--By Sushil Pangeni and Aashiyana Adhikari
The Nepali market is flooded with various international apparel and clothing brands. The quality and design have been the key factors attracting Nepali youths to the brands. Nevertheless, the domestic apparel brands too are witnessing fast growth in the recent years. Offering quality clothing and attractive authentic design patterns at reasonable prices, Nepali brands have become the new trendsetters among both fashionistas and general consumers.
Attraction of the Authentic
Nepali apparel producers who were earlier centered on garment exports are now gradually turning their focus locally. The domestic brands are promoting Nepali authentic garments conveying strong social messages printed on their products. The apparels produced by these companies mainly include t-shirts, pullovers and denim shirts. “I decided to start Juju apparels to convey various social messages through t-shirts in printed form. Many people liked our concept saying that it was the new concept; a t-shirt also can have such messages,” says Pradip Man Shakya, Proprietor of Shraman Apparels which owns brands such as Juju Wears and Karuna.
Phalano Wears is another such brand in the market that produces apparels printed with humorous words. “Our T-shirts have an exclusive design and artwork. These are made in Nepali style reflecting the real Nepali touch,” mentions Rajesh KC, famed cartoonist and the man behind Phalano Wears. “Some clothing products reflect our culture, tradition and heritage while others include Nepali sayings, riddles and some funny and humorous characters but all in the Nepali way.”
Maicha wo Baucha is another trendsetter in the apparels market incorporating fictional Nepali characters in the authentic Newari style. The brand basically has t-shirts imprinted with featured designs of festivals and locations presenting the fictional characters ‘Maicha’ and ‘Baucha.’ Similarly, Station, Attsh and Magic Prints are other brands in the market grabbing strong attention among Nepali consumers through their distinctive design and patterns.
Earlier, Nepali youths were mostly into wearing imported apparels. Nepali garment producers grabbed an opening in the market by producing authentically designed Nepali apparels. Nepali brands, after a decade long struggle, are now attracting consumers over international brands. Brands like JuJu Wears and Phalano Luga customise their t-shirts according to the market. Whereas Brands like Magic prints provide consumers with a variety of t-shirts with different prints, most importantly they allow the consumers to print their customised designs.
Designs like Mandala, Om, deities, Buddha, historical monuments, national flag and vistas are popular designs among youths. The vibrant coloured t-shirts with humorous and inspiring messages are admired by consumers of all age groups. Besides printing various patterns, some brands also provide t-shirts which are printed with the photos of customers. “Our customers can print their own designs or photos on the t-shirts,” says Prabin Tuladhar of Magic Prints.
During the late 90s and early 2000s, the Nepali garment industry enjoyed a period of boom following the sharp increase in the export of garments and readymade apparels to US and Europe. However, the expiry of Multi Fiber Agreement (MFA) in 2005 coupled with the deepening electricity crisis, violent insurgency and labour problems, led numerous garment factories to shut down. According to Pradip Man Shakya, his business also took a hit. “During 1990s and early 2000s, we used to export to buyers like Walmart and GAP. But after 2005, due to the growing political instability and labour related problems, we were forced to shut down our factory,” he recalls.
However, the increasing demand of Nepali wear in the domestic market in recent years has come as a ray of hope. After the crash of the Nepali garment industry, Nepal faced a major drawback in the production of garments. Now picking up the pace after a decade, authentic Nepali products are now entering the market robustly. The frequency with which new brands are coming to the market across major cities in the country clearly points to this. The demand is also supported by the online shopping spree. Many brands that do not have outlets are marketing and selling products through online shopping portals and their respective Facebook pages.
Despite the successes, Nepali apparels brands are also facing some challenges. The first challenge will be to compete in both quality and price with long established foreign brands. It is not easy to make Nepali customers aware about the Nepali brands, since they have a long established perception of foreign brands as having better quality. “There are many difficulties in this sector. The production cost becomes high due to hostile situations where we cannot blame the government only,” says KC, adding, “There is deficiency of manpower.”
"Apparels of Juju Wears are competitive in both quality and price"
"We will add more products to our portfolio"