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Quality is key going forward - Designers say sector has growth potential

Published:Thursday | August 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

EVEN with the influx of imports from huge markets such as China, small players in the local apparel sector said it has significant potential for growth.

A pair of experienced fashion designers said at a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the company's North Street, Kingston, offices yesterday that Jamaicans are now balking at buying mass-produced clothing and are turning their attention to creative designers.

Audrey Murray, proprietor of Audrey's Fashion on Derrymore Road, St Andrew, said that she is looking forward to expanding further as fashion-conscious Jamaicans are drawn to her creativity.

"I am expanding because I started on my own 12 years ago, and now I am on the road," said Murray in reference to her decision to relocate her business where it is more accessible to potential customers. She said hitting the road instead of working from home has been a big boost for her business.

"This is much better than being at home because I am getting more clients ... . My clientele is growing."

Murray said while it is not cheaper to have a custom-made dress, the market is flooded with similar-looking clothing, causing fashion-conscious Jamaicans to turn to people like her to have pieces made.

"The market for sewing is building back. If you do good-quality work, people will come to you. People are not afraid to pay for good-quality work. The quality is the key to survival in the industry. If you do that, you can live from it," said Murray.

She added that most of her clients are people who were referred to her by persons for whom she had provided service.

"If you deliver good-quality work, then you won't have a problem," Murray said.

Strong demand

Another designer, Rosemarie Malcolm, who operates RM Couture in the Corporate Area, said she, too, has been experiencing strong demand for her services. Malcolm said there is scope for growth and expansion as creative design lures fashion lovers to competitive local producers.

"Why we have been able to survive, someone going to a wedding, for example, they are afraid to wear a ready-made dress and go to a wedding where they might see someone else in the same dress. The market is flooded with Chinese-made dresses," Malcolm said.

Notwithstanding the opportunities in the sector, Malcolm said access to affordable financing is a major impediment to expansion.

For her business to grow, Malcolm revealed that she was in need of additional machinery but said the interest rates being charged by financial institutions on loans are too high.

"I currently operate from home, so I am in need of a shop, but rentals are quite high," she said.

"I am looking around for an affordable place from which I can work. I would be able to produce more she said."

Professor Rosalea Hamilton, vice-president, community service and development at the University of Technology, and an active participant in the micro, small, and medium-size enterprise, said the apparel sector could contribute in a meaningful way to Jamaica's economic growth.

"The potential for growth of that market is huge because people wear clothes once or twice and then move on," Hamilton said.