Interview with Omer Ahmed

Omer Ahmed
Omer Ahmed
Artistic Milliners
Artistic Milliners

Pakistan's total denim industry worth $2.6 bn and growing

Established in 1949, Artistic Milliners is a denim fabric and garment manufacturing company based in Pakistan with a strong focus on technology, innovation and sustainability. It is the first denim mill in the world to develop cradle-to-cradle Gold Certified Denim Fabric in partnership with G-Star RAW and developer of 'Crystal Clear' clean indigo technology together with DyStar and G-Star RAW. Fibre2Fashion interviews Omer Ahmed, CEO of Artistic Milliners, about the factors that are going to drive the growth story of Pakistan's denim industry in the coming years and how the company is gearing up to play a major role in it.

What is the total denim market in Pakistan? Where does it rank in the world denim market?

Pakistan's total denim market in dollar terms is around $2 billion in garments and $600 million in fabric and growing. The industry is 99 per cent focused on denim fabric and garment exports. In terms of denim fabric capacity, Pakistan today is one of the biggest in Asia only behind China, and on garments side we still have some way to go when compared to Bangladesh and Vietnam, but we are foreseeing rapid growth in the next five years.

Artistic Milliners - what does the name signify? Please tell us more about your journey from a small retail store in Pakistan to a worldwide leader in premium denim fabric and apparel manufacturing.

My grandfather founded Artistic Milliners in 1949. He was born and raised in Bombay, India, where he and his brothers had a leather business. At the time of partition, my grandparents migrated to Karachi, Pakistan where he set up a couple of shops by the name of Artistic Milliners. The name was just something my grandfather picked up on one of his visits to the UK. It was an 'artisan hat shop'. Literal meaning of the name is an 'artistic hat-maker'. So, at the shop, my grandparents would sell ethnic dresses and accessories. The real big break came in the late 1960s - at that time there were many tourists traveling to Karachi including hippies who took a liking to the culture and ethnic clothing. Business picked up and at that point my father and his partners registered Artistic Milliners as an export-based company on July 18, 1969. We started with a small garment factory and over a couple of decades reverse integrated into denim dyeing, weaving and spinning.

What are the reasons for employing such a large number of women employees who make up about half of your workforce? Did you have any specific goals in mind for employing more women?

Artistic Milliners had a long-standing tradition of hiring women in the work force especially in the garment factories. We have never held a gender bias at our company and found the women in our work force to be more efficient than men.

What measures have you undertaken to empower women through the years?

We've made many efforts, including building state of the art day care facilities to facilitate mothers with young kids We are providing them different trainings in well-being, micro finance and hygiene in partnership with major global retailers.

Are you catering to the domestic market or are you entirely into exports?

Currently, we are totally focused on fabric and garment exports. We are the largest denim mill as well as the largest vertically integrated denim exporter (spinning, denim, garments) in Pakistan.

Which trade fairs you are going to participate next? Any new concept/s you will be showcasing in the new season?

We will be attending the King Pins show in Amsterdam in April 2020. More than shows, we are focusing on our in-house forums like our 'Soho Masterclass'. We started this in the first quarter of 2020 at our Soho, New York experience centre and got a great response. We will be conducting a masterclass every quarter of the year. The purpose of the class is to educate our customers on the latest in innovation, sustainability and circularity. The overall sourcing/product landscape is changing so fast that we find it our obligation to share with our customers the latest and most relevant ideas.

What are the top priorities of brands and consumers when they look for doing business with manufacturers like you?

Technology, Innovation and Sustainability. 
Published on: 11/02/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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