Bro' gets a 'Sis: The Men's Underwear Startup 'Shani Apparel'

At ‘Shani Apparel’, on the outskirts of Siyambalanduwa, a village of 1,500 inhabitants in the southeastern interior of Sri Lanka, everything revolves around what men wear underneath: Boxer shorts, trunks, briefs, pyjama shorts. ‘Bro’ is the brand name of the company founder and owner Shanika Prashanti. Her company, her label and she herself are something very special in Sri Lanka in many ways.

After eleven years of working for local clothing manufacturers, Shanika decided to start her own business. Having analyzed the local textile market, she discovered the sector is saturated. Men’s underwear, by contrast, comes mainly from India or China, and Shanika found fabrics and processing poor to miserable. There are no fashion trends for men’s underwear in Sri Lanka. “Men are even embarrassed to talk about their underwear, leaving the choice to their mothers, girlfriends and wives.” She saw a market opportunity.

Shanika designed her own collection and sewed the first models on her sewing machine at home, opting for high-quality fabrics made of cotton jersey plus elastane. In order to differentiate its brand even further from typical imported goods, Shanika oriented herself towards international brand manufacturers and had its own logo and attractive packaging designed.

She presented her products to a military camp near the village, from where more and more orders quickly came, and gradually hired seamstresses; today twelve workers, her husband and 11 women from the village work for ‘Shani Apparel’. Her mini factory was earlier located in her house, two small rooms were used for are sewing and storage at the same time. The mini-company now continues to operate in a new factory building constructed with her own contribution and a grant investment from the Enterprise project, supported by the European Union and implemented by Chrysalis. She now distributes her men’s underwear throughout the southern part of Sri Lanka. Using a trishaw, she and her husband deliver the goods to the traders. In addition, she now has a women’s underwear collection; ‘Bro’ gets a ‘Sis’ and a small flagship store in the nearby town.