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Fashion as a driving force for the economy
Foreign companies have clothing produced for them in Vietnam, on a large scale. As wages rise, this model of manufacture to order is coming under pressure. The textile industry is now looking for new earning models. The training mission undertaken by Nicole Klaver and Tineke Boerma resulted in cross pollination between textile companies and university lecturers.
Vietnam is one of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers. Because wages are rising, more and more Western companies are having their clothes produced in even cheaper low wage countries. “In Vietnam, the majority of companies work according to the cut-and-make principle, only producing clothes to order,” explained PUM expert Nicole Klaver. “To continue to make a profit, the clothing companies are having to carry out more and more processes for themselves, including purchasing the fabrics and even designing their own collection.”
Two experts, one mission
Changing an entire industry is no mean task. Certainly when there is a lack of local expertise. The Hanoi Industrial Textile Garment University therefore called in the assistance of PUM experts Nicole Klaver and Tineke Boerma. The request for assistance was twofold. The textile companies first wanted to know how they could transform their own business models. In addition, the textile university wanted to bring its teaching programme into line with these new models for example by teaching students how to set up their own collection.
To offer solutions to this two-pronged question, a mission was called for with not one but two experts. Tineke has decades of experience in fashion education, and knows everything there is to know about the design side. Nicole has always worked in fashion management and is an expert in the field of strategies, structure and cooperation. The teaching programme drawn up in advance by the pair lasted two weeks. During the first week they provided seminars to textile entrepreneurs and university lecturers. In the second week, the learning methods were discussed with the lecturers, and the group paid a working visit to a different company every day.
“I had never before seen anything like it in the country. A remarkable outcome.”
Nicole explained, “In the mornings we looked into the business practice and in the afternoons we discussed the outcomes. What are your goals? How do you intend to reach them? And what have you learned from the seminars? It was marvellous to see how the businesses helped one another; we saw true collaborative ventures born. Businesses that already had experience of designing their own collections were happy to offer tips about purchasing fabrics, and talked extensively about their own mistakes.” Tineke, who has visited Vietnam on behalf of PUM on numerous occasions commented, “I had never before seen anything like it in the country. A remarkable outcome.” To change an industry, suggested the two experts, you have to start at grassroots level: education. Nicole added, “Of course a process of change like this is very slow, and we can only make a very modest contribution. But even if you can only take a tiny step, it is still worthwhile doing it.” According to Tineke, the main stumbling blocks for rapid progress in Vietnam are poor command of English and the communist, dependent mind set. “I am still in touch with the textile university and one company, to try and help them move forward. I have recognised the need to be careful to avoid being manipulated from the position of consultant to manager.”
PUM is currently investigating how knowledge can be shared more broadly. This mission is an excellent example. 40 entrepreneurs and 30 university lecturers took part in the teaching programme. As Nicole continued, “This is not only a way of reaching out to more people. It also leads to cross-pollination : all the participants share their knowledge.” The fashion experts hope that the teaching programme they have developed can be used repeatedly by PUM. Tineke concluded, “The programme is effectively suitable for use anywhere. Discussions are already underway for a similar mission to Ho Chi Minhstad.’