Authentic Attraction of Nepali Apparel Brands

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Authentic Attraction of Nepali Apparel Brands

--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. 

Current Trends
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.

Revival Hopes
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"


Pradip Man Shakya, Proprietor, Shraman ApparelsPradip Man Shakya, Proprietor, Shraman Apparels

How is the market for Juju Wears?
We introduced this brand in 2013. We started manufacturing in 1990 under the name Shraman Apparels, which we only exported to the international market.  At the beginning we did not focus on the local market. However, we entered the domestic market by opening our first showroom in Durbarg Marg with Karuna Natural Wears in 2006. And around 2012, as a fine arts student, I decided to start Juju Wears thinking of conveying various messages through t-shirts in printed form targeting the youth. Our products are a little higher priced as they are made from bamboo, hemp, linen and other quality fabrics.  

Juju Wears emphasises mainly on prints and patterns on its apparels? Why is that so?
Our first priority is to produce quality t-shirts. Next, I focus on the print and patterns. International apparel brands have prints that are barely understood by Nepalis and are not related to us. What I emphasise is that prints should inspire youths and increase the feeling of patriotism. 

What are your market strategies? 
We have not deployed specific marketing policies to promote our products. We have been supporting local programmes and cultural events. 

We are planning to organise an event to make everyone feel that Nepal is great. Similarly, we are thinking of using mainstream media like newspapers and television channels to promote our products. We also have plans to organise a Juju special fashion show. Likewise, we will advertise our products at movie centres like QFX, Big Movies and other cinema halls.

What inspired you to start this youth oriented apparel brand?
At present, we are unable to maintain our cultural heritage evolved over generations and nurtured by our ancestors. We should be keeping this in mind the reconstruction, preservation and even construction of new ones. This was like a mission to Juju, following the old, bringing in the new and developing our merchandise in Nepal and not copying from anyone else. Although I can bring T-shirts from India or China and print them here, I am producing them here irrespective of the odds being against us. However I cannot deny the fact I have to bring raw materials from other countries. We produce high quality products. If the raw materials become available in our country in the future, we will surely buy all raw materials in Nepal.

What is the production capacity of Juju Wears?
High at the beginning. Shraman Apparels used to export clothes to buyers such as Walmart and GAP between 1995 and 2000. Then we had to face big losses due to the political problems and had to close the factory for same time. Now we are producing 200,000-250,000 pieces a year. Previously, we used to produce apparels using an assembly line which is not in use right now.

Who are your target customers?
Our main target is Nepali youths. We do not have separate designs for tourists, though they come to buy our clothes.

How is Juju Wears competing in a market flooded by numerous brands?
We are competitive in both quality and price. We represent an authentic Nepali style. People who love Nepal and its products feel that they should wear the Juju brand. This is what I have realised from my customers. Juju has been able to set its own mark.

How many outlets do you have?
We have outlets at Pulchowk and Lazimpat.  We will be opening a showroom at Pokhara soon. We have plans to open outlets in every major city across the country.

What are your plans for the future?
I am focusing on creating and expanding our own market. We want to compete especially with the Indian brands. We are planning to produce even more quality products and sell them to international markets, especially in India. 


      "We will add more products to our portfolio"​


Rajesh KC, Founder, Phalano LugaRajesh KC, Founder, Phalano Luga

How is Phalano Luga performing in the market?
We had spectacular business until last year’s earthquake. After the earthquake and border blockade the market has been up and down. However, we are gradually picking up the pace again. 

What types of products do you sell?
Our main focus for now is on producing t-shirts. I have focused on this brand because of my base as a cartoonist. I can use my cartoons and art works on t-shirts. I want to take Phalano forward as an authentic Nepali apparel brand. We still need two or three more years to fully establish Phalano as a brand. After that, we are planning to include other clothing products which can be produced in Nepal like trousers, jeans, shirts and feather jackets. We have matured over time in production, design and quality.

What is unique about Phalano Luga?
Our t-shirts incorporate exclusive designs and artwork. The apparels are made in Nepali style reflecting a real Nepali touch. Some clothing products reflect our culture, tradition and heritage while others include Nepali sayings, riddles and humour, but all in a Nepali way.

What are your market strategies?
At present we have two outlets, one in Pulchowk and the other at CTC Mall, Sundhara. We have been receiving proposals from prospective distributors across major cities out of the valley for our products. But we have not decided yet. At first, we want to focus on the manufacturing quality. So, we have not moved into mass production. Focusing on the quality, we will be expanding our business further.

How have you been using social media in branding?
Social media is my first priority in terms of branding. So I have been using it to a maximum level. Phalano is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we will soon have a dedicated website. The other one is the messaging app Viber which has verified Phalano recently. We will also be using other traditional media such as newspapers. 

What inspired you to start this business?
In the past, a few of my friends used to sell printed t-shirts. They used to ask me to provide them with designs and cartoons so that they could print them on t-shirts. I have also been offered a share in the royalty of such products. I did not agree at first, until I saw the product and production myself. I soon realised that the quality was not good. Then I figured that if we focus on the quality then we can target the Nepali youths and other groups. I did a market survey and printed a few designs. 

Who are your target customers?
For now, youths are my target. They are the main customers buying our clothes, even taking them as gifts abroad. We also print personal designs of customers. It is also attracting people who want to give them as gifts. However, I have not promoted this service. 

How much are you producing?
We are producing 10,000 plus pieces on average per year, which I consider to be good at this early phase.

What should be done to promote authentic Nepali products?
The main concern is over production and manufacturing. There are many difficulties and problems in this sector. The production cost becomes high due to hostile situations where we cannot blame the government only. There is a deficiency of manpower. We also lack the raw materials, important if we wish to produce quality products.

How can we reduce the import of foreign apparel?
We have been mostly dominated by Chinese, Bangladeshi and Indian apparel products. We should be able to produce quality clothes at competitive prices. The government should support us by initiating certain long term strategies for the garment sector. 

We do have the skill. We know the quality and we can compete if we become independent in raw materials and other necessary items related to garment production. It is very difficult to get established in the international market now, though we can penetrate it slowly. People are still unaware about authentic Nepali brands. We need to raise the level of brand awareness among consumers. 

You recently went abroad. What was the purpose of the visit?
Yes, I went to Mumbai for business recently. I went there to tie Phalano Luga to a business deal with international iconic brands like Angry Birds, Pokeman, Ice Age and European football clubs like AC Milan and Real Madrid. We now hold the license and are the distributors of Real Madrid and AC Milan for Nepal. Angry Birds 2.0, Angry Birds movies, Kungfu Panda, Ice Age and Chota Vim of India are the other brands tied up with Phalano. Moreover, Phalano will have the license for the upcoming FIFA world cup T-shirts for Nepal. We have finally got the official licensing and distributorship from them.

What are your future plans?
My first priority is to increase retail outlets in the country. We will add more products to our portfolio. I have been linked with online marketing sites here. In future, I plan to take Phalano Luga to the global market.

T-Shirt Business

New Business Age, It's interesting to see the change in audience for Nepali apparel. Since local consumers seem to be liking the new apparel, I hope this is benefiting the local Nepali economy. Hopefully, the local apparel starts to gain as much popularity as its foreign competitors. Thanks for the info. Hope to connect soon. Dennis