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How to make regional fashion better

Gercine Carter

How to make regional fashion better

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Caribbean fashion industry stakeholders got a heads-up on their industry’s potential for development with a seminar facilitated through the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System’s (SELA) Single Market and Economy Programme last week.

Participants from several countries in the region joined Barbadians representing the sector at Hilton Barbados for the exposé on an industry that recorded an increase of $3.4 trillion in 2012 and employs about 75 million people worldwide.

In the Latin American market the fashion industry accounted for approximately $70.2 billion, with Brazil as the fifth largest producer.

The focus last week was on industrial planning, allocation of resources and investment, training and dissemination of best practices. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) collaborated with SELA.

Instructive was the in-depth presentation and analysis by David Yuen-Hoi Lee, industrial development officer with the United Nations Industrial Development Programme, relayed through video-conferencing.

The expert pointed out that the developed countries had been moving away from fashion production over the last 30 years “because it is the lowest value”.

He said these leaders in the fashion industry were choosing instead to control the design, branding and distribution because they were the areas accounting for much higher value in the value chain.

Addressing the Barbadian interests specifically, Lee advised, “The highest value is not from the production, so Barbados can locate which part of the value chain it wants to be. It must identify what is its competitive advantage.”

The seminar was designed to increase awareness of the importance of value chains in Latin America and the Caribbean, facilitate goods manufacturing opportunities, knowledge sharing and access to textiles and raw materials.

It was also intended to provide the fashion sector of Barbados and CARICOM, in particular, training institutions specialising in fashion and fashion design, business development agencies , the manufacturing sector and the financial sector, with the elements to develop the fashion industry in the Caribbean from the experiences of the most important European and American couture houses.

Claudine Rousseau, senior lecturer, London College of Fashion, fashion consultant Avis Charles and experts from Latin America, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico sharing the experience in Latin America, all gave further insight into what was happening in fashion design around the world.