From a Soviet sewing factory to Kazakh haute couture

By Aliya Boranbayeva

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Almaty is famous for young fashion houses that set trends for the whole of Central Asia. The region’s fashion business is still in its infancy but has already given birth to lots of promising brands.

One of them is Manera, developed at the Semiramida factory with support from the EBRD’s Women in Business programme. Its sewing traditions dated back to Soviet times. But Manera is now a Spanish-Kazakh line inspired by designers from Spain, Sonia Prado, and Kazakhstan, Gulnar Bekibayeva. Semiramida’s main objective has been to bring the Manera trademark to both local and foreign markets.

Natalya Akhshabayeva, head of the Semiramida sewing factory, took part in EBRD advisory projects with local and international consultants. The EBRD projects were funded by the government of Kazakhstan.

Beyond imagination

“After the programme, we changed our mission and vision, expanded our product line and increased employee motivation,” said Ms Akhshabayeva.

“We gained knowledge in fashion design, identified our target customers, got the necessary tools and algorithms for creating and promoting the collection. We are grateful for the support from the experts who worked with us. However, this is only the beginning. We believe our brand will be known not only in Kazakhstan, but also beyond our borders.”

The company worked with fashion consultants from Spain, marketing experts from Finland and the Netherlands and a specialist in social media from Italy. Over one year, four collections with more than 100 units of clothing were created.

A website was launched and accounts were created on Instagram and Facebook. The marketing department created positions for a brand and content manager.

Ms Akhshabayeva and her team set themselves the task of becoming the main Kazakh clothing brand for women in Kazakhstan. This required both investment and knowledge in collection creation, skills in marketing and brand promotion. It was also necessary to take into account how fashion is changing and how fast fairly new styles become outdated.

Semiramida is one of nearly 2,000 companies in Kazakhstan who have benefitted from the Advice for Small Businesses programme.

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Grand plans

The team learned a lot by working with the EBRD consultants. Most importantly, consultants helped them to find their target audience. It is impossible to make clothes for everyone So Ms Akhshabayeva chose a segment of business customers who want a unique and limited collection.

Last year, the company committed to promoting their brand in the local market and now they have plans to enter the Russian market. They already have an agent to represent them in Moscow. Manera has nine stores across Kazakhstan and this year they plan to increase sales even more. Their items are also available online, with delivery to all regions of the country.

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