The keys to the success of Colombia's millionaire export business
The keys to the success of Colombia's millionaire export business
In Mexico, in the United States, in Austria and even in India, you can find girdles with a word associated with your brand that works as a kind of quality assurance: "Colombians".
The South American country was in 2016 third, behind China and the US, in the ranking of exporters of girdles and other products of the so-called control clothing, according to TrendMap figures presented by ProColombia (entity responsible for promoting goods and Colombian services abroad).
It will not be the first in world sales, but it is a reference for the level of its manufacture.
"the butt lifting and body curve enhancement and design goes hand in hand": the secret behind the success of Colombian jeans, and Fajas Colombianas.
"Colombia may be occupying the first place worldwide in quality," says Jorge Alberto Díaz, manager of Fajas Romanza, who has his factory in Bogotá. They are products that require a very specialized workforce, he explains.
And, adds José Santos, CEO of MyFajasColombianas, manufacturer of belts in Medellín: "The Colombian control product is very well positioned internationally because its quality is very good and its levels of compression and benefits too."
"They are excellent," says Dr. Damián Wengrowicz, an Argentine specialist in plastic and restorative surgery. "When I operate Colombian patients, he told them to bring the girdles there."
The mention of plastic surgery is key. After certain types of surgeries, these garments are essential, Wengrowicz explains to BBC Mundo: "They are very useful for everything that is liposculpture surgery."
They are used during the first month of the postoperative period to model and prevent inflammation. It is essential that the end of the garment is good to avoid marks.
Manufacturers of control clothing not only sell postoperative garments, but also for what is called "daily use", simply to mold the body with pressure exerted by the garment.
However, Wengrowicz has its caveats.
As for the postoperative girdles, he recommends that they stop using as soon as they no longer fulfill a function, to allow the body to recover its natural tonicity, because the girdle, by containing all the muscles, weakens the abdominal muscles.
Better, he says, that once the healing period has passed, the abdomen will do the force it should naturally do.
And with respect to the ones of daily use, that the manufacturers assure that they do not cause problems, it indicates: "If really it is not necessary it is not necessary to use them, I do not recommend them; if they are girdles that are of modeling, that are very soft, do not bring biggest problem, but I don't indicate them as routine at all. "
In Colombia, thanks to the expansion of such operations, the market for control garments grew and the country specialized in this area. It all started about 15 years ago, estimates Lina María Rojas Ochoa, CEO of Forma Tu Body, another manufacturer in Bogotá.
And thereafter the expansion began.
The Colombian control clothing market went from 67,500 million pesos in sales in 2009 to 95,000 in 2016 (from 660,000 garments to 826,000), according to figures from the Colombian market and consumption research firm Raddar.
According to Santos, from MyFajasColombianas, combined sales in the local and international markets today reach between 700 and 800,000 million pesos annually (US $ 230-US $ 270 million).
And it is an industry that leaves good profit margins, which can be around 40%.
The market is large in Colombia, but the brands aim to expand abroad.
By the second year of starting production, Shape Your Body, for example, already distributed in the US, where today it has its main store, in the city of Houston, Texas, attended by its co-founder Rocío Vega.
She is also a model of the brand. "A strategy that worked for us," Lina María Rojas Ochoa, CEO of the firm, tells BBC Mundo.
40% of its sales are outside the country.
For them, the "Colombia brand" is an important differential: "Our packaging has the flag of Colombia, in fact we call them 'Colombian belts' and that's how they know us."
"That brand awareness that the product has in other countries allows a brand that is entering can be accommodating in a more interesting way," says Santos, MyFajasColombianas.
This company started with the idea of ??exporting since its foundation in 2014, with the focus specifically on the US. In fact, they want to sell to the non-Latin market in that country, because they consider it a less explored niche.
The best years
Not all Colombian companies in the industry started manufacturing belts from the beginning.
Fajas Romanza, for example, was previously an underwear company, but its manager Jorge Alberto Díaz says: "The Chinese invasion of underwear came, in which one piece of clothing was worth a dozen of the Chinese."
They left the underwear and began to manufacture control clothing, to meet the growing demand from Colombia, but also Venezuela. Today its income comes almost entirely from export.
Díaz, by Fajas Romanza, remembers what were - until now - the best years: 2014 and 2015.
In them there was a peak in demand from the US. "There was no provision that reached in Colombia and the amount of latex that arrived from Guatemala was almost not enough," he says.
In those years, Shape Your Body, for example, grew between 3% and 4%.
Women and - some - men
For some brands, the focus is almost entirely on women, such as Romanza, who sells 80 female models and only three male models.
But others have seen an increase in the demand for control clothing for men. This is the case of Forma Tu Body, which registered between 2014 and the present an increase of 10% to 25% in the percentage of garments that they sell to men over the total they dispatch.
In any case, whether in men or geographically, the business is growing.
Among the three companies that BBC Mundo spoke with, they have a presence in Colombia, the USA, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia, Spain, Austria and more.
Santos, from MyFajasColombianas, says he has an important client in Nigeria and has managed to do some operation in the United Arab Emirates.
And in India its brand has partnered with Zivame, an important local online sales site, and is already selling to cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.
Díaz, from Romanza, says enthusiastically: "Interested buyers are already arriving from Korea (from the South) and from China itself."
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