by Assad Bhuglah

Clothing industry exists since time immemorial and will stay for ever. Anyone willing to progress in clothing business must not only adapt to the tastes and fashions, but must also evolve with technology and respond to the needs of time.

The clothing sector can be classified in three broad categories: conventional apparel, traditional dress and technical clothing. By and large, the clothing industry is dominated by the production and marketing of conventional apparels and the opportunities in other types of dresses are yet to be tapped.

Conventional dress is what one would expect in the present Westernized social environment. Being a by-product of colonial and imperial domination, it has come to be accepted as a common dress code across the world. Conventional clothing, which includes both formal and casual, covers items such as suits, coats, trousers, shirts, skirts, blouses, T-shirts and jeans.

Traditional dress has a stronger connotation of accumulated history and culture in it. It has a sense of tradition followed generations after generations. It is quite revealing that more than two-third of world's population still consumes traditional dresses. China, which has the world largest population, still clings to traditional dresses such as pien-fu, cha'ng-pao and shen-i. One must not forget the prevalence of traditional dresses in the Far East and South East Asia, in particular Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Furthermore, it is estimated that 75% of the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis use traditional dresses such as shalwar, kameez, kurta, saree and sherwani. The Arabian traditional clothing comprises mainly the thawb and abaya and they are being predominently used as a sense of pride. The African continent has hundreds of ethnic dresses, the main ones being boubou, kanga, dashika and kaftan.

Technical clothing has been developed to accommodate the precise needs of the consumer depending on the type of activities involved. It is specifically designed to be used in ultra extreme conditions and environment in order to provide comfort and safety to the consumer. It can be waterproof, windproof, and fireproof. Lot of tests and scientific research is carried out in the manufacture of technical attire before putting it on the market. The materials to be used have to respond to the function of human body such as circulation of blood, breathing, absorption of sweat, stability of temperature etc, Technical clothing is used in myriads of activities such as hunting, police, military, sailing, sports, firefighting, ski and heavy-duty works. They are manufactured strict to standard.

While conventional apparel will continue to dominate the business scene, there is a significant rise in the demand for traditional dresses and technical clothing. With the emergence of Asian powers and unfolding of African economies, there is a growing sense of asserting cultural identity among their populations, The Asians and Africans are no longer shy to manifest their cultural identities and they have strong inclination for their traditional dresses. On the other hand, technical clothing is gaining higher market share as the end-users are becoming more conscious of the safety requirements involved in their exercises. It is expected that the demand for technical clothing will rise by 5% per annum, thus providing a wide range of opportunities to manufacturers involved in different categories of this item.

Mauritius has an important clothing industry which thrives mainly by exporting conventional apparels to the US and the EU markets, Faced with serious competition from low-cost textile producing countries and confronted with declining demand on its traditional markets which are entangled with economic crisis, Mauritius must not only diversify its markets but must also envisage diversifying within the clothing sector by opting to produce some technical clothing and traditional dresses. Mauritius can meet the difficult challenge of venturing into these two new segments. It has a fairly educated population to engage in the production of technical clothing and has a culturally diversified talent to enter into the manufacture of traditional dresses. It may add some European touches in the traditional dresses to target the Asian and African diasporas settled in Western countries. Mauritius can even have the possibility of adding value to the design of traditional dresses by blending the patterns from Indian, Pakistani, African and Arabian traditions.