Maintaining consistency in an industry as competitive as fashion is no easy business. While this truth remains very apparent today, it is unthinkable to imagine that some businesses such as Fashion Bug, have been able to continue this for 25 years.
What began as a family business in 1994 in an approximately 500sq2 space with 15 staff in Bandarawela has not only grown to a household name with 800 employees under its wing but also 16 outlets islandwide. Guided by a mantra of delivering a quality product at a sensible and affordable price point, Fashion Bug has sustained its position in the market as a result of not only its loyal customer base but also many of the suppliers who began with the brand and grew into becoming successful over the years.
Speaking to Elegant Magazine, Fashion Bug Director Shabier Subian belongs to the second generation of this family business. Not only does he recall the humble beginnings of the fashion house, but also goes on to speak on the many successes and challenges the company has faced throughout the years.
“When we first started in 1994, we were among the first retailers to bring in the ‘one price concept’ or MRP as we know it today, to the retail clothing market. By introducing something new, we were able to win the trust of our customers and they were confident about paying a fair price for a quality garment. At the time most of our suppliers were small-scale home-based operations that ensured maximum attention to detail in all products sold through us,” said Fashion Bug Director Shabier M Subian.
What’s most interesting is the journey of Fashion Bug and the entry into the retail clothing market in the 90s, especially during the height of the war and the growth it was able to achieve despite the circumstances of an unfavourable socio-economic climate. Following the initial success in Bandarawela, Fashion Bug opened up an outlet in Kandy in 1996 due to popular requests and customer demands and then to Colombo in 1998. All three locations remain intact and function as at today. Along with expansion and access to the global free trade market, Fashion Bug was granted opportunities to import garments at a lower cost from less labour-intensive countries, however, the company decided to have most of its products produced locally supporting the local industry, despite the cost in order to always remain true to its guiding mantra.
With the advent of the Internet and access to cross-cultural fashion trends, Fashion Bug began to see the first growth in the local fashion industry in the early 2000s. With the rise of the Internet, nearly a decade later in 2012, the popularity of e-commerce websites and access to e-commerce vendors became a mouse click away. By then, though the market had multiple players in the local garment manufacturing and retailing industries, Fashion Bug was able to strive through the period by not only taking to heart its moral values held since inception but also through the excellent relationships maintained with the customers, suppliers and all other stakeholders.
Inside the company, things are no different. Not only does Fashion Bug have individuals who have been with them throughout the 25 years, but also a new wave of younger enthusiastic employees who believe and resonate with the vision the company has. This is especially true of the multiple awards Fashion Bug has won throughout the years including the Slim Digi Awards, Great Places to Work Award, Best e web Award and the Global Tiger Awards.
However, we remain positive. Our customer confidence has and always been one of our biggest assets. Some of our customers have been with us since the very beginning. We believe that this confidence and our prudent growth and expansion plans will help us in the next 25 years and the ones after it,” said Fashion Bug Director Shabier Subian.
The future of Fashion Bug is promising. Not only is this positivity radiated through all of the 800 faces and families of the company, but also through the other stakeholders. Despite the red tape from successive governments and irregular policy changes, Fashion Bug has been able to identify the direction in which the global retail fashion industry will take a turn to and have been working towards changes that will help best optimise approaching changes.
By Senashia Ekanayake