercely reliant on equity as opposed to debt, garnering almost all the capital used during the start-up year from owner resources. (Source: BDRL research and SMEF survey of six sectors)
CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
The industry insiders have argued that without any direct government patronization so far, a ‘silent revolution’ has been created in the fashion industry of the country by the passionate entrepreneurs of the traditional fashion houses. The leading trade associations in this sector like Banglacraft, FEAB, BWCCI, CWCCI have pointed out the following specific challenges which are faced by the entrepreneurs in this sector:
– There is no policy or guidance set at the national level pertaining to this industry. Even, there is no particular department or administrative unit of the government to advocate and support this industry.
– Lack of special and differential treatment in terms of accessing finance from the formal lenders.
– Threats from the invasion of Indian and Pakistani made clothing and textiles. Moreover, local producers have to pay 5% VAT, while the import duty of the same products is 4%. Consequently, the local fashion houses face fierce competitions from imported products that can be charged at relatively lower prices.
– The lack of quality fabrics is also a challenge for the fashion industry.
– Overcoming problems due to political unrest.
Along with the gradual growth in the past, this industry sees a bright future ahead as more people are intending to use homegrown products in the recent years. Thus, traditional fashion is gaining increased attention from the people of the country. The size of the local market with more than 160 million people creates opportunities for the industry to grow faster in the near future. As such, specific promotion policies pursued for the benefit of the industry should be devised by the government. Providing financing incentives along with more relaxed interest rates and hassle-free VAT systems are considered by the associations in the fashion industry as the subsequent urgent need to accelerate the growth of the industry.
The writer is working as the Head of Research, Training and Compliance in The Bangladesh Rating Agency Ltd. (Subsidiary of Dun & Bradstreets). The article is the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the viewpoint of this magazine.