Lingerie manufacturers are investing more in skills, plants

High quality apparel exporters are making new investments in women’s underwear as part of their plan to expand their global presence in the premium segment.

Ananta Apparels is one of them, investing Tk250 crore alone in a sophisticated lingerie factory in Chattogram amid last year’s pandemic that created 4,500 jobs.

With demand increasing, the company will add 20 new production lines to its lingerie factory within the next three months, Sharif Zahir, managing director of Ananta Apparels, told The Business Standard.

The manufacture of underwear requires special skills, designs and accessories, and all of this requires huge investments in machinery and labor.

As the volume and uses of lingerie items are increasing enormously worldwide, apparel manufacturers have now invested heavily in order to increase their capacities in order to get a bigger piece of the pie.

They have also chosen to build a strong backward link from synthetics to meet domestic demand for raw materials – out of reliance on imports.

The MD of Ananta Apparels said, “We are planning to set up a synthetic fabrics factory in the Mirsarai Economic Zone with an investment of Tk400 crore to produce fabrics and lace for our underwear segment.”

Ananta Apparels now produces 24 million bras and 12 million panties annually.

Lingerie includes light robes, underwear and nightwear. It looks great on any woman, regardless of size, shape and proportions.

Chorka Textile Ltd, a sister company of the Pran-RFL Group, has doubled its production capacity to meet consumer demand for lingerie.

With the pandemic weakening recently, consumers around the world have begun to reduce their pent-up demand, especially for clothing, which has resulted in a handsome volume of work orders from Bangladeshi clothing manufacturers.

Amid rising global demand, at least 50 clothing companies have either set up new lingerie departments or switched to manufacturing such women’s clothing.

With these units, exporters hope to have a strong foothold in the global lingerie market – a position alongside China.

Vietnam and Sri Lanka are now ahead of Bangladesh in supplying lingerie to the world market.

Bangladesh has taken only $ 518 million of the world market worth $ 42 billion. A year ago, the country’s share was $ 350 million. According to Kenneth Research, the world market is estimated at $ 62 billion by 2024.

RMG entrepreneurs say that the manufacturing process of lingerie, especially bras, is very complicated, which requires up to 25 kinds of accessories and sophisticated know-how.

They have also invested in training workers to make such products, they add.

Sharif said, “We have invested tremendously in increasing the efficiency of the workers making lingerie to over 50%, from 20 to 30% at the beginning.

“To make this segment profitable, we need at least 60% of the workforce.”

New manufacturers expect losses as they have to spend a lot of money on training workers, so the government should incentivize this promising segment, said Sharif Zahir, general manager of Ananta Apparels.

In 2008, SQ Group, a pioneer in lingerie export from Bangladesh, moved to manufacture the items through a joint venture with Quantum Clothing Group, a leading lingerie company in the UK. It had previously exported sweaters.

In 2010 the group took over shares from Quantum and now has five production facilities for lingerie.

Warisul Abid, SQ Group’s chief people officer, said that after China, Bangladesh has a bright future in this segment. The manufacture of such garments requires a strong design and development team to produce such high quality products. on the other hand, workers should be more efficient.

He also said that sourcing raw materials is one of the biggest challenges for this segment.

Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, told TBS that they plan to set up a factory to make lace, an essential accessory for making lingerie.

Shahidullah Azim, Vice President of BGMEA, said: “Even if we can capture part of the global lingerie market, our exports will increase by at least several billion US dollars.”

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