A tailor sews traditional Kurdish clothing. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — As the traditional Newroz festivals near, local Kurdish clothing makers say their market is worse than last year, while shops selling Chinese-made clothes say their markets bustling.
Kurds rush to purchase traditional clothes ahead of Newroz (Kurdish New Year) in March. However, due to the crippling economic crisis, the demand for Kurdish clothing has plummeted over the past four years, leading them to demand cheaper clothes.
Dana Khayat is a tailor specializing in women’s clothes on Sirwan Street in Erbil downtown.
"Until mid-2014, we used to sew many clothes of women, particularly during March and Newroz events… I would sew 40 pieces on a daily basis with four sewing machines, yet, there were many others still to work on,” Khayat told Rudaw.
Previously, he would stop taking orders for clothing a month before Newroz (March 21) would arrive.
"Now that a few days are left for Newroz to come, we are still receiving clothes to sew and we work only on 10 pieces on a daily basis,” he said.
Khayat hoped this year would be different, "yet our market has really plummeted compared to last year due the continued economic crisis and delayed payment of salaries."
Other reasons for the market decrease are fewer visitors and the returns of IDPs to other parts of Iraq.
"Some of the tourists coming to the Kurdistan Region would buy Kurdish cloths for their relatives as gifts," he said. "Now that the number of tourists has reduced and some of the IDPs have returned, it has affected our work."
Similarly, shops selling and tailoring men and children’s clothes are also suffering.
Khidir Chiway, the owner of Halwest Clothing Store at Qaysari Bazaar in Erbil, echoed the concerns that the Kurdish market is suffering from the economic crisis like other sectors in the Kurdistan Region.
"In the past, I used to not receive clothes from customers to sew 40 days before the arrival of Newroz as we would have to sew 500 pieces of clothes for Newroz," Chiway said.
With Newroz around the corner, Chiway has received just 150 pieces. He used to have four workers in the past, but the financial woes forced his to reduce to one.
Women walk through a clothing shop in a bazaar. File photo Rudaw
Chinese-made Kurdish clothing market strong
Unlike the tailors, shopkeepers selling Kurdish clothing made in China, have no complaints.
Kamaran Yousif, a businessman in Erbil said he had imported 8,800 pieces of Kurdish clothing from China.
"Due to the Newroz festival and spring events, the market was very good, and in a short period of time, I sold my commodities in wholesale,” he said.
The bulk of Yousif's clothing are for kids. He imported 5,800 pieces of clothing last year and sold them all early, so this year he has brought in 3,000 more, selling the bulk already.
He was not willing to reveal his purchase costs from the Chinese factories, but his goods sell for 15,000-25,000 Iraqi dinars (about $12.60-$21.00).
"Each year, around 50,000 pieces of Kurdish clothing are imported to the Kurdistan Region from China," he estimated.
He said the economic crisis is the impetus for customers to buy Chinese products.
In addition to the importation of Kurdish clothing from China, Yousif, a tailor, established his own factory selling men and kids' clothing in Erbil
"To be competitive in the market, I have established a factory making ready-to-wear Kurdish clothing — 23 tailors from Rojava [northern Syria] work for me for low [labor] prices," he said, adding he sells his products in wholesale to shops.
He says the price of his locally-made are priced around 10,000-17,000 dinars, depending on the sizes.
"But, there is still a higher demand for Chinese products," he explained.
Ganja Mohammed, the owner of Kirkuk Exhibition that sells ready-to-wear clothes in retail and wholesale, told Rudaw he has been importing Kurdish clothing from China for five years and this year he imported 2,000 items.
"Due to cheap labor in China, the price of cloth and costs at Chinese factories, the price of ready-to-wear pieces of clothing is very cheap," Mohammed said. "For example, the cost of clothing for some from the age of one to five is just $8."
"But the same piece of clothing, if you buy it from a tailor in Erbil is for 50 to 60 thousands dinars."