Interview with Dilshan Mohamed

Dilshan Mohamed
Dilshan Mohamed
Director-Supply Chain Management
Bodyline Pvt Ltd
Bodyline Pvt Ltd

Consumers now want multipurpose lingerie
Bodyline Pvt Ltd, based in Horana, Sri Lanka, is a leading apparel manufacturer engaged in product design, development, execution and marketing to global super brands including Victoria's Secret, Nike, Triumph, Pink, Sloggi, VSX, Arena and Odlo, across multiple product categories. The company is a joint venture between MAS Holdings, MAST industries and Triumph International. Dilshan Mohamed, director, supply chain management, reveals the latest industry trends and discusses the shifting consumer preferences in a conversation with Fibre2Fashion.

What is the global market for lingerie? What is the expected growth rate by 2020?

According to industry data, demand for lingerie products is increasing every year. The lingerie market in 2015 was worth $33 billion and is expected to grow to $55 billion by 2024, according to Transparency Market Research. Intimate products were used as an essential innerwear by women in the past. But today it is used as more of an outerwear item that incorporates more aesthetic designs and fashion. Online marketers like Amazon, Zalando, ASOS and other e-commerce brands are focusing on lingerie and that will improve the global demand through social media. Accurate measurement tables, attractive return policies and cheaper options are increasing the online ordering of clothing, making a shift in the buying platforms.

Lingerie encompasses more than just bras and knickers today. What are the latest additions to this segment?

With the shift in lifestyle, global markets have led to a change in demand adding more categories to lingerie. Bandeau, sports bras and camisoles with bra pads are simple examples of such diversification. Consumers are also moving into pasties, silicon cover and backless bra, which are a complete shift from the traditional bra to simple solutions.

According to Edited, a company that helps the fashion retail industry with data, in the last two years pads increased by 17 per cent, nursing bra by 36 per cent and bralettes by 123 per cent.  

Which are your major markets for lingerie? Where do you see the prospects growing?

Currently, the United States and the European Union (EU) are the biggest lingerie markets for us. The future growth is anticipated from America and Asia Pacific. However, global growth is anticipated across all continents except Europe and Australia. Though China had its market, with the quality of life improving, consumers are now looking for more branded items. This opens up new opportunities for global brands.

What factors affect the company's supply chain decisions the most?

Supply chain depends on government policies, market-behaviour led customer bargaining power on price, lead time, innovation and geographical location.

Duty concession, such as GSP+ and tax concessions for certain countries, could change the supply chain decisions in a company. Customers are demanding more for less. As an industry the lead time taken from design to delivery is too long. Except for a few, majority of the brands work on a lead time of about 12 to 18 months from design to delivery. These timelines are challenged in today's world. 

There are many innovative solutions offered through design and material today. There are options like odour-free, fast-drying and wearable technology. 

How is Industry 4.0 expected to impact the intimate wear industry?

The 4th industrial revolution will bring in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, nanotech, 3D printing, robotics, autonomous vehicles, backed up with big data. The new technology is in its early stages now. Most of the customers have not yet adapted themselves to such technologies. This tells that the benefit of Industry 4.0 is yet to be felt as a whole. But a few manufacturers are starting to use augmented reality and virtual reality to design products, wearer trials, etc. Robotics and automated machines are picking traction, which helps to customise garments and reduce the overall lead time by shortening the process. However, it will be felt in the next two to three years with a few major players looking at fully automated factories to produce apparel.

What are your top five human resource (HR) policies that help you stand out from your competitors?

The industry is still heavily dependent on people, mostly women. This has lot of challenges as most women on the shop floor are still concerned more about short-term earnings instead of long-term career due to social and family commitments. Therefore, we focus on creating a safe and healthy working environment, developing people at every level, work-life balance, international labour standards and stay connected with the workers through various corporate social responsibility and sustainable activities.

What are top 3 drivers in the lingerie market?

The top three drivers are new brands and functional products with good aesthetics entering the market at more affordable prices; influence of social media and online sales; and the demand for new product categories because of fitness and lifestyle concerns.

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)
Published on: 23/06/2018

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