In conversation with the top 5 premier designers of Avanza-The Multi Designer Store at Banani, Nahid Tabassum receives an actual insight on the fashion industry under the claw of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Hopeful Messiah
The initiator of the collaboration and project Avanza, Rupo Shams, and the founder and designer of Koral Klauset, shares her strategies of attaining sustainability in the luxury industry at the moment.
For the clothing and fashion industry, the internet is indeed a remarkable platform where the masses gather in huge numbers. “Despite some hiccups, my business is sailing steady so far with the help of online sales and exposure through photo shoots and advertisements on social media,” she starts off with.
Much like other entrepreneurs, Rupo is trying to compensate for lack of sale in the holiday season and building a niche clientele on social media platforms. “Undoubtedly, the sales will drop steeply in the upcoming months after Eid-ul-Adha, and staying afloat will become further competitive, however, we are planning to employ all the outlets at our disposal to reach new buyers and sustain in the market till the storm asides,” she explains.
“Apart from some quirks, online business has been helping the industry tremendously to stay afloat during this pandemic as the products have become more accessible within the comfort of their homes. A myriad of goods are available online ready to be delivered to their doorsteps safely without having to risk anybody’s health,” the business woman adds.
Alongside the crucial straining factors of managing an enterprise, Rupo’s optimism stems from the uplifting positive responses of her customers. In addition to the accountability towards her customers, Rupo also feels obliged to keep her business together by nurturing it.
“My major concerns at the moment are keeping my business stable and paying my employees as their livelihood depends on my business. I am determined to provide them a safe and sound working environment to my employees to help them and to ensure that the business thrives in the face of daunting odds,” she concludes.
The Realist and the Designer
Azim Uddula, the designer and the founder of the A/Z, a chic and contemporary men’s clothing brand of Avanza, shares his legitimate concerns regarding the fashion industry in the gruesome face of Corona.
Among the troop of the talented designers of our time, Azim is a household name in the fashion industry with his assortments of men clothing and accessories showcased under the label of the deluxe brand Avanza.
In awareness with the present situation, Azim is rather anxious about the industry standing against the storm. “During crises situations, people rather concentrate on basic necessities such as food, treatment, shelter, rent, bills and so forth. Clothing does not make the cut in the middle of an outbreak,” Azim commences with.
The designer’s latest collection aims to cater the budget friendly quality attires for summer. “It’s tough for everybody at the moment to reinstate, but people will eventually have to resume work and step outside. With online services outsourcing deliveries, people can order regular comfortable and affordable wearables online in this summer,” the owner of the brand explains.
Azim also plans to design apparels that are easy to wash and wear. “Whenever we are going out, we need to wash our clothes as a part of precaution, so A/Z will focus on designs and materials to serve that purpose in our upcoming collections. And of course for promotion, social media platforms would be preferred because it’s convenient and safe,” he explains.
Located at the heart of the city, rent is indeed an overwhelming factor while business is in slump. “Dhaka is a very expensive city, where rent is very unbelievably high. Hence, the authority has to ensure needful measures in adjusting the rent and bills and providing financial solutions with interest rates as low as 4%,” he urges.
“For safety, the management should entertain customers as per appointments with proper cautionary gears and arrangements,” Azim wraps up with.
The Face of a Brand
Nahid Tabassum speaks to Mahjabin Ahmed, the founder and the designer of the exclusive custom made jewellery brand, Minerva Jewellery and learns about her means of achieving sustainability in the market during the pandemic.
Minerva Jewellery by Mahjabin Ahmed, is recognised as one of the exclusive costume jewellery brands at Avanza, a collaborative effort of the top notch designers and fashion entrepreneurs of Bangladesh. In her outlet she procured locally made accessories from the skillful craftsmen of Tatibazar, Dhaka. Mahjabin also has an assortment of ornaments exported from Jaipur, India and Multani Jewellery from Pakistan.
“There was an upward trend before the current situation,whereby now it is stagnant. This is true for each and every sector in the country and globally. If this situation continues for a long time, it will be difficult for the entrepreneurs to sustain in this trade,” says the expert.
Mahjabin believes there has to be a paradigm shift in marketing techniques under given circumstances to reach out to a wider audience and ensure delivery in a safe and secured manner. She is affirmative that this situation will one day pass, and deems the fashion/accessory industry to look beyond the current situation and maintain their brand image to the customers through various available channels.
“We have to maintain our brand presence in the minds of potential customers through virtual technology, through on-line sales, door to door delivery, special discounts, and all kinds of precautions inside the shop for walk-in customers to be able to sustain in the market.
Even under the present circumstances, Mahjabin is determined to cater her customers through home deliveries, keeping them hooked to her collection. With that hope, she says, “Once normalcy returns, we need to maintain our brand image in the minds of the customers, who will then find their way back to Avanza, to personally buy our exclusive products.”
Link any other venture, utility bills, VAT and rent are crucial issues with only a thin percentage of the regular business. Mahjabin humbly urges the government to make some arrangements to increase flexibility in the mentioned areas for the businesses to sustain. Despite the adversities, with a positive outlook she denotes, “We need to be proactive and look beyond the current situation, as this too will pass and tomorrow will be a new day, to give us hope and direction.”
A Shift in Focus
Ehmerin Rubaba is the Founder of premium fusion women’s clothing like Rubaba’s Closet.
Ehmerin Rubaba feels that online platforms alone will not be able to reach the sales target of this year’s Eids.
“Since people are unable to go out and have narrowed down their expenditures, the purpose of buying designer outfits or formal attire is redundant. Thus, we are aiming to offer more casual and affordable attires for them this season,” Rubaba starts off with.
With online promotions of her products on various social media platforms and live-streams on this Eid, Rubaba is also offering lucrative discounts and offers to encourage her buyers. “Besides online shopping solutions, our store is also welcoming walk-in customers carrying out proper safety precautions for both the staff and the clientele,” she adds further.
As a seller, Rubaba accepts her shortcomings and works her way through them. “Selling online can be difficult as customers don’t have the option to try on the clothes or feel the quality of the materials/fabric by themselves before purchasing. However, the option of selling products online has indeed helped earn minimum revenue for the time being,” the designer denotes the pros and cons.
The entrepreneur feels that the clothing/fashion industry is at higher stake in the Covid-19 pandemic as income is reduced and necessities are straightforward. “Most of the businesses are now running on personal savings, cost cutting and through means like laying off employees. Hence, It would be of great assistance if the authority provides SME loans to struggling entrepreneurs, reduces VAT and taxes, and encourages landlords to provide flexible payment windows and lower costs,” Rubaba further adds.
The founder fears that until the pandemic subsides, the industry will bleed in the upcoming months. “Besides a negligible numbers in sales in Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha, sales are expected to get scarce and soon it will be hard to sustain in the business,” she concludes with.
The Slow and Steady
Tamanna Quadry shares her take on the slump of the luxury industry to Nahid Tabassum on the 4th month of the pandemic and festivities around.
The founder and sole owner of the women’s clothing line Baheera at Avanza, Tamanna Quadry, has been surfing in the industry for long, effortlessly, until the outbreak of anomaly.
The pandemic took a toll on the luxury industry by completely paralyzing sales for the last two months, including the month of Ramadan which is the reaping season of the year when it comes to apparel shopping.
“It’s not possible to recover from the dent that this pandemic has made especially in the month of Ramadan, but as entrepreneurs it’s important to weather the storm as this shall pass, too,” she says with a cue of positivity.
“The fact that we deal with fashion wear is in itself a deterrent in such times,” the couturier feels. Even amid the chaos and uncertainty, Tamanna thrives to satiate her clientele by innovation in designs of clothing. “Indeed clients are the core of all that we do. We are trying to promote ourselves through alternate means, such as focusing on our presence over online platforms and social media,” she adds.
Tamanna also believes that such ventures would be able to invest more on online platforms with a sound courier partner while moving away resources from expensive brick and mortar setup. She also advocates subsidised rents, and lenient schemes for the fashion house owners to be able to afford more time to get back on their feet.
Despite all available means and effort, the designer deems that the business will slug slow over the next six months with people mostly focusing on the managing expenses and keeping out of harm’s way. “The sales would not come up to pre-Covid levels until the situation improves drastically. But having said that, we have started to hear from clients about stocking new collections and that certainly is an encouraging feedback,” she adds furthermore.
With a limited capacity of staff, resources and consumers, Tamanna fears an approaching recession as the pandemic continues to prolong. In an open letter to her fellow contemporaries, she would advise, “It’s important to stay in the game, be patient, scale down and continue to operate with limited capacity until the situation starts to improve.”