May 6, 2013

Fashion industry going strong

Undaunted by the former sanctions regime, Myanmar’s home-grown garment industry is thriving, industry experts say. They attribute the success to the industry’s ability to cater to local tastes.

Over the past five years, local garment brands have been taking over more space because of their competitive price and good quality, some say. Unlike export-oriented businesses, they can employ and pay staff year-round without the need to wait for orders from overseas.

“We can pay the same wages throughout the year, without night-work and overtime, because we are operating the factory regularly. We know the tastes of Myanmar women and what kind of designs they prefer. Normally we copy the designs from Thai garments,” said Daw Sein Lae Lae, owner of Dear Brand garment factory in Shwe Pyi Thar township. The factory has more than 400 workers.

“Garments produced for the local market create much less stress for our workers than garments meant for export. Sometimes factories producing for export have to pay penalties for not meeting requirements. We can do our best for our own brand. If we don’t maintain our quality, customers will choose another brand,” she said.

“We import the raw materials for our product from China, especially Shanghai. Power cuts here push up the production cost. But I have to look after my workers even when profits dip,” she said.

She added that it is rare for local factories to employ their own designers. Instead, they copy Chinese or Thai designs and modify them for local preferences.

“We do face a problem of design copy from competitors, and from China,” said Daw Phyu Phyu Sein, owner of Spike garment factory, which employs more than 1500 workers.

“When our new design creates a lot of demand, copies come on to the market within weeks. We have our own designer, who designs for the whole country. Some factories produce garments only for one city, and some are oriented towards other states and regions.

“We intend our designs to be suitable for women of all ages. We sell more than 20,000 products for a single design, and every month we produce many different types. So far we are only producing for the domestic market, but we aim to extend overseas as well, including to Malaysia and other countries, although we may have to adjust our design for the overseas markets,” she said.

There are also many small- and medium-sized garment businesses; some do not even have factories and outsource the work to larger producers but use their own designs. One such brand is Dancer, which targets the middle class with designs that change every season, said its owner, Ma Nilar.

“We have no factory but produce our own designs and cut the finished goods. We work closely with other small clothing businesses,” she said.

Source: Eleven Weekly Media