Interview with Michel Abeysekera

Face2Face
Michel Abeysekera
Michel Abeysekera
President
TFIA
TFIA

What kind of challenges you behold for the textile, clothing and fashion industry of Australia?

Major structural and economic reforms (tariff reductions etc.) are almost complete for the TCF sector. It is the micro levers that need attention. For example, monitoring of product complies with Australian Standards, IP and copyright legislation, flexibility in the TCF labour regime, product safety and monitoring of labels and advertising claims on packaging to ensure false claims are not being made etc. Given the high volume of imports this presents huge challenges for local industry and creates an unfair competitive environment. There are also issues in skill shortages and access to qualified technicians / machine operators who can run new state of the art machinery. As Australia is a small market for such equipment, overseas machinery suppliers seems reluctant to provide technicians in Australia on a permanent basis. In the last four years, there has been a 28 percent decline in local manufacturing, jobs as well as trend is escalating in cloth manufacturing. It is yet to become clear that how detrimental this will be for emerging designers and local brands who have built loyalty through the ‘Made in Australia’ point of difference. Bricks and mortar retailers are finding it ever more competitive with the recent appearance of global brands entering in the Australia’s market. They are also competing with an online GST free under $1000 threshold given offshore brands a 10 percent advantage.

How does textile and clothing industry pay its seriousness towards sustainability?

Sustainability is the leading platform for new products and services and for a larger number of businesses in the Australian industry. The triple bottom line i.e. people, planet and profit, seems to be the key driver that predominates most sustainability strategies. The challenge is that with such a large number of Australian TCF companies producing off shore – compliance with ethical, environmental and product safety regulation becomes more difficult to manage. The TFIA is working diligently to assist the TCF industry in understanding the role of sustainability. It recognises that sustainability is a journey for companies and some are further down the road than others. Businesses and brands can do much to improve their progress and in turn it creates a sustainable industry with long term viability. TFIA holds events that focus on sustainability issues e.g. 'Plan for People', ‘Waste and Energy Reduction’ thereby ensuring sustainability is always at the forefront of the minds of people, working in this sector.
Published on: 01/08/2012

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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