We were delighted to be introduced to Fiber Resource Center Bangladesh (FRC), an organization that produces fabric and textiles by recycling pineapple fiber and thrilled to have Ummaima Dawood, Director of FRC Bangladesh, share their fascinating story here.
FRC Bangladesh, as the name implies, is an organization that researches and develops plant based fibers with the objective of developing them into bio-degradable fabrics with commercial value. We have a very high set of social and environmental goals. The FRC (previously known as Fiber Research Centre) project was founded by the Mennonite Central Committee(MCC Bangladesh), an international development organization. After the completion of the research project, MCC Bangladesh was looking for a like-minded company that would turn the project into a commercially viable, social business.
Enter “Desher Jonno” (For the Country) or D J Agro Ltd., the parent company. D J Agro Ltc., has long been involved in introducing innovative ideas in the agricultural scene of Bangladesh as well as generating employment for the less privileged farming community. The company was founded by my father, Mr.Dawood Farhan, and throughout his career he has been driven by a strong sense of commitment towards the people of his country. This has enabled him to introduce many innovative concepts in the Bangladesh business sector, including : milking machines; poultry caging systems; funding a Mahgony Oil research (which has tremendous potential of supporting the agro industry) and; heifer cattles to name a few.
In addition to this, he conducted his own personal research into the potential of creating fabric from pineapple leaves, owing to his interest in the uniqueness of the product and the opportunity of utilising one of the country’s natural resources. Thus began the journey of FRC Bangladesh- DJ Agro Ltd. What started out as a research project has now turned into a resource center.
As our raw materials are sourced from our farmlands here in Bangladesh, knowing that the end product is actually contributing to an entire sustainable cycle and so many lives are touched for the better throughout the supply chain, makes us extremely proud. While pineapple cultivation is plentiful collecting the leaves can be somewhat of a process. However we have developed a communication method, by which we get word out to the farmers who are looking to discard the huge piles of leaves, through the fruit collectors. An entire network of individuals is hard work!
The pineapple leaves are bought from the farmers during the harvest season, and this provides an additional income for the farmers. The leaves are then processed by hand and machine to extract the fibers. The fibers are then washed and dried after which they are finally ready to be spun into yarn for fabric. No chemicals are used in the entire process, thus leaving no carbon footprint!
We are currently a team of about 90 people. Part of our weaving team are women many of whom are ethnic minorities along with those who are former sex workers. One of MCC Bangladesh’s aim during their research stage of the project was to employ individuals from marginalized and underprivileged groups within society. This was perfect aligned with D J Agro’s values, who have always strongly supported and implemented equal employment opportunities for all. FRC’s mission and values have been strongly grounded by the merger of the two organisations.
I continuously learn from our women weavers, who have found the courage to embrace a new way of living with a lot determination, strength and enthusiasm. It is genuinely a pleasure and truly humbly working with a team of of strong women (and the entire team really) whose drive and enthusiasm push me to work harder too. That is my way of thanking my team for the faith they have placed on me and for the determination that they have shown to live an independent and respectable life- not bowing down to suppression of any form!
Our customer base is quite a diverse range of individuals, but mostly those who are looking for ethical labels. The uniqueness and versatility of our product, helps to generate a lot of interest on many levels and with different groups. Designers are keen to work with new, eco-friendly products and we’ve even had some interest from footwear designers.
The online medium has helped a great deal in establishing clients around the world! We work on a B2B and B2C level. We do not have a physical store at the moment, however we are working on getting our product line more available to our customers. We do have local customers too, and I am very happy to mention that the client base is definitely growing, mashaAllah.
Our mission is to provide equal opportunities for all and to inspire innovation. We want to deliver to that message to the best of our abilities and at the same time ensure that our customers are happy with our products. Feedback from our customers is very important and in order to get the word out about our mission and goals, we reach out to our customers via different vehicles including discussion and exhibits. These experiences have played a crucial part in our understanding of our target audience. Like with any endeavour, we first got the word out through word of mouth and as the quality and unique nature of our products has generated a lot of interest, that has helped tremendously too.
Our products are designed in-house by our design team led by my mother who is also the Chairman of our company. However, our artisans’ opinions and input also hold immense value to us, and it is something we are always open to and have applied to a lot of our fabric designs. At present we have had a lot of interest in our casual range of fabrics- the FRC Pina Cotton Fabric. I suppose this is mainly due to the fact that they are everyday, casual wear products. However, I’d be wrong to say that the other fabrics- (FRC Pina Silk; FRC Pina Silk&Cotton) generate any less interest. We have also noted a tremendous interest in our scarves made from the FRC Pina Silk fabric, which is a more formal range of fabric.
One of our success is certainly the passion that the entire team shares together in positioning our fabrics and yarn in the market nationally and internationally. This definitely helps us to deliver a better product. But I do also need to mention here that when we see our customers genuine interest and excitement around our products, that definitely is an important achievement for us too.
The biggest challenge till date would have to be the fact that we operate in a slow fashion industry and as such bringing the commercial aspect in sync, is something that we still have to navigate very carefully. However, this is an on-going learning process and no matter how big the challenges are, we can overcome them, inshaAllah.
We are currently developing a product line, scheduled to be launched end of March/early April, for both local and international buyers. The finished line will comprise of a luxury women’s and men’s wear, a casual range of women’s and men’s wear and a luxury home textile range. We are also looking to launch a luxury baby wear soon. We would like to expand our network and raise the profile of FRC products globally and hope to host an event to showcase our products and connect with designers and buyers from around the world, who are work with natural fabrics,dyes and handmade products.
FRC will be launching their official website soon – stay tune for more details!
All photo’s courtesy Masud Rana, MCC