Brazil Clothes Industry Fights China with Invention

Colorful collections by Carmem VenzonsThe micro and small Brazilian companies found a way around the competition with Chinese confections in the international market: creativity. The originality in creating the clothes is opening doors to exports for hundreds of micro and small sized textile factories.

“The Brazilian consumer today, does not want to feel he is wearing a uniform and the Brazilian factories are presenting creative solutions to this consumer,” said the president of the Textile and Clothes Industries Association from the State of Paraná (Vestpar), Valdir Scalon.


For the clothes factory III Milenium, from the city of Caxias do Sul, in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, this was the formula found to enter the external market.


The company manufactures feminine party clothes with the brand Carmem Venzons and doesn’t spare creativity when making them. The articles, varying from dresses to blouses, skirts and corselets, are embroidered with beads, crystals, and sequins.


“We look for the unexpected, we use different materials so the articles become unique,” said one of the partners at III Milenium, Maria Mezzomo.


The company made their first international sale last year, to the United States and Colombia, one year before planned.


“In 2003 we stipulated as an objective to start exporting in 2005,” said Maria. III Milenium is now also negotiating with importers from Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Italy and Sweden.


“Competition with the Chinese doesn’t affect us directly because our product is very innovative,” states the partner-owner. Abroad, the clothes are sold in multi-brand stores and boutiques.


Company Fhio de Linha, a small sized confection in Belo Horizonte, capital city of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, has a similar story.


The factory also manufactures party clothes and has exported for about two years. At Fhio de Linha, the mixture of materials, such as the tulle, Indian fabrics, crepe and pure silk, is their great differential.


As well as embroidery, the company uses frayed out and draped fabrics, or with sewed on hand made flowers. “I avoid the North American style, very conventional. I work with everything that is differentiated,” says the stylist Jairo Eustaquio Di Matosinhos, who also owns the company.


Fhio de Linha sells their brand in a showroom in Spain, together with other Brazilian companies, and has already sold to other stores in Portugal and Florida, in the United States.


Exports are still small, but the company is ready to invest in the foreign market. “We wish exports to take 50% of our production,” said Matosinhos.


“The small companies are preparing, differentiating, researching, buying international magazines. They are worried about style, about the final touch,” says Mariza Drummond, coordinator of the Fashion Exhibit of the state of Minas Gerais, an entity gathering 60 textile factories for micro and small sized garment producers in Minas Gerais. About 10 companies already export.


“In terms of prices, we still haven’t managed to compete with the Chinese. But the Brazilian companies are adding value to the products and therefore, in the international market they enter in another segment,” said Scalon.


Both III Milenium and Fhio de Linha entered the foreign market participating in national trade fairs visited by foreigners.


Brazilian Style


Amongst great part of the micro and small sized Brazilian companies, the owners are in charge of the styling department. This does not give, in any way, an amateur status to the companies.


Matosinhos, from Fhio de Linha, goes on journeys at least twice a year to study fashion. His destination is normally Europe, but he has already been to India and is also used to going to New York. “I am always taking courses, participating in lectures,” he says.


At III Milenium, it is the stylist and proprietor Carmem Venzons who takes care of creating the clothes. Carmem travels abroad about four times a year, and recycles her knowledge in courses and seminars.


“She follows national and international magazines, is always searching the Internet, talking to people in the fashion sector,” tells Maria about her partner Carmem. The III Milenium collections have about 150 models.


At Polignum, a small clothes producer from Maringá, in the state of Paraná, in the South of Brazil, owner Zenaide Demito is also responsible for fashion creations.


Expansion, however, made the entrepreneur seek help from a graduated stylist, as well as a specialist in designing specific models.


Polignum produces feminine fashion, such as trousers, skirts and blouses, and sells 8,000 articles per month on the national market alone.


“When we export, we increase the production volume,” says Zenaide. Currently they answer five international orders per year, varying from 1,000 to 10,000 articles.


Exports began about three years ago and the destinations are the United States, Panama and Costa Rica. The international sales are made through a consortium called BRCia. Zenaide believes the company’s differential, in the foreign market, are the prices and final touch.


“We cannot compete with the Chinese and Koreans, but we have good prices and quality. I am very demanding in relation to the clothes. If it isn’t something I would wear, I also don’t sell it,” she says.


The fashion research is made in Brazil, through courses, the Internet and conversations and suppliers. One of the entrepreneurs’ concerns is, indeed, to follow fashion in the rhythm it demands. “We have even used summer prints from abroad, when it was still winter here,” she says.


Translated by Silvia Lindsey
ANBA ”“ Brazil-Arab News Agency

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