A great fit for the Arabs
Party gowns, children’s clothing, swimwear. Little by little, the Brazilian fashion industry has been gaining ground in the Arab market. The sector’s exports to the region are up 17%.
São Paulo – They are not a market phenomenon, but in visiting boutiques and stores in the Arab world one notices the growing number of “Made in Brazil” tags. Fashion designers and Brazilian companies of the sector detected the region’s demand potential and Brazilian fashion is gradually gaining ground and sympathizers, especially among clients of swimwear, children’s clothing and party wear.
In face of the volume of clothing products exported by Brazil, the Arab world is a small importer. The countries from the Arabian Gulf and North Africa received USD 7.3 million in Brazilian textile products from January to June within a USD 490 million total exports by the sector. The Arabs accounted for 1.5%. But while the sector’s foreign sales declined 9.1%, exports to the region went up 17% over the same months of 2015. The data was provided by the Brazilian Textile and Apparel Industry Association (Abit).
There’s a long list of Brazilian brands that did export or have been exporting to the region, such as Puket, Adriana Degreas, Brandili, Plural, Elian, Liziane Richter, Printing, Lenny Niemeyer, Feriado Nacional and many more. Some famous while others not so much, the majority captivated the Arabs with a feature considered unique, Brazilian, high-quality. “We realized that the more highly-crafted, with our own distinct features, the more it is appreciated”, says Lilian Kaddissi, executive manager of Texbrasil, a program to foster the sector’s exports.
The executive believes that the Brazilian fashion industry captivates consumers either with input, with quality cotton and fabrics, or with added value through craft work, prints and colors. “Whatever refers to the lifestyle in Brazil”, she says. By exploring the market this way, the brands can avoid competition with European brands, which have a strong tradition in the market, and with Asian brands, which offer their products at lower prices, but also with lower quality and without these distinctive features.
Fashionable and tropical
The beachwear brand Adriana Degreas has been dressing Arab women for six years and has won their sympathy by offering “Brazilianness” and luxury. “The brand carved out a space in the Arab market by offering chic and elegant beachwear with the Brazilian rhythm and DNA, offering classic and unique elements combined with an innovative proposal full of tropical chic lifestyle that the our clients love”, says the fashion designer Adriana Degreas, the company’s owner.
The brand opened the doors of the Arab retail market through Lebanon and is also in business at Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The sales of the brand Adriana Degreas to the Saudi market focus on the kaftans, those long dresses than can be worn by themselves or over other pieces. “In more conservative models and light fabrics such as viscose and cotton”, says Degreas, explaining that the models exported can’t be low-cut, sheer, have a slit or show the shoulders. Those with prints sell well, but the hit are the plain ones in bright colors.
The fashion designer says that Saudi women also like embroidered pieces and that the beachwear over there is more conservative. “Classic one-pieces and high waist bikinis are a hit”, she says. The UAE and Lebanon are more open to new features, according to Adriana Degreas, who sells to the two countries bikinis and one-pieces with tulle details, besides the high waist bikinis and other cutting-edge pieces.
The brand did well in the Arab market early in the year and opened new outlets in the region, especially in Dubai. The expansion is expected to continue this year and the next, according to Degreas. She sees synergy and identification between the Arab countries and the brand’s proposal and says that the beachwear market is good. “Women wish to be well-dressed in their leisure moments and seek exclusive products”, she said.
For the kids
In the children’s clothing sector, the brand Brandili also focuses on the Arabs for a large part of its exports. The brand’s been in the region since 2004, with clients in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. These countries account for 20% of the company’s exports. Brandili is known for its high-quality, confortable and creative clothing lines for children. All the products in the brand’s portfolio are offered in the Arab world, for boys and girls.
The best-selling pieces are the ones with the Brandili tag (the company sells licensed products and under two other brands, Brandili Mundi and Brandili Club), which offer good value, according to exports manager Fabiano Dahlke. “These are very well-crafted products with high-quality fabrics and finishing”, he says. According to the executive, the pieces depict well the childhood period, with its colors, elements and finishing, which make the kids feel comfortable while wearing them.
But Dahlke says that the Brazilian children’s fashion is not a trendsetter in the Arab market, unlike sectors such as beachwear, underwear and footwear. According to the manager, it gains market share with its good value and wide variety. Brandili believes it gained ground in the Arab market with consistency – regardless of the exchange rate fluctuations –, close ties with partners, the presentation of quality products, modern looks and wide variety of options.
The company is expanding and expects to end the year with a positive performance in the Arab market, with a 15% increase in sales over the previous year. The partnerships that the company has been establishing in the region’s countries and the more favorable dollar price should boost the expansion. But the exports manager believes that the company would increase its sales even more if the exchange rate would improve.
According to Brandili’s assessment, the Arab market is good to children’s clothing for many reasons, one of them being the cultural factor. “Over there, the kids are given a lot of clothes as gifts, especially after the Ramadan”, says Dahlke. The manager says that, due to the climate, the Brazilian summer pieces are well received in the local market.
Small store, boutique and large store
Brazilian fashion can be found especially in independent outlets. Some brands make their way to retail chains but not the majority of them. Adriana Degreas, for instance, sells its clothing lines in boutiques. The brand, however, also tries to sell through department stores and concept stores.
Brandili’s sales channels are many and varied. In some countries, the pieces are sent directly to small and medium-size retailers, in which they are presented as the main products, and in others places the lines go to large companies or are sold via distributors.
In this year’s first six months and according to Abit’s ranking, the leading Arab countries in imports of Brazilian textile and clothing are, in descending order, Egypt, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. The top two countries, however, are large buyers of input since they also are large clothing producers, points out Lilian Kadissi. Morocco also is in this category.
Finished goods are directed more to the other destinations, with exports receiving a boost mainly from the program Texbrasil, which is carried out by Abit in a partnership with the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil). The program encourages exports of value-added products.
Last year, Arab countries imported USD 13.3 million in textile and clothing products from Brazil, from which USD 3 million were traded by companies from the Texbrasil program to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. While overall exports by Brazil’s textile industry to the Arab countries increased 17.7% over 2014, sales by companies participating in the program to the region jumped 64.3%. “These are very interesting countries when it comes to apparel exports”, says Kadissi.
Abit will renew the Texbrasil agreement with Apex-Brasil at the end of this year and should choose the UAE as the gateway for the Arab market, according to Kadissi. After the renewing of the program, the idea is to create some action focused on the country’s end consumer. The UAE was once the focus of export promotion actions by the program, but all directed to B2B, to importers and retailers.
Based on the increase in exports to the Arab world, on the favorable moment to foreign sales and on commercial approach and image actions focused on the Arab world that Texbrasil is planning to do, Kadisse believes that there will be an increase in exports to the region this year.
*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani