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Stylish Yet Respectful

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Conservative Indian Designer Fashion
Stylish Yet Respectful
23 rd Jun 2011
Some people might find it difficult to think of "fashion" and "Muslim women's garments" together, as such clothing is generally perceived as a monochromatically black, as seen from the abaya, which is the cloak or robe-like dress worn. But Thai Islamic-garment producers find that fashion is in the eye of the beholder, so there is plenty of opportunity to serve this market. This is especially true in Asean countries, where 236 million people are Muslim. Ratiya Wongsagniam, the owner of the Huda Indian-style garment shop in Bo Bae market, is trying to capture a larger share of the exports to high-potential markets in Asia, especially the Middle East. Previously, the shop sold mainly to local customers, achieving 6 million baht in sales last year. Huda specialises in modern designs that can be mixed and matched while still following religious guidelines strictly. Therefore, its distinction from more traditional Muslim garments are in fabric texture and details of the finished products. For example, Ms Ratiya said a hijab (Islamic headscarf) may be made from denim, while a black abaya may feature handmade embroidery. Huda finds it can tap a wider group of customers in this way despite fierce competition from cheap imports from China, whose hijabs start at 50 baht while the shop sells theirs for about 200 baht, she said.South Korea is another rising competitor in the export market, especially in Middle East countries. Usa Jalayanateja, the owner of Uzaal Dress in Bangkok's Prawet district, started her business two years ago, specialising in Indonesian and Middle East styles. Her company sells garments made only in accordance with religious guidelines but featuring more international styles. Uzaal Dress is now studying the swimwear market, for which Thailand stands ready to supply untapped markets with materials and designs. "Swimsuits can respond to the needs of a new generation. However, the government should disseminate information on market demand by Muslims in other countries, as Thai entrepreneurs lack knowledge about this area," said Ms Usa. Jakarin Srimoon, director of the SEA-LAC Trade Center at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, found in his own research that a strong potential exists for Islamic garments in Asean. About 14% of Asean's population is Muslim, with Indonesia and Malaysia the main centres for such products. The SEA-LAC Trade Center suggests Thai producers join with local partners in target markets to establish themselves. "If Thailand can supply high-quality Muslim women's garments, then it can serve customers with high purchasing power," said Dr Jakarin. Last year, the global Islamic garment industry was valued at US$96 billion. There are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide with average spending of $120 per head per year, prompting international brands to target this niche.

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