A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the International Apparel Federation’s 30th World Fashion Convention in Medellin, Colombia, where there are a lot of interesting things happening in the world of fashion. This annual event brings together people from all over the world involved in the fashion industry to discuss current issues. In the past, the event has been held in places like Milan, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Shanghai, but arrived in Medellin this year. Medellin is the center of Colombia’s textile and garment industry, and is home to both large companies who do business on a global scale, and smaller, more locally-focused companies. It has also been an attractive location for other major trade shows, like Colombiamoda and Colombiatex.
The IAF Convention is an interesting event for anyone involved with the business of fashion, from marketing to supply chain management and beyond. There were more than 200 attendees and over a dozen great speakers who talked about several of the main challenges facing the industry, including a changing business model, interactions with the consumers, brand consistency, and strengthening the role of Latin America in the greater global industry. We also heard presentations on what it takes to stay competitive, including leadership talks and how to understand the next generation of consumers.
Not only was the event a success for Medellin, but it also showcased the whole country of Colombia as a sourcing destination and why it is a destination of choice for so many. The city of Medellin itself has changed so much in just the past 6 years with many new malls and other buildings going up all over the city. These have helped give the town a new image and make people feel safer and more confident when they visit. Colombia has a very mature supply chain and is very advanced when it comes to trade opportunities. The desire to run socially-compliant facilities is also high amongst local factory owners (which is something that WRAP has had a chance to play a role in). All in all, the country has a lot going for it in terms of being recognized as a good sourcing destination.
The textiles/clothing industry has been one of the most traditional sectors in the Colombian economy, and has an especially strong impact on employment, production, development and internationalization of the economy of the country. Furthermore, in Colombia, social responsibility is recognized as a plus, and the local companies that WRAP has been working with for several years are demonstrating their commitment to keep their manufacturing practices humane, legal and ethical, and with their best practices to improve working conditions as much as possible.