Amami Clothing, a newly established clothing company in Faisalabad, has launched a line of underwear for Pakistani women who are looking for comfortable, high-quality loungewear at affordable prices (which the company thinks they have missed on the market for a long time). Speaking about the origin of Amami’s idea, one of its two founders (who prefers not to be named) said: “Whenever my friend and I went abroad, the women in our families would were asking to bring them underwear (that was a consistent item on the list every time), and we wondered why they hadn’t bought them here in Pakistan.
Based on this first insight gained from the women in their family, the two partners decided to launch their own line of underwear and go into the retail business. Having no previous experience in the textile and clothing industry, they hired foreign consultants to help them set up their business, including an Italian lingerie designer (a woman), who also conducted an initial study. market by visiting lingerie stores, small markets, wholesalers. in all major cities, as well as by joining Facebook groups of local women. As a woman, she had access to lingerie stores – “a no-man zone”. “In Pakistan, it seems very strange that men ask women about their underwear because you never know what kind of answer you can give,” notes the founder.
“We tried to do as much research before starting but unfortunately unlike any other textile and clothing industry there is no market data for this category and no association of producers of these products. Therefore, our research was independent and included direct interviews with local men and women, ”adds Mark Moore, UK-based production consultant to Amami.
The results of their research identified a big gap between what was available in the local market. There were either low-quality cheap Chinese or Indian products made with man-made fibers / polyester (costing between 150 and 500 rupees) or imported products that go through the gray market from well-known brands such as Marks & Spencer which are very expensive (ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 12,000). There was no mid-range option for women who want comfortable, good quality underwear at reasonable prices.
Women who can afford high priced products either buy them here at international stores such as Next or Women’s Secret or go overseas and buy them wholesale for consumption throughout the year; those who cannot afford it must be content with what is available. Most women in the mid-segment buy from department stores that sell Chinese and Thai brands or from the multiple electronic lingerie stores that have sprung up over the past two years including Floraison Store, Losha, The Lady Shop, Woomen , shez, intimefashion (IFG) etc. who all sell imported underwear.
“Our goal was to provide the mass market with a high-quality and sustainable alternative to inexpensive Indian and Chinese products as well as expensive brands,” says the founder.
Amami settled in Faisalabad – the textile hub in Pakistan, keeping in mind the ease of recruiting the right staff (production managers, textile engineers, labor as well as equipment). “If there are problems in your machines, there are enough qualified technicians to fix them. The market is buoyant, ”explains the founder. Production began in April this year, under the supervision of Moore, who has over 35 years of experience in fashion and textiles and has held senior technical and offshore sourcing roles for Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next.
The company uses high quality European precision machines programmed to give a perfect 3D fit on every product. The material (cotton) is sourced locally with export grade sewing thread (A&E by Nishat Mills), while the components including suspenders, hooks and eyelets, cups, underwire, grommets threads as well as the rubber bands, which are made of latex. free, are imported from Sri Lanka via sources approved by M&S and Victoria’s Secret.
Items in production currently include women’s underwear (midday, high legs, thongs, low waisted shorts and full briefs), vests and T-shirts, and T-shirt bras. They are also developing four other styles of bras: cut-and-sewn, sport, breastfeeding and workout.
Amami, instead of going into retail, has now decided to white label these products for retailers. “It’s a big step to introduce a brand to a market. We first want to establish a base where people know that they can trust our product and that it is much easier to work with retailers based in Pakistan, ”says Moore, adding that the company will customize products by. depending on demand.
Therefore, it is difficult to put a price tag on the products because they will not be the one who will market them, but yes their products will definitely be much cheaper than the imported ones available. The company is already in contact with major retailers in Pakistan including Bonanza, Gul Ahmed and Khaadi, as well as department stores and online stores across Pakistan.
The response from retailers, however, has been positive (“the common reaction is oh, someone should have done this long before; that’s a great idea”), but cautious about how it will be received in the local market. “We used to think our middle and lower income segments were conservative and the high income segment was more liberal, but we found it was the other way around,” says the founder.
Explaining this in more detail, he said while introducing their products to retailers, the first question they were asked was, “How would we sell it?” We need a separate room for this. “And I ask them, ‘Why?’ I read an interview with Debenhams covered by a local newspaper that said that when the brand first brought their lingerie to light, not only did sales increase 25-30%, men also started buying the products. For him, it is very important to shake up these stereotypes because underwear is sold openly in Sunday bazaars or Lunda bazaars and it is very disappointing when customers who have the means and international exposure say that they do not. will not be able to sell them openly.
As for the other challenges, the founder claims that there is certainly no “easy” to do business as they import machinery as well as components from abroad (no supporting industry for this category does exists in Pakistan), and they have to pay high tariffs because they are not exporters. Although 50% of the company’s workforce is made up of women, he wants more women to join as they are gifted with attention to detail and better handling of products. “A lot of employed women quit because their husbands don’t want people to know where they work. We need to change that mindset. “
The vision of the company like any other is to be more competitive and to attract more customers. They are optimistic that their products will be well received. “We base everything on the knowledge and experience that M&S has acquired over more than a hundred years. They make perfect underwear and it’s a globally recognized brand and we’re very close to achieving the same standard, ”says Moore.
The founders believe that if Amami turns out to be successful and two or three more such companies emerge, the supporting industry will automatically establish itself and Pakistan could become the next regional hub for exports of these products. .
In the future, Amami’s products in the pipeline include a line of men’s and children’s underwear. Looking at the market, they think the next item may be loungewear, which has become extremely popular around the world during the pandemic.
“We believe that if we can persuade the Pakistani market to buy our underwear, they will trust us and buy what we have to offer them next with the same level of quality and performance,” concludes Moore.