Rajiv Malalasekera heads several businesses with a combined revenue of $160 million in the lingerie and intimates cluster at the Brandix group. Millennials and Gen-Zers entering the mainstream as consumers and shoppers are forcing successful brands to adapt by providing more individuality and a closer lifestyle fit. They are also consuming much less. In the fashion industry, too, that disruption is forcing suppliers who produce the garments and manage the supply chains to adapt.
“Clothing has to be simple, comfortable and aesthetically appealing. Their manufacture must have minimal impact on the environment.”
Sri Lanka is a hub for apparel manufacturing, and Brandix is a major supplier of ready-made clothes to some of the biggest brands in the world from its factories in Sri Lanka and the region. Malalasekera suggests their young customers now prefer apparel that supports their lifestyles. Their consumption choices around food, travel and fashion must reflect their lifestyle choices and values. Food must be sourced from sustainable farms, and they seek intimate and unique experiences with people and cultures when they travel. “Clothing has to be simple, comfortable and aesthetically appealing. Their manufacture must have minimal impact on the environment,” he says.
Malalasekera, who has been with Brandix for a decade, says to be successful, a company in this sector has to be able to support a lifestyle. He says the challenge for large businesses like the one he leads at Brandix, which learnt to supply large retail labels, have to now adapt quickly to these emerging trends to continue to retain their edge.
Retailers must be able to offer customized clothing to appeal to young consumers. They can no longer succeed by pushing their forecasted fashion trends tailored to rigid size charts. Instead of chasing fashion trends or attempting to predict them, Malalasekera is building capabilities around product innovation & design based on understanding lifestyle choices. Some of the brands that Malalasekera supplies to, including Calvin Klein and private labels on Amazon are embracing a person’s individuality and then creating clothing that speaks to that individuality, he says.
To succeed in this game, Malalasekera must fulfil orders fast at low cost. Brandix is nearshoring in Central America, in places like Mexico, Haiti and Honduras so it can supply retailers in the U.S. much quicker. Despite higher labour costs of nearshoring, retailers will benefit from low inventory costs and lower tariffs. For Malalasekera, he doesn’t have the problem of immediacy because lingerie and intimate wear are more about functionality than fashion. This allows him to focus a lot more on innovation to improve functionality and production processes.