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Bangladesh Fashionology Summit ’18: Automation, smart fashion take centre stage

Bangladesh Fashionology Summit
Image Courtesy: dhakatribune.com

For the first time, an international convention has taken place in Dhaka city, Bangladesh, with an aim to incorporate technology and innovation into the country’s biggest export sector – apparel.

* Experts stress more on automation, warn of adverse effects

* Emphasis on worker training to improve productivity

‘Bangladesh Fashionology Summit’, organised by Bangladesh Apparel Exchange, held at Bashundhara International Conference Centre on February 12, 2018, laid emphasis mostly on automation – the most pressing issue in the global apparel industry.

The Summit saw the discussion of 17 experts from fashion and technology sectors including those from the UK, the Netherlands, France, Japan and India. The event was attended by nearly 450 entrepreneurs, officials, buyer representatives, trade body representatives, development partners and policy-level leaders of Bangladesh’s apparel industry.

Mostafiz Uddin, CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange, told reporters, “The aim of Bangladesh Fashionology Summit is to bridge the present and future of apparel industry with technology, innovation and exchange of knowledge.”

Automation to cost 80% jobs in garment sector

Discussing at the programme, experts said around 80 per cent of the jobs in the apparel sector will be lost to automation, the inclusion of upgraded machinery, within the next 15 years.

Anjuli Gopalakrishna, a fashion consultant at Fashion Tech and Digital Innovation, Singapore, said that most of the victim countries would be Asian nations like Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

According to her, automation is likely to take place at a rapid pace in the garment industry to meet faster lead-time and sustainable business solutions for the fast-changing world of business.

“To ensure that workers can adapt to the changing factories, they must be trained and transformed into skilled workers,” she said while emphasising that there must be more training programmes for workers to make sure that most of them do not become redundant.

David Birnbaum, a strategic advisor to the World Bank and considered a garments guru worldwide, echoed the same and added that Bangladesh must seriously consider improving the skills of the workers to remain competitive in the cutting-edge production system of the apparel sector.

Key topics such as ‘the need for automation’ and ‘smart fabrics’ were discussed at the Summit
Key topics such as ‘the need for automation’ and ‘smart fabrics’ were discussed at the Summit

More automation for Bangladesh’s US $ 50 billion apparel export target

At the Summit, Gopalakrishna further underscored more rapid automation, the adaptation of the latest technologies out in the market, for Bangladesh to deliver on its promise of turning to a US $ 50 billion export industry by 2021.

“In the traditional production system, I would say, it is not possible to reach the target. Bangladesh would have to embrace the latest technology if it wants to reach the target,” she added.

Mentioning that Bangladesh’s sweater factories are the largest importers of automated sweater machines and that the knitwear and woven factories are also embracing the concept, Birnbaum added, “Bangladesh needs automation as it ensures higher productivity in less time and helps maintain lead time.”

Birnbaum also pitched in the relevance of workers in ensuring higher productivity by stating that the problem in Bangladesh is that the workers are not properly valued. Higher productivity begins with the training of the workers. The factory owners must think that workers are the important part of the business,” added Birnbaum.

A session during the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 12, 2018
A session during the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit, held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on February 12, 2018

Bangladesh should grab a share in ‘smart fashion’ industry

Speaking at the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit, Amanda Cosco, Founder of Canada-based Electric Runway, a fashion tech organisation, estimated that the size of the ‘smart fashion’ industry would reach US $ 130 billion by the end of 2030 and that Bangladesh should prepare to seize a market share in the segment.

Muchaneta Kapfunde, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fashnerd – the globally reputed fashion digital magazine, said that smart fabrics would be at the centre of the smart fashion industry. These smart fabrics would be produced in an eco-friendly manner, which would also take care of the skin. He also discussed on passive, active and ultra – three generations of smart fabrics.

Speaking on the advancement of apparel trade, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, President for Bangladesh Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), said, “The world is changing rapidly, so is fashion. Technology is going to disrupt the global fashion supply chain in less than a decade. Are we prepared enough to face the future? What should be our strategy if we are to sustain?”

All-in-all, the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit intended to spark and initiate discussions around the top ‘transformational’ trends that are shaping the future of garment and textile industry.