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SPEED, SKILL, SUSTAINABILITY : The Sri Lankan Fashion Mantra.

Sri Lanka has always been ahead of its time: a premier fashion and apparel outsourcing hub with a long established culture of ethical business and sustainability. While other sourcing destinations are playing “catch up” in meeting government and popular standards, Sri Lanka has set the pace, thanks to practices that are borne from the character of the country. The standards set forth by Sri Lanka are supplier-driven and motivated by an altruistic goal of being as ethical as it is efficient. It differentiates Sri Lanka from its competitors in the apparel supply sector, setting it apart—and ahead. “Because of our unwavering commitment, retailers and brands that value these standards are drawn to Sri Lanka”, said Anil Hirdaramani, a  pioneer member of the industry whose group recently built the first carbon neutral factory in Asia.

Now, as this small but powerful nation expands, it also grows its service offerings, taking it yet another step ahead in the sourcing world.

“The first focus is on delivering speed while lowering cost” said A. Sukumaran, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Apparel, the apex body guiding industry strategy. The country has invested great time and effort in finding ways to source materials and deliver product in short time cycles and at a lower cost. It has innovated its business model, basing it on the successful Turkish one in terms of delivering fast fashion to Europe.

The industry is setting itself up as the apparel hub for the South Asian region. Commenting on its serendipitous location in a region that serves as a business epicenter, a large sourcing, textile and skill base, Azeem Ismail, the Deputy Chairman of the industry body said “Sri Lanka has the highest per capita of apparel exports in Asia and by harnessing the regional strengths we are taking a leading role in establishing the South Asian region as a strong contender after China”.

Thanks to the liberalization of trade activities involving customs, exchange control and other logistical elements, Sri Lanka is free to operate in a way similar to the highly successful hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore.  Strategic investments in infrastructure, consistent free-market policies, collaborative efforts via public and private partnerships combined with a geographical advantage which places the country square in the middle of all major shipping routes between the East and the West, making it uniquely capable as a regional hub, to both add value and shorten lead times. Ashroff Omar, founder Chairman of the industry body, said “our partners have myriad options—all benefitting their bottom line. Our overall offer is incomparable; we deliver speed, reliability and assurance critical in today’s environment”. By offering business process outsourcing and value added services, research and development, design, innovation centers and warehousing, the nation has met its goal to increase speed while decreasing cost.

Within the region, Sri Lanka is in good standing, holding Free Trade Agreements with regional countries. The preferential access to India especially makes it a true gateway to a highly desirable market, an avenue international brands could use to supply this growing market.  In fact, the most recent talks between the two governments have resulted in agreement to fast track the liberalization of the sector altogether.

In addition, Sri Lanka taps its greatest natural resource to the benefit of its customers: its talent. First, the country invested in state-of-the-art product development facilities to provide a highly skilled workforce with the tools that they need to deliver value. Mahesh Amalean who spearheaded the industry body’s strategic HRD initiatives said “in terms of adding value, developing design capabilities and focus on innovation is a major thrust for the industry.” These investments have drawn the attention of one of the world’s biggest sportswear brands to establish an Apparel Innovation & Training Center in Sri Lanka in partnership with their key vendor.

Next, there is a great deal of importance placed on nurturing a growing talent pool of local designers in order to provide customers with a collaborative support team. It is a boon to product design, allowing customers to gain valuable design input and trend forecasting, and streamlining the development cycle of materials. In addition to being helpful, it is strategic, and helps to shorten timelines overall, and provides an advantage for brands looking to react quickly to market trends. Major brands are finding great success by working with Sri Lanka’s local talent, including one major brand that won rave reviews in the United Kingdom for its made-in-Sri Lanka design.

The benefits of a relationship with Sri Lanka continue to grow for customers. Ethically and environmentally responsible, the country promises an adherence to legislation as well as cultural peace of mind. An increased delivery speed and decreased cost are strategic, and the skills offered by a team of sourcing and design specialists are unparalleled. These innovations prove: once again, Sri Lanka—the premier fashion and apparel outsourcing hub—remains a step ahead.

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