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Lanka’s Hirdaramani-owned LiCC Jeans on a mission to democratise denim for South Asia

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True product specialisation for South Asia, strong retail collaborations around the region and a growing range with ‘something for everyone’ is the winning recipe for LiCC Jeans (Sri Lanka).

“LiCC is what denim is all about,” is how Vinod Hirdaramani (Director, Hirdaramani Group that owns the firm) sums up Long Island Clothing Company, popularly known as LiCC Jeans. Started back in 2008, LiCC had just celebrated their tenth anniversary with an impressively grown product portfolio that includes many firsts for Sri Lanka — such as waterproof jeans, Batik denim, maternity jeans and plus-sizes — and even some firsts for Asia such as the fine denim sarongs and lungis. But, what really set them apart from the rest of the jeans makers in the market is their product strategy focussing on custom-crafting for the South Asian consumer cultures, needs and physiques — and in this, lies LiCC’s most unique strength as the brand begins to position itself as a South Asian leader in denimwear.

Operating through retail partnerships throughout Sri Lanka and online worldwide, LiCC speaks to the new-age South Asian who wants their pair of jeans to be made specifically for them.

“Originally when we started off, our product research was based on the top international jeans brands. But soon, we discovered that the price points, mindsets and the bodies of the South Asian consumers are different. This shifted the focus to keeping the quality standards matching those of international brands but the product to be specially crafted for the South Asian consumer,” says Vinod, who was part of the team strategizing LiCC since its inception.

Adding to that, Yasotharan Paramanantham, CEO of LiCC, tells Apparel Resources that the brand’s product strategy had a ‘no-compromises’ policy when it came to quality in all areas from materials, finishing, functionality and style to fit — something they manage meticulously through constant interactions with the consumers. “We involve the consumer in the process of making LiCC by getting constant feedback, especially through online channels. This information is vital to us and keeps us focused towards crafting jeans especially for the South Asian consumer, and it has been very successful,” he explains.

An example is LiCC’s ever-popular Liberté waterproof range that was made in response to the needs of the growing number of denim wearers who commute in public transport or partially covered vehicles like trishaws and motorcycles, within the monsoon-prone South Asian subcontinent. Even with a range like Liberté that demanded extensive material research and product testing, LiCC stayed true to their brand ethos of making denim for the South Asian consumer and kept the prices within a bracket approachable to most in the region. “We decided to absorb the costs and keep the prices right for the markets here because it’s such a central part of what makes our brand,” says Paramanantham.

From Hirdaramani Group’s perspective, LiCC is an extension of their heritage as the company that brought ‘Diplomat’ — probably Sri Lanka’s first registered fashion retail brand, and their DNA in getting the perfect fit as they made tailored clothing for merchants and sailors many decades ago. “There was never a doubt in us returning to the retail market,” says Vinod Hirdaramani; and denim made sense with its seasonless appeal, our skills and heritage,” he adds. Yasotharan further draws the focus to how beyond being a proud part of the Hirdaramani Group LiCC has always maintained its own place in the fashion business, from its brand image to even its production lines, material sources, fabrics, washes, etc. “Many assume that being part of Hirdaramani Group means that LiCC is simply a more regional version of its export products while sharing the same facilities, resources, channels, etc. But LiCC has always stood on its own ground, taking the Group’s vision forward in a completely new way,” he says.

Vinod adds that LiCC’s operations are in fact, fundamentally different from the export sector, where both business, operations and the company culture remains quite structured; in contrast, LiCC works at a more intimate level with the market and in a much more fluid manner as a company. “This allows LiCC to be more nimble and personal when responding to our consumers,” he says.

For LiCC, the core of their product innovation boils down to function. Vinod says that the company focusses all its innovative energy into observing the South Asian market, understand its evolution, new consumerships in the making and constantly reinvent LiCC jeans to meet these needs. As an example, Vinod mentions relooking at the traditional jean pocket by observing how South Asians carry their wallets and phones in public transport and busy urban streets. “It’s about really designing around the consumer’s life,” he says.

When it comes to the future, LiCC is looking at expanding the brand both vertically and horizontally. This means venturing into new ranges like T-shirts and new regional markets with enormous potential, like children. They’re looking at new ways, enabled predominantly by technology, to penetrate deeper into South Asian markets in Bangladesh and India as a brand that is specifically designed for them. This includes fostering new retail collaborations and strengthening the existing wholesale customer relationships by retaining easy price margins and high-quality standards. The potential is enormous, both Vinod and Yasotharan stress because it is the kind of denimwear that can be worn by any South Asian consumer.

“We’re all for democratising denim in South Asia. Denim is practical, relevant to various social scenarios and durable. So, we want to get the region’s consumers to understand this and see denim for its modern role as an all-rounder garment,” says Vinod. “And, there are millions in the region who don’t wear denim, yet. So, it’s not a limited market, there is room for exponential growth and we’re going to keep expanding right into this market, getting better and better at getting exactly what these consumers need,” he concludes.