Aarong- Leading the Handicraft Industry

Aarong is one of the largest fashion retail shops in Bangladesh which work under one of the world’s largest NGO. Aarong means village fair, and the concept of Aarong was to showcase the artwork and culture of villages of Bangladesh.

Aarong Handicraft Departmental Stores
Aarong Handicraft Departmental Stores

Ayesha Abed is the most instrumental figure of BRAC and the person behind Aarong. She initiated many of the significant activities, identifying and experimenting with various crafts that women could quickly produce at home. BRAC observed that women in Bangladesh increasingly involved in agriculture, but they are not getting paid. To create an alternative opportunity for these women, BRAC established its sericulture program in 1978 under Ayesha Abed.

Ayesha Abed Founder Aarong
Ayesha Abed Founder Aarong

The sericulture project helped the women in rural areas and created a “Silk” production in Manikgonj and “Nakshikantha” production in Jamalpur. But soon they realize that there are not sufficient buyers to buy those products neither there is a stable platform to market those products.


BRAC utilized this opportunity and created a platform where these women could sell products in urban areas and launched Aarong in 1978. To make the platform more efficient, they follow a retail process of several steps; first, a design team conceptualizes the seasons and then they sent that to rural artisans for production.

Aarong also does many skill-developing programs and workshops to make their artisan’s work more efficient. Gradually Bangladeshi handcrafted product demand increases and aarong achieved its vision and challenged the retail industry with its sustainable fashion revolution.

There are mainly two persons behind establishing aarong; Ayesha Abed and Dr. Martha Chen. Both of them joined Aarong on the same day in mid of 1975. Martha Chen and Ayesha abed work in the same workspace for five years. Martha Chen told that they used to call Ayesha by a nickname which is bahar and she also told that bahar was the heart of Brac until her early death in 1981. Martha Chen also added that they used to go for lunch in bahar house and abed, bahar and she used to discuss a lot about BRAC and on those countless lunchtimes, they seed many future programs of BRAC. During the five years when they work together, BRAC grew from 30 staff to 300 staff.

Aarong Team
Aarong Team

Moreover, also expended from one area operation to three; also shifted from rented headquarters to the BRAC first building. After the death of Ayesha Abed; her family, friends, and colleagues established the Ayesha Abed Foundation in her memory to promote the empowerment and employment of rural women of Bangladesh. In addition to being trained, women recruited by AAF benefit from a living wage and job security. The workspaces are often right at the doorsteps of the artisans, to enable them to mainly work from home while being able to look after their families. Through AAF, aarong created the opportunity for women empowerment.

Aarong’s targeted customers are from urban areas, and most are middle class and higher socio-economy. Aarong own 15 retail outlets in Bangladesh; nine of them are in Dhaka, 2 in Chittagong, 1 in Sylhet, 1 in Narayangonj, 1 in Khulna and 1 in Comilla. Not only had these Aarong’s Uttara outlet has been claimed the title of most significant one brand outlet. Aarong was also entering the global market; it opened a franchise in London in 2001. Through e-commerce Aarong also trying to enter the international market as well.

Aarong offers a huge variety of products including handprint, handcrafted, batik, screenprint, silk, embroidery, wall mats, curtains, showpieces, candles, dairy products, and jewelry, etc.

Aarong also recreated the locally manufacture fabrics like jamdani, muslin, and “Nakshikantha.” Aarong also uses the AZO and PCP process for dyes free cotton fabrics. Aarong also buys 75 percent of cotton fabrics from Madhobdi and over 70 percent of silk from Maldaha, which create a sustainable platform for so many artisan communities in Bangladesh.

Aarong started with the goal to support rural women and create a platform for them to utilize their skills and earn money also. The goal is still the same, just they are expanding their platform and making Aarong able to serve the global market.

In 2007 Aarong received fair trade certificate from the World Fair Trade Organization. Aarong celebrates its 30th anniversary with a fashion gala and exhibition series in 2008. In 2009 Aarong received best brand awards from Superbrands. Aarong also received a UNESCO award of excellence in 2012.

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