The last few years has seen an explosion in the number of designer clothing outlets emerging in Dhaka. But not all of the new offerings are in the same league when it comes to quality and popularity.
One of the better known among these is the menswear retailer, Souldance, which started out as a wholesale outfit. One day, the three men in charge felt that this was no longer enough for them, and they made the decision to go into retailing.
On September 26th, Souldance had the grand opening of their third outlet in Dhaka (ARA Plaza, Mirpur Rd). It was planned as quite an affair, with celebrities like Miles and Ayub Bacchu invited. They also had DJ Shahid in charge of the music.
Souldance is quite popular here in Dhaka. They are expanding rapidly and have plans to open a new outlet, occupying an entire building, in Banani. They are well aware of their success and feel that they are a brand of such high quality that they can compete in the international market. While their logo is both distinctive and appealing, it remains debatable whether they have as yet achieved the degree of instant "recognisability" that signifies a truly branded product.
When asked what differentiated them from other clothing shops in Dhaka, they said that they have a theme and are aiming to attract a certain type of young male customers. This customer profile is of someone aged between 16 and 30, who wears only the trendiest clothes and accessories, and is healthy, fit and fashionable. In fact according to one of the staff, over the past year the fashion house has lost a great deal of revenue because many regular customers had gained weight and therefore no longer fit the Souldance profile (or clothes, for that matter! However, they feel that they are justified in their approach, and refuse to compromise on this principle.Souldance's designs are influenced by European fashions but have been adjusted to suit Dhaka, and have several product lines, like their denim wear.
Some of the most eye-catching products in their new collection are to be found among the formal wear. The shirts in particular are well-tailored, incorporating stylish cuts with a wide range of colours. Any of these would be a good bet to wear on a first date, when dressing to impress!
Another potential hit are the jeans, which come in the latest designs and are highly wearable. The faded jeans are particularly appealing, and most pants come with cool belts that are well worth checking out. Another hot favourite among the accessories is likely to be their wide range of stylish watches and bags.
The clothes on display were all very trendy, and one can see why they are popular. The prices are at the higher end, and this they explain is because most of the fabrics are foreign - which is a pity, since they could easily draw on the rich textile heritage of Bangladesh.
The trendy décor and atmosphere is clearly targeted towards their desired customer profile. The overall effect is quite hip, and the colour coordination is great. The one drawback was the music, which was well chosen, but at that time, a bit too loud.
Souldance is also planning to launch a line of women's clothing, which will be called Soulmate. They claim that their reason for not doing this before was that they felt that the market for this was too small in Dhaka.
Souldance has a lot to offer the young, fashion-conscious (and preferably fit) men of Dhaka. But judging from the comments from some of their customers, there remain questions about whether they will be able to reach their fullest potential and establish their "brand" credentials without reaching out to a wider market - which would inevitably necessitate lowering prices!
(R) thedailystar.net 2005