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     Volume 8 Issue 86 | September 10, 2009 |

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Cover Story

Transforming Design

For a company that has survived and thrived for the last 53 years, Pride Textiles hardly needs any introduction. While it has traditionally been known as a supplier of reasonably-priced, good quality, mass-produced saris that enjoy a significant segment in the market, Pride has been reinventing itself over the years. In keeping with contemporary trends the company has been upgrading its products, experimenting with new designs, patterns and fabrics to also cater to the high end market for saris.

Elita Karim
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Pride saris are popular for their flower prints on the body of the sari and their contrasting colours.

Pride Textiles became a limited company in the year 1993, with Managing Director Mohammad Abdul Moyeed and directors of the group Abdul Moyeen and Abdul Momen. “Pride, however, has been around with its textile mills, power looms and much more for the last 53 years,” says Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad the Area Manager of Pride. With over 70 outlets all over the country, Dhaka has at least 30 of them located all over the capital. Azad says that the outlets located in Dhanmondi and Banani attract a lot of working women, while the ones located in Gausia and other markets in the city attract all kinds of customers. “Because of our reasonable price range, sometimes it is seen that families shop for all the members of the household from Pride,” he says. Along with the reasonable price, the designs also tend to attract a lot of customers. “We work with many designers who have been employed by Pride,” Azad explains. “Once a set of designs are suggested by the designers, Abdul Momen mainly decides on the final designs which are then sent to production.”

There is something very uncomplicated about Pride Textile designs that attract customers from the different levels of society. One would relate to Pride designs to simple single coloured length of saris, with touches of prints here and there, and that seems to be enough to entice women of all ages. There was a time when Pride saris were popular for their randomly placed flower prints on the body of the sari and also the anchal and that too in contrasting colours.

Samia Haque Lucky has been shopping at Pride for the last several years. In fact, most of the gifts that she buys for her household help and other members of the family are also bought from Pride. “I had actually started to shop for saris from Pride years ago, mainly because the Dhanmondi outlet is very close to my home,” she says. “I was very young and a student of Dhaka University Economics Department. At that age, girls usually like to wear a lot of saris and in our university we would wear them whenever we would get an opportunity to. However, it was also kind of expensive to buy different saris for the different occasions, since I was always looking for good clothes and in a variety of designs and colours. I discovered designs that I liked at Pride which were also very reasonably priced. Since then I have been doing the major bulk of my shopping from Pride.” As a young student, Samia, and also her contemporaries, liked the soft tone in colours used in the Pride saris. Though prints in saris were not new back then, the Pride collection was obviously exclusive and very different. Samia says that she still buys the print saris for Tk 300-Tk 400 or sometimes even more depending on the designs. “I prefer to wear saris to my office and buying from Pride actually helps me to buy a variety of saris within an affordable range,” she says. “In spite of the low price, the quality is not compromised here. This is something that I really appreciate about Pride. I don't buy anything tacky; most of my saris bought from Pride are all based on shades of blue, pink, white and sometimes red. These saris last me a long time.”

Colourful ornas stacked up at Pride's Dhanmondi outlet.

Even though the print saris were always popular, Pride has also been selling plenty of thread-work and handloom material, which lately, have attracted yet another section of customers. The Dhanmondi outlet is usually kept extremely busy, especially in Ramadan, mainly because customers now come in to check out Pride's latest thread work in silk, half silk, tant and also jute cotton. Saris here start at Tk 300 and go up to Tk 8,000. Besides saris, Pride has also come up with exclusive three-piece designs, dupattas, scarves, towels, bed sheets, cushion covers and costume jewellery.

Farhana Hossain living in Puarana Paltan visits Pride also when it comes to buying clothes for Zakat. “Every year during Ramadan, I go to the nearest Pride outlet and buy saris for the people who have been working in our household for years,” she says. “The designs are of good taste and I especially like the colour combinations that Pride comes up with every year. The designs are also of excellent quality. I might get cheaper clothes when it comes to clothes for Zakat in New Market and other places, however, I prefer the comfortable shopping environment in Pride to shop for everyone in my family.”

Pride's factories located in Khilgaon and Savar, the organisation's recent venture of designs in tant, thread-work in silk, half silk and also jute cotton has created a wave in the apparel and design market. Today, most customers look for Bangladeshi fabrics with excellent designs which speak of the local colours and tastes. Shops like Kay Kraft, Aarong, Deshal, Nipun while specialise in locally made fabrics and many others attract hundreds of customers every week, thanks to their exclusive designs in shalwar kameezes, saris and fatuas. Pride has successfully entered the competition and is still occupying one of the top positions in the market. This is mainly because, in spite of Pride's inclusion of handloom designs, there are loyal customers from all levels of the society who look for Pride's sophisticated designs in print. “We still have plenty of customers who come in and buy clothes in bulk,” says Azad.

In fact, there are small boutique houses that purchase a lot of saris and print-work from Pride to design their fatuas and shalwar kameezs. Mumtaz Begum, one of the sales executives in one of the outlets in Gausia displays the polka dotted cotton saris. “These saris are very popular amongst designers of boutique stores,” says Mumtaz. “We have a few who always order these saris in large bulks. They use these to design their apparels.” These polka doted saris come in all kinds of colours and range between Tk 250--Tk 800. Mumtaz adds that their jute cottons and half silk designs, including the tant saris are also selling like hotcakes at the Gausia outlet. “We usually have a profit of Tk 80,000 90,000 on weekdays,” she says. “But on weekends, it is never less than Tk 1,50,000.”

The print sector in textiles, has obviously, not lost its touch. There are still a lot of people in the country who prefer simple designs in brush strokes or graphic prints on saris and other kinds of apparels, provided that the designs suit their tastes, are affordable and are of fine quality. The textile industry is obviously an established sector in the country today. However, the government still has to look into the issues faced by both the cottage industries and textiles operating on a large scale. the most serious obstacle to smooth production is of course, frequent power failure. This, in turn, increases the cost of production and eventually puts pressure on the regular people's spending power as prices are hiked up. Therefore, the government has to look into forming proper policies and strengthening the infrastructure in the country for this industry to prosper further.

Leading the Way

Nurjahan Market in Gausia is brimming with shoppers of all ages and from all walks of society. The major reason being fashionable saris and three pieces are sold here, more importantly, these apparels are also reasonably priced thus purchased by all kinds of people. Not only Dhaka, but there are shoppers who come all the way from Chittagong and Jessore to Gausia, taking some time out for their usual Eid shopping. Sharmin Sultana is a housewife who has come all the way from Khulna to visit her family in Dhaka. As she browses through the saris at the Johny Print Sari's shop on the top floor, she says that she tries to coordinate her family's yearly visit to Dhaka with her husband's office leaves and Ramadan. That way, she can also get some shopping done in Gausia and New Market. “I grew up here in Dhaka and I am used to shopping here,” she says. “I like the variety and the designs that I get here, so I try to get my shopping done here every year for Eid.” Johny Print Sari, a name that had become a household name for decades, is still running strong with its prints and colours. Talking to MA Khan, one of the agents of Johny Print Sari and also a shop owner at Nurjahan Market, it seems that even today there are a large number of women who prefer to buy their saris from Johny Print. “One of the major reasons is affordability,” he says. “From a survey that I had done a couple of years ago, I figured that in this country a production of at least 22 crore saris are required every year,” he says. Khan, who has been in the textile industry for 30 years, adds that Johny Print has been successfully catering to people belonging to all categories depending on their income. “There are saris ranging between 300-2000 takas and a little more,” he says. “This is one of the major reasons as to why Johny Print still manages to attract a lot of customers.”

Exclusive designs at Bornil Boutique

Moving to Pakeezah, yet another big name in the market for mass-produced printed cotton saris, the small shop on the top corner of Nurjahan Market is filled with women looking for saris with gold khari prints, Pakeezah's signature design of sorts. Established in 1982, it is still a flourishing establishment in Islampur, while in Dhaka it has just one shop. Abul Hassan, the agent and shop owner says that the

MA Khan

prices here range between 220 700 takas. “We have been getting a lot of customers on weekends, but weekdays are still not as satisfactory as we would like them to be,” he says. “But I am sure the sale will catch on in a couple of days.” Hassan says that the gold print, popularly known as the gold 'chhaap' is done with a special chemical brought all the way from Germany. Pakeezah has been doing it for years attracting mass customers. Many customers even buy the gold 'chhaaps' for weddings and other special occasions in their respective communities.

Bornil Boutique is also a small shop in Nurjahan Market, however, very popular amongst the shoppers thanks to the exclusive designs done in thread work, fabric and colour combinations. Most saris that were being sold off like hotcakes were needlework done on shuti (cotton) and half silk. Pratap Pal, the designer says that he has been designing since his student days in Jahagirnagar and has managed to collect a select few customers who buy from his boutique every few months. He displays one of his exclusive designs, red thread-work done on white half silk. Priced at Tk 3,500, Pal says that this particular design is one of its kinds and that he has not made a copy or anything even remotely close to it to maintain its exclusivity.

Johny Print saris, a household name


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