Q + A with Abir & Claudia Haque of the Bragi Group

Bragi Group offers an array of services that are specifically focused on the fashion industry. We chat with Abir and his wife Claudia to learn more about their business, and how it fits with Indy’s growing apparel sector.

Brooke Tichenor: Can you share more about your company and the types of products and services you specialize in?

Abir Haque:  At the core of our company is our family-owned factories in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, which have been in operation for over two decades.  We act on behalf of the factories by communicating directly with the client. We cut out the middleman and the middleman costs entirely.

We offer design and manufacturing services to our clients.  On the design side, we provide clothing/textile and pattern design, brand development, digital marketing and e-commerce, website design, packaging and print. On the manufacturing side is the production of apparel as well as logistics and distribution.  We offer direct manufacturing where we source the clothes, trims, and accessories and then we put it together.  And, in June of this year, we also expanded to selling wholesale products and apparel.

Essentially, our company brings large-scale apparel manufacturing operations to buyers here in the United States. Our entire operations from our corporate office to our centralized warehouses is right here in Indianapolis.  

BT: How did the Bragi Group come to be?

Claudia Haque:  We noticed that the business model of having intermediary agents between customers and apparel factories was becoming obsolete, yet there was still a big gap to filled by the overseas factories, in terms of establishing and having their own offices in the United States.  

Through the trade shows we attended, and the designers we talked to, it became increasingly apparent there was this need to fill – and we noticed there were few operations out there like this.  So, to us, the idea of being one of the few pioneers was attractive. It just made sense to bring everything here instead of the other way around.   

BT: What types of clothing do you specialize in?

AH: We do tops, bottoms, jackets, and outerwear, and we specialize in denim. We provide a range of products for men’s, women’s and children’s lines.

BT: You mentioned you began selling wholesale apparel in June. What attracted you to wholesale?

AH:  We saw a need with the clients that we were servicing.  For example, a client hires us to manufacture a piece of clothing they designed themselves – once it goes to production, it can take anywhere from a month to several months to complete, depending on the size and scale of the project. Our clients are often faced with the dilemma of what to do during this waiting period, as they need to continue to sell and earn a living.  

We offer the designer an opportunity to look through our wholesale products and if something aligns with their brand, they can take advantage of that immediately.  If a client purchases a wholesale product, they have the option to making it their own by replacing the Bragi label with their own private label, and adding a unique graphic or embellishment.

BT: What types of wholesale products do you offer?

CH: Shirts, jeans, jackets, shorts, tops, etc. and we sell them at wholesale prices. A lot of wholesalers out there have blank t-shirts, blank shirts, blank hats – products that are often times plain or lacking in style.  Our products are all fashion-forward and on trend because we have access and insight into what is coming to North America one to two seasons ahead of time.  In turn, we use that insight to create our range of wholesale products.  

BT: I see that your client roster includes big names like Tommy Hilfiger, Zara, Walmart, Calvin Klein, Old Navy, and many more. Do you work with smaller companies and/or independent designers as well?

CH:  Yes, we cater to small companies, local designers and boutiques as well as large retailers. We work with a lot of North American and European companies, and we work with all types of clients.

BT: How do your clients, especially the independent designers, find you?

AH:  We’ve worked in the industry for over two decades and because of our longevity we receive referrals and business through word of mouth. We also get to know a lot of people through participating in industry trade shows.

BT: Do you each focus on different aspects of the operation?

AH: Claudia handles the design and creative side of the operations.  

CH:  Yes, I get to do the fun stuff! I have been a creative designer for almost 20 years and I was a creative director for a textile company for 18 years before starting our company.  I focused on packaging design for retailers like Walmart and Target. Because of that experience, I came into this with having a lot of contacts and an understanding of how this world operated.  

AH: I oversee logistics, production, as well as manage the technical side of the operations.

BT: How is it owning and running a company together as a husband and wife team?

CH:  It works because we each bring different talents to the table. Abir received his Master’s in ecomonics at IU. I went to school in Brazil and majored in graphic design & marketing and later in 3D animation at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago.  We can each focus on our specialties yet come together to exchange ideas and communicate just as any business partner would. Being a business partner with him is easy.

BT: How long have you both lived in Indianapolis?

AH:  I’ve lived here for the last 17 years, and am originally from Bangladesh.

CH: I’ve been here for 12 years and am originally from Rio. Since moving to Indianapolis I’ve seen how much the cultural and fashion scene has grown here, and we are thrilled to play a part in that progress.  It’s exciting to see a magazine like PATTERN in Indy!

BT: What inspired you to open your company in Indy?

CH:  We had a desire to make a presence here in Indianapolis and to connect with the local designers and businesses.  There’s immense talent in the Midwest, but what we have seen is that independent designers typically face a lot of obstacles as far as getting started in the industry – for instance, they can have a hard time finding a manufacturer or wholesaler who is willing to work with them. Usually their only option is by going to the to the east or west coasts, such as New York and LA.

There are many small to medium sized businesses here – businesses that may not have the cash flow to invest in, for example, $30,000 pieces of clothing.  And we had a desire to bridge that gap by providing opportunities to clients they might not otherwise have.

BT: In what ways do you make it more feasible for a designer to start a new clothing line, for example?

AH: If a client were to come to us with a design concept for a jacket, we would create a sample for them at a starting price of $200.  On the flip side, if they were to go to NY or LA the upfront costs would be very high, starting at least $1,000 or more for one sample.

CH: Instead of having to locate and contact factories overseas for manufacturing, they can call us.  We can come to wherever they are, be it Los Angeles, New York, Indianapolis, or they can come to us. We then work together to develop everything from the design of the apparel, to the selection of fabrics, trims, accessories, and so forth.

AH: Investing overseas is expensive and we are able to eliminate a lot of that cost by working here in the United States.  

We can also help the designer determine which retailer would be more welcoming of their designs. We can provide that insight and assist them in narrowing down their options in terms of who they decide to pitch to.

BT: Having that sample in hand – to be able to see and touch it, I’m sure is a big selling point as designers pitch their clothing to retailers.  You help bring the client’s vision to life, which in turn, opens the door to many opportunities for them.  How exciting to play a part in that!

CH:  Yes, having a product that you can physically touch and feel and see is critical. It’s thrilling to help clients bring their ideas to fruition. In fact, we just had a client launch their brand in Nordstrom!

AH:  It’s a win-win if the client gets the sell.  They get the order and we then manufacture it for them. It’s a win-win for everyone.

BT: A level of personal service, coupled with a very manageable and efficient process of working with your company, would eliminate a lot of stress for the client.

CH: Yes, the fact that we are here and accessible simply makes for a more smooth and seamless process for the client. They don’t have to worry about any language barriers. They don’t have to worry about racking up travel expenses. If there are any issues that come up during the process, they deal directly with us. Instead of having to wait until 10 or 11 pm at night to talk to someone overseas, they can pick up the phone as soon as they need to and talk to us in real time.

AH: Instead of dealing with a large, faceless entity, the client can have real time conversations with real people, and they have the ability to touch and feel the product.  

BT: I think it is important to point out that your factories in southeast Asia and Bangladesh are 100% certified and compliant.  Can you share more about your factories?

AH:  Yes, our family-owned factories are state-of-the art and 100% compliant and certified.   We are certified through several regulatory bodies, with ACCORD being the biggest and most difficult certification to attain. It’s crucial that factories are regulated, otherwise big companies like Zara, Target, etc. will not work with you.

Our factories are also located in special economic zones, called export processing zones, where the entire area is bonded, so anything coming in and out requires paperwork.  These are secured areas that are protected from any irregularities, and they have their own set of self-governing laws.  

BT: When you say your factories are state-of-the-art, what does that mean?

AH: Unfortunately, there’s a negative perception of factories as being sweatshops.  Our factories do not operate in this way at all.  We employ 85% women. We provide full-day daycare for our employees, where children are provided meals throughout the day, as well as opportunities for play and rest.  We have onsite medical clinics staffed with doctors and nurses that are employees have access to use when needed.

We are also proud to say that our factory employees earn a slightly higher wage than the rest of the country (in Southeast Asia).

Everything is done under one roof – from cutting, washing, sewing, dying, etc.  Our plants are ETP which means we recycle water and have 80% less of a carbon footprint.

These are things not every factory can provide, at least to the level at which we provide them, and we are proud of that.

Photography by Corey Nxght

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