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What are the latest innovations trending in the industry in technology and textile engineering?
Most of the manufacturers and retailers are still conservative. However, with the increasing demand for shorter lead time and low prices, some brands and large manufacturers are looking at innovation as a driver. Some of the latest innovations in use are 3D printing; making garments closer to the point of sale, such as using digital printing on a completed garment closer to retail; use of fabrics with functional properties like odour- free, temperature control, anti-bacterial, stain-resistant and conductivity; use of wearable technology like conductive yarns for heating or transmitting data; and use of artificial intelligence, automation and robotics in manufacturing.
What are the emerging trends in intimatewear for women in terms of fabrics, styles, colours and prints?
There is no such special trend; it varies from season to season. However digital printing, demand for more sustainable manufacturing and recycled material are trending now. The preferred colours by most women stay within nude and black. But bright and vibrant colours are popular among teenagers. In the last few years, consumers have moved to simpler bra categories like bralettes compared to a more constructed bra in the past.
Consumers are also looking for more multipurpose lingerie that can be used for both workout and at work. And bra has become more of a fashion garment than an intimatewear piece, which was not worn to be visible in the past.
Tell us about your performance in last two fiscals and expectations from next two.
As an industry, the market is its still growing. But the context in which it is growing has been different in the last two years. Companies that depend on the traditional way of doing business will see it declining very soon. But the organizations that make use of technology and innovations coupled with industry 4.0 will move forward.
But it is challenging; the rate of growth is not coming from the brick and motor businesses. New internet based start-up brands are affecting the businesses of large brands with consumers shifting to online platforms. Businesses have to be willing to change and shift gears to capture the benefit if they want to grow.
What kind of fabrics, yarns, trims and accessories, and style and fits are more popular with international brands?
This was mentioned above. Mostly functional material, simple and appealing designs and multipurpose innerwear are popular among brands.
How do you ensure a clean and green supply chain?
We comply with international standards, work with brands in doing right to the planet not only on supply chain but across the manufacturing foot print. We drive the carbon footprint as a key measure to reduce the impact on the environment. There are dedicated teams in the organization supporting the rest in this endeavour.
What kind of supply chain challenges do countries like Sri Lanka face?
In a small island like Sri Lanka, we do not have totally integrated supply chain at large. There are very less fabric and accessory manufacturers. As a region, we have very few companies that can produce synthetic fabric and laces. This is a considerable challenge.
The lead time to import fabric material from the Far East or EU is another challenge. In today's world, spending 20 to 30 days for sailing for imports is a long time.
Also the government no more supports the apparel sector. This doesn't motivate investors to set up the support structure for the industry. Also high inflation and instability of the government makes it difficult for businesses to attract supply chain investors.
What are the major restraints hindering growth in this sector?
Increasing labour and utility costs are a major challenge. Also growth in other industries like tourism and technology spreads the labour pool across, making it difficult to attract people. Emerging low cost countries in Africa, Asia and Central America are driving the industry away and also creating a brain drain.
In a macro perspective, the gross domestic product of Sri Lanka is moving up, which is taking the country towards a mid-income state, meaning the focus is more on non-industrial employment and investments compared to a low-income country.
What are your future plans?
Our plan is to be a global player offering lingerie manufacturing solutions and novelty to both start-ups and large brands.(HO)
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