By Maheen Bajwa
In 1971, Roshen Ali Bhimjee setup Pakistan’s first undergarment factory in Karachi after he ran out of patience buying his wife bras and panties during his work trips overseas.
Today his granddaughter Mahwash, head of Production Management and Strategy at IFG (International Foundation and Garments), the largest manufacturers of undergarments in Pakistan gives us a tour of the factory that employs 600 workers (70 percent of which are women) to produce lingerie that is stocked with 1500 retailers across Pakistan.
Pro-Tip: Make sure the bra fits you perfectly. Comfort and fabric are also essential to look out for whenever purchasing a bra.
WO: What were women wearing before IFG launched in Pakistan?
MB: I don’t think there was much other than very small local producers but what I do know is that there was no concept of cup sizes before we introduced IFG in 1971!
WO: When and how did you take over the brand?
MB: I studied international development and was very passionate about working with women. I moved back to Karachi and worked with a few NGO’s but never really enjoyed it. My dad finally, suggested that I look into the family business and get a feel of IFG; that’s when I started and it’s been three years since. We have been fortunate enough to empower hundreds of women providing them great facilities, salaries, and of course benefits. Most of the women here are the sole breadwinners of their households and I love the environment we have been able to create here.
WO: What are the different bras that IFG provides?
MB: We do all sorts of bras. We design and produce bras for the young as well as older age market. We make mature and everyday bras as well as fancy lace-y ones. We are the only manufactures who make our bras 100% cotton. We are also the official distributors for Triumph products in Pakistan.
WO: What is your vision for the company?
MB: I’m dying to expand. I plan on doubling the production so that I am able to provide to smaller towns all across Pakistan. People don’t realize what a blessing it is to be able to have easy access to undergarment purchasing.
HOW TO MAKE A BRA
- Selecting the fabric of the bra
- Markings are done on a sheet
- Layering the fabric for the bra
- Stitching and putting the bra together. The stitching phase has thirty operations to make one bra.
TALKING ABOUT SUPPORT
WO: What is the common cup size in the market? Do you think people here select the right bra for themselves?
MB: People never know their actual size. That’s why we always measure women when they come to our stores whether they claim to know their size or not. The average local size used to be a B cup now it’s a C
WO: Which different types of bras are preferred in the Pakistani market?
MB: Padded and push up bras aren’t favored. The main thing that women in this region look for is the quality of fabric, and the fabric of choice is always cotton. It’s very interesting to see the trends change in the local market; earlier people would only wear beige or skin color lingerie, but now women are actually adventuring into reds, blues, and pinks. This year blue has been a hot favorite.