Interview with Harry van Dalfsen

Face2Face
Harry van Dalfsen
Harry van Dalfsen
President
IAF
IAF

Consumers still love brands. But they are spoiled and a brand must have right story behind it, to connect their lifestyle.
With Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Cindrella Thawani, Harry van Dalfsen expresses an idea of survival of the fittest in the Europe. Moreover, he cites, "Markets are shaking, new structures are emerging." Synopsis: International Apparel Federation (IAF) is one of the leading federations for apparel manufacturers, retailers, associations. Further, it is politically neutral global association, open to entrepreneurs and executives from the apparel chain worldwide. Harry van Dalfsen is the President of IAF, since October 2010. Moreover, he is the CEO of Venture Group. From 1996 until 2007, he was the Chairman of MODINT (Dutch Employers Organisation for fashion, interior, carpet and textile industry). In Netherlands during 1990, he completed his Master’s in Law (L.L.M.). Excerpts:

How do you see the growth of apparel trade/market world-wide?

On a global scale, we are witnessing a rather extreme mix of depressed markets, fast growing markets, new sales opportunities and an accelerating demise of some retail channels. In production markets as well, we are seeing extremes that we are not used to any more. Looking at graphs of the cotton prices over the last two years tells the story. The extreme end of the spectrum performances of companies are growing. In Europe, we are seeing many independent retailers unable to keep up with the new marketing requirements, the rents that are still too high along with the depressed demand. Some new web shops such as Gilt Groupe, Zalando and Nelly are growing at enormous rates. The markets are shaking, new structures are emerging.

Global downturn has impacted several regions world-wide. How do you see its impact on the overall apparel trade, globally? Further, which affirmative changes can shape the positive business environment for the fashion supply chain?

Indeed, imports of clothing from China, EU, US and South East Asia, have been declined in the first half of 2012. However, downturn is mainly visible in terms of the number of apparel pieces imported. We do see depressed demand in the large clothing markets of the EU and in US, but this is not the whole story. We also see inflation in producer prices, from raw materials to labour and to energy, as well. It is not an easy situation to resolve. Besides, business must largely deal with this on an individual basis and creating an extra value as a brand.

It is said that tough times do not last but tough people do. In this, how do you see the big/eminent brands making their bright existence in Europe as well as globally?

The future of the industry is bright. Of course the financial crises are prevailing, among other things; there is a decline in consumer confidence and hence decreasing retail sales across Europe. On the other hand, many fashion brands and retailers, also in Europe, are showing excellent results. Technology and new media especially are offering many new ways of engaging with the customer and this is boosting the power of strong global brands. Brands are still very much popular part of our everyday lives and brands convey to the wearer about a sense that they are the part of a lifestyle. And this is I believe often underestimated; brands are able to add very positive elements to our lives. Brands and retailers that are able to establish themselves globally have passed a certain threshold and their owners often end up in the Forbes top 100 list. Establishing a brand globally takes a lot of money, stamina, a rock solid dedication to the brand image and also overcoming a large amount of small, real legislative but practical hurdles.

Please tell us, what kind of apparel-related training and education advancement is required? Would this training session be specifically for the companies or for the fashion designers?

The apparel industry, straightforward as it seems at first glance, is very complicated actually. It requires many skills and a very broad knowledge set. Design obviously is an important aspect, but it receives plenty of attention. Currently, a state-of-the-art supply chain is more important than ever. The industry needs good middle management ‘on the both sides of order’. We need more people to move up the productivity of the industry, and that the industry can rely less and less on reducing costs by relocation to lower wage areas.

How has recession impacted the consumers buying habits? Moreover, how much are they (consumers) willing to pay for the better quality? Please elaborate

Social media is providing more opportunities to tell story behind the brands. Quality is merely not a key word to add value to a brand, besides it must match the story behind a brand; also value to apparel lays value to brand. Moreover, with the convenience of internet sales along with the reckoning retail experience and this combination would be like icing on the cake.
Published on: 20/06/2012

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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