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Bangladeshi denim: The future lies in innovation

  • Published at 11:12 pm November 4th, 2017
  • Last updated at 04:34 pm November 5th, 2017
Bangladeshi denim: The future lies in innovation
With denim products emerging as major players in global markets, Bangladesh as the number one denim sourcing country should focus on promotion and patronisation of research, development and innovation to manufacture value-added products, Denim Expert Ltd Managing Director Mostafiz Uddin said during an interview with the Dhaka Tribune's Ibrahim Hossain Ovi.

What are the key challenges for Bangladesh to capture more global denim market share?

Bangladesh has an enormous opportunity to grow in the RMG export markets. Denim products have emerged as major players in the global markets. Their contribution to overall RMG exports is increasing rapidly. But, there are challenges for Bangladesh to capture more global denim market share. Bangladesh is already the number one denim sourcing country for Europe. We are also among the top five sourcing countries for the US. Yes, we have potential to grow our share further though we have some limitations. Infrastructure is a major challenge for Bangladesh although the government is trying its best to improve the situation. Inefficiency in ports, inadequate rail and road networks, gas and electricity crisis and the need for a deep sea port are some of the major challenges for Bangladesh. These are also the root causes of why Bangladesh is among the highest lead time countries. We must take steps to improve our infrastructure and lead time. Another major challenge is dependence on external sources for fabrics. We still have to import about 60% denim fabrics. We also have to focus on value rather than volume, and need to put emphasis more on research, development and innovation. Bangladesh now has the best compliant garment industry in the world and we have many good stories to tell the world. We need to brand the country before the world.

Marketing and branding are very important for attracting buyers. Do you think, Bangladeshi manufacturer are doing these properly?

I have already mentioned about country branding. The bigger responsibility of which actually goes to the government and trade associations. But if the factories themselves promote their good works and practices to the world, it can collectively create a noise and convey positive messages to Western consumers. Unfortunately, our factories are not doing this properly. We have a number of factories which are absolutely world class, but they seriously lack communication. In fact, many of our factories need to learn how to participate in international fairs with proper preparation and promotional materials. To speak the truth, we need to work a lot in this regard.

How can fashion shows help boost innovation? Can it help attract buyers? If so, then how?

Fashion show is one of the means. Just as London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week play a role in promotion and continuously push innovation in design and development. For manufacturing value added products, Bangladeshi manufacturers need their own designs developed by local experts, who have international standard and innovative ideas. Bangladesh is the second largest RMG products exporting country after China. A manufacturer needs to display his innovation to global retailers to pursue them to source from here. But, we do not have International Standard Fashion Show to display products and industry strength. Considering the industry’s needs, Bangladesh Denim Expo is going to hold “Denim Innovation Night”, a fashion show to showcase innovative products made in Bangladesh. It will highlight the capability of Bangladesh in innovative design and creative presentation of denim wears. I believe it will have far reaching impacts on denim industry [and help] to attract global buyers. It also will pave ways to enter into value added products and to connect retailers across the world as it will bring global players in the show.

How is Bangladesh Denim Expo going to help Bangladesh make it a sourcing hub? What are the achievements of Bangladesh Denim Expo in the last six editions?

Since its inception in 2014, Bangladesh Denim Expo has become a much-awaited show in international denim calendar. It has become a spot of regular get together of key denim stakeholders from across the world. The expo, designed and dedicated only for the betterment of denim manufacturers, is significantly contributing to making Bangladesh a sourcing hub and to increase its market share in global denim exports. Six editions of Bangladesh Denim Expo were held and the seventh will be take place on Wednesday. Specific themes have been highlighted in each edition, ranging from sustainability to transparency. Knowledge sessions and seminars of each edition also focused on the themes. The visitors also exchange their views and discuss the importance of the themes. So, it would be not an exaggeration to say that Bangladesh Denim Expo has successfully contributed to improving the working conditions by creating tangible awareness.

Do you think Bangladesh has already entered high-end market? How to enter into value added or higher end products?

Bangladesh is still producing the basic apparel products. To enter into the value added products, especially in denim products, Bangladesh needs more promotion and patronisation of research, development and innovation. Skilled middle management and fashion experts are needed for value added products. In today's tech-based society, behaviours of consumers change very fast and they shift to new products. As a result, we need to create regular platform through which Bangladesh can always stay connected to latest global fashion trend and changes. Holding fashion shows, expo and seminars are needed to help manufacturers enrich knowledge and share experiences.  More so, good infrastructure support and a positive country image are essential.