Gone are those days when Bangladesh was known more for volume and basics. Over the last few years, the country has made substantial advances in diversifying its product basket to offer value-added, innovative, and fashionable items to attract buyers from across the globe. And the cases in point are names like US-based brand SOUTHPOLE and the Russian fashion brand oodji that have not only started sourcing from the country but are also aiming to increase their order volumes significantly in the coming days.
“We started our Bangladesh operations in 2008. Initially, Bangladesh accounted for 2-3 per cent of our global sourcing volume and in the last 10 years, the country has come to a position where it accounts for almost 25 per cent of our global sourcing now. We source almost all kinds of products from Bangladesh except footwear. All core items like denim pants, trousers, joggers, Polos, T-shirts, etc. are sourced from here,” underlines the Country Manager of SOUTHPOLE, Riyaz Uddin Khan while speaking to Apparel Resources.
Aimed at catering to the young people, SOUTHPOLE® (started in 1991 in New York, the fashion capital of the world) is the flagship brand of Wicked Fashions Inc. founded by two brothers David Khym and Kenny Khym. Starting as a premium urban brand, SOUTHPOLE with its legendary puffy ‘bubble’ jacket and 4180 ™ Relaxed Fit denim pants, influenced the beginning of urban fashion in American street culture.
“We have a total of five brands and sell our products through our stores AAO (Against All Odds) as well as other stores like Sears, Burlington, etc. We have stores in New York and New Jersey,” explains Riyaz, adding, “The company’s main sourcing is still from China. However, by 2020-21, my plans are to bring in some big business from China, and I have already started working in that direction. I want to make Bangladesh the principal sourcing destination for SOUTHPOLE, keeping up with which, I want to make more value-added and fashionable products from here, which have so far been sourced from China. Of late, Bangladesh has improved a lot in terms of raw materials (fabrics and accessories) and we source all the raw materials domestically now,” shares Riyaz Uddin, who is currently working with 12 factories in Bangladesh.
Kick-starting Bangladesh operations in 2010, Russian fashion brand oodji has so far been procuring 15-25 per cent requirements from Bangladesh while Uzbekistan accounts for another 20 per cent and the rest comes from China. However, with changing dynamics — China increasingly getting expensive owing to spiralling labour costs and Bangladesh maturing as a manufacturing destination while being able to maintain and leverage its cheap and abundant workforce still — things are all set to change as far as oodji is concerned.
“In last 3-4 years, the industry has matured a lot. So much so that today Bangladesh can do any fashion item, and oodji is sourcing almost everything from here except for some outerwear products,” maintains Nipun Kundu, Sourcing Manager of oodji, in Bangladesh. He added, “We are steadily increasing our sourcing volumes from Bangladesh, and by 2020, plans are on to get at least 30 per cent production done in Bangladesh. Keeping up with this, we are also looking at increasing our supplier base.”
The Russian fashion brand has more than 700 stores across Russia and Eastern Europe, besides being present on the online platform of Amazon Europe to cater to the fashion-conscious consumers at the competitive price range. “All our products are fashion-based, basically in the medium range. As a matter of fact, most of our stores are located alongside that of Zara and H&M’s, so our prices are at par with theirs but style-wise better,” claims Nipun, who works with around 10 to 12 supplier factories in Bangladesh for knit items, 20-25 units for woven products, and around 10 for sweaters.
Going forward, Nipun’s plans are now to increase the Bangladesh office’s turnover (from the current US $ 20-25 million/year) substantially in the next two years, keeping up with which, oodji is mulling shifting some knit orders from Uzbekistan to Bangladesh, provided manufacturing cost is compatible. “I am also planning to develop some good suppliers for outerwear as we have sizeable outerwear collection, which so far is sourced from China,” winds up Nipun on a positive note.