The items arrived in DHL's famous red-yellow mail bag. I had been receiving notifications on my phone and email that the package was going to be delivered on 26 April, two days before the original estimated delivery date! I was eagerly awaiting a DHL delivery van to pull up in front of my house. So, what was so special in that package that led to so much anticipation? A shalwar kameez set and a kurta straight from Dhaka!
When I first found out that Bangladesh's largest fashion and lifestyle brand, Aarong, now ships to the United States, I said to myself, "Now I can conveniently place online orders for deshi attire at any time of the year!"
For Bangladeshis who live abroad, the announcement of Aarong shipping overseas was worth big smiles. In the past, I always got my kurta and shalwar kameez from Dhaka. Most of the time, I would pick out an unworn dress from my closet to wear on Eid. However, there is a difference between wearing clothes being bought exclusively for Eid and just picking out unworn garments bought a year ago. There were also several occasions of Eid, when I just wore a dress I had already worn a few times.
This year, after having seen that Aarong began shipping to the US, UK, and Australia, I wanted to place an order with them. High-quality images, detailed product descriptions, and prices written in US dollar made shopping on Aarong's website a pleasurable experience.
Shipping was free, if I spent 100 USD, so I chose to spend $100 instead of paying a $20 shipping fee. I received a confirmation email right after I placed my order, followed by emails from both Aarong and DHL a couple of days later with shipping confirmation and tracking number. In the meantime, I messaged Aarong on Facebook for some questions that I had; their customer service staffers were prompt and helpful.
My dresses arrived neatly packaged, accompanying a thank-you note for helping Bangladeshi artisans with my purchase. Holding the package, I could smell Bangladesh in it. This is a feeling unique to people who have chosen to make a new home away from home.
Dresses made in India and Pakistan are widely available online and in physical stores located in deshi neighbourhoods. However, as a woman who prefers to wear Made-in-Bangladesh deshi outfits over 'desi' outfits made anywhere else, I do not really explore these places, save only two times in 13 years.
For people like me, who like to spend their money at Bangladeshi-owned businesses whenever possible, the new initiative by Aarong has opened a safe and dependable avenue to shop for Bangladeshi clothes, jewellery, household goods, etc. from the comfort of their home abroad. Immigrants like me would like to see more and more Bangladeshi fashion labels trying to tap into the overseas market, which has great potential.
I contacted a few of the leading fashion houses in Dhaka on Facebook and asked whether they shipped to the US. They all said that they would happily ship, but could not give me any information on the shipping fee right away. Because this is not something they do on a regular basis, they could not tell me how much international shipping could exactly cost. When asked about payment, one of them said that I could transfer them the money through Western Union, another one suggested bank-to-bank transfer.
I personally think that making international payments through credit cards is way more convenient than going through Western Union, MoneyGram, or direct transfer — people are more familiar with credit cards.
It would be wonderful if our other leading fashion houses tap into the international market, launch their own websites with an option to make purchases from foreign countries. I understand that all of this requires investment of time and money, human resources, and more. However, if done correctly, Bangladeshi couturiers can gain a significant share of a market dominated by fashion labels from other countries.