Pakistani wholesale entity for Muslimah wear, Farooq Khan of Alfaro who started off as a textile trader in Malaysia 12 years ago before launching his own fashion line has projected sale of not less than 2 lakh pieces of headscarves during the Aidilfitri season in Jalan Masjid India alone.
This was but a piffling figure considering the 100 wholesalers wheeling and dealing in headscarves and coverings in the area.
While, Alya Sarah, a hijab manufacturing, retail and wholesale entity has branches spread out in Kuala Terengganu, Dungun, Jitra, Kuala Kerai, Kubang Kerian, USJ Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and their latest, a boutique in Johor’s UDA Business Center. Yearly sales touch RM3million.
The vibrancy of hijab fashion picked up in Malaysia four years ago. It is believed to have caught on in Indonesia a year earlier, thanks to the existence of a fashion institute that had exclusively devoted a syllabus to the making of hijabs.
Some have accounted the boom to have begun in 2007 after the completion of i-City in Shah Alam where Islamic lifestyle stores such as Jakel and Munawwarah were located.
The nucleus of hijab style has been inadvertently traced back to its raw material-fabric.
Lycra and chiffon are popular choices. For Aidilfitri 2014, Cosmic Silk has reported the consumption of one million metres for hijab making alone.
It does not take much to start, RM10,000 will get you between 900 and 1,500 pieces depending on the type of material preferred. This is enough to fill up an 8 x 10ft of space with enough designs to catch a customer’s eye, observed Farooq.
The wholesaler further assures it as a self-selling item because of its high consumer turnover — a headscarf has to be changed frequently.
There is no formula to what will sell. In terms of fabric, as there is always a cycle. Cottons will always be evergreen but there will also go through a cycle. Suddenly, people prefer to go for satin.
Then, it comes to the styles and design. Keeping up style require a full-time designer in house. This is because an expert eye is required to decide how to combine elements such as lace and sequins, for example.
A style can sell by the millions when it catches the public’s eye but then in hijab fashion, trends come and go very quickly. What is popular now may be passe in the next three months.
As a result, prices of intricately beaded pieces imported from Vietnam, for example, can drop from RM65 to RM29.90. If cost for each piece is RM27, it will be hard to recover profit if one has overstocked.
Competing with the other hijab brands, the main challenge is about being creative. When you open a shop, it is not about who is there but what the shop has to offer.
Fareeda is one brand that can command its customers to queue up in front of its store overnight. They are not cheap as the owner is also the designer and manufacturer who, from time to time, release limited editions where shoppers are not allowed to buy more than two pieces at one time.
Fans of Fareeda have been known to have purchased her scarves for RM100 and later find buyers willing to pay four times the amount in online sales.
The label maintains its quality and competitive edge by running its own manufacturing arm with 20 workers in USJ, Subang Jaya.
They have up to a 100 templates to produce up to 10 designs a year. Also as they have up to 30 suppliers, so it allows them to experiment with combinations like lace and lycra or chiffon with crepe.
Future prospects continue to look bright for Fadil and his other compatriots.
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