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Sri Lanka aiming to be top swimwear hub

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is aiming to be the top spot for swimwear in the world with key international brands already sourcing a bulk of their products from the island, officials said, as the island planned a swimsuit fashion show.

"When we started 15-years ago we were the first and only swimwear plant in Sri Lanka," Sarinda Unamboowe, Chief Executive of Linea Aqua, a unit of Sri Lanka’s MAS apparel group said.

"At that time Sri Lanka was known for tea shirts, jeans and intimate apparel.  When we started up, we couldn’t even buy thread in Sri Lanka that met the standard of swimwear manufacture. Everything had to come from overseas.

"Now there is nothing that we can’t get here."

"I am happy to say that we do provide an end-to-end service and we have an entire supply chain built around Linea Aqua. And several other manufacturers have set up as well. And Sri Lanka is well on the way to becoming the swimwear destination of the world."

Linea Aqua is one of the backers of Colombo Fashion Week Swimwear show where international designers as well as emerging young domestic designers will present their creations on August 07 and 08, 2015 in Colombo.

"Swimwear is strategic to Sri Lanka in terms of both fashion consumption and manufacturing," Ajai V Singh, Founder of Colombo Fashion Week said.

Organizers say Sri Lanka as a growing beach destination also has attributes to compete with top swimwear shows in Miami, USA and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"We want to knock those off their pedestals," Unamboowe said. "We want to become the number one swim show in the world and we want to showcase all our designers and all our supply chain partners and Sri Lanka’s destination as one o he most beautiful beach spots in the world."

With the supply chain in place, Unamboowe said the platform has been built to expand production in Sri Lanka.





Saman Rajapaksa, from Bodyline, another apparel unit said with a well-developed supply chain Sri Lanka could now meet orders faster, unlike in the beginning when material had to be brought from China or Vietnam.

"It cuts down lead time almost by half," Rajapaksa said. "Swimwear is very much seasonal, you do not want to plan very much ahead. You have to design and plan closer to season.

"We also have different technologies in the island like bonding, flocking and laser cutting we have at arm’s length.

Increasingly swimwear is being bought by older people, where new technology was being used to contour bodies and keep them in shape.

The two plants alone could be exporting around 130 million dollars of product a year from Sri Lanka.

"In terms of market potential it is massive," Unamboowe said. "I do not think we have touched the tip of the iceberg yet. If you look at Linea Aqua we are the largest supplier into Victoria’s Secret, into Triumph, and we are the largest supplier into Speedo and we are looking into customers like H & M.

"And we have some very high end customers. For example like people who manufacture a 600 to 700 dollar bikini. And the lower end of the market as well. So the entire gamut of swimwear is manufactured locally.

MAS group itself was building another factory in Vietnam to get geographical diversity in supply chains and access to markets, but would expand capacity in Sri Lanka he said.

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