“On a marketing level, Argentinian brands and retail are very up-to-date”
Fashion Market had the opportunity to interview Gabriel Farías Iribarren, fashion industry professional with extensive experience in the areas of textile and accessories sourcing, purchase and production in South America, Europe and Asia. He has been established in Asia since 2006 as Director of Suite Blanco, a brand of the multinational company Fawaz Alhokair Group. Pioneer of the company in China, he is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), developing South East Asia as the new production hub.
Fashion Market: What differences do you see between Argentina’s local fashion production and the Asian production?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: Clearly the target markets are different. In Argentina the production goes mainly to the local market, whereas in Asia productions are made on greater volumes to be exported to Europe and the USA. We should also add the fact that Asian consumer markets are increasing their demand year after year, and thus compensating any potential global decrease of consumption due to economic crisis or unforeseen situations.
Evidently, the substantial difference is marked by the factories’ capacity and the production volumes. Large scale Asian manufacturing involves such material cost reductions that “ex-factory price” can´t possibly compete on the other side of the world. All of this is underpinned and encouraged by a large number of available manpower, the local production of raw materials, highly developed energy and transport infrastructure, and the proactive attitude of citizens towards work and entrepreneurship that is deeply rooted in the Asian culture.
Fashion Market: Do you think we could compete on any level?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: If the target are international markets and export, it is not possible to compete because the demographic composition of Argentina is different, the available workforce is much smaller, raw materials necessarily have to be sourced abroad, and transport costs to the US and Europe are much higher.
Argentinian textile industry is competitive if it offers a supply chain that adds value and a quality final product for the local and regional markets.
Leveraging the low cost of transport and current exchange rate fluctuations, in the case of neighboring and near markets, Argentina should work to turn its textile industry into the most important provider of fast fashion to the domestic and regional markets, just like Turkey, Portugal and Morocco have done it with Europe.
Fashion Market: What do you think we should improve or make progress with/develop in terms of Argentinian fashion production?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: Before I share what I think about production improvements, I would like to say that there are many positive aspects to this sector and they constitute a very important basis for growth.
There is a profound knowledge of the fundamentals of fashion design, talented and creative professionals who can perfectly read global trends that are later on materialized into national products.
On a commercial level, Argentinian brands and retailers are very up-to-date regarding customer service, the latest marketing techniques to sell fashion, store decoration and how to place the products in them. In both aspects, this sector has been keeping itself updated and is almost synchronized with global big names.
On the other hand, in terms of production, factories’ structure and processes are on a lower level compared with Asian production units. The domestic industry needs to renew its infrastructure and to invest in equipment and new technologies. Thereafter, it needs to train workers on new global processes and developments.
This requires state incentives as well as clear game rules. This will generate projects and long-term planning that will increase investments. For instance, the possibility to import raw materials required for production, fabrics and accessories which add value to the final product in a transparent and stable manner creates stability and foreseeability for the manufacturing sector.
Fashion Market: What are some upcoming trends in your area, textile sourcing?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: World textile sourcing is facing a series of important challenges and in all of them the common goal is to add value to the production and supply chain.
Among them we can mention:
– Achieving total traceability of the product.
– Reaching ultimate transparency in production processes, the highest efficiency in the use of resources required for production and promoting sustainable logistics solutions.
– Providing support and development from origin for the new omnichannel marketing model.
And an objective that may no longer be a trend but it is useful to have in mind, because it is our fundamental purpose:
Developing, purchasing, producing and distributing the fashion product swiftly but controlling the other two important variables: quality and price.
Fashion Market: What is your perspective regarding the future of sustainable fashion?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: Fashion, just like every other economic sector in the world, must develop its industry, investigate and invest in it in order to make it sustainable and environmentally friendly.
It’s not a choice, it’s an obligation and in the long run it will be the most convenient alternative, even from an economic perspective, because this is what the consumer wants. Now, sustainability is a variable that customers have in mind when making purchase decisions.
We must start right now and look into the future. Social responsibility strategies are profitable when they have a long-term vision, and for that we must identify what the main trends will be that will transform fashion.
A brand that bets for long-term sustainability and manages it will undoubtedly win because it won’t harm the environment and it will also increase its control over the processes thus managing risks and opportunities in a better manner. Many of these actions have very low cost or very short return periods.
Fashion Market: How do you imagine the next wearables or the relationship between fashion and technology?
Gabriel Farías Iribarren: Since the moment we are born, fabrics are our second skin. The fabric, a comfortable, soft and warm material covered up to 90% of our body during our vital cycle.
In addition to protecting us from the outer environment, keeping us comfortable and safe, our clothes are a powerful means of communication; they convey our preferences, feelings and emotional state. Our wardrobe creates a language that presents us to the world outside and we use it to be accepted, to be liked; as a means of attraction.
Until relatively recently, it seemed as if everything had already been invented in the textile industry, and innovation was only about “fashion creativity”. Now we see this is not the case, and a new world opens up in front of our eyes, ready to be discovered, and garments manufactured with technological materials are capable of improving the benefits they provide, acquiring new functionality.
In fact, what we now call wearables, which might be interpreted as “technology you can wear”, is a garment with an added electronic device that enables the connection to other devices. Although technology and the future might not reach a point where electronic devices are added to clothing items; these will directly be electronic, which means that when we get dressed, we are connected.
Our garments will continue to present us to others, expressing our uniqueness, adding a touch of glamour, eccentricity, bohemia or exclusivity we seek when we select a fashionable item. But our clothes will also protect us more, because the new technological fabrics will become our second skin. It will protect our health, take care of our beauty, adapt to the environment, respond to our needs, change according to our preferences and it will keep us connected to our virtual reality and to others.
Remember, the hangers in our closets will not only hold cosmetics and medicine, but they will also keep part of our electronic, digital and communication devices.
This interview was originally published at www.fashionmarketweb.com.ar