Though the island’s apparel industry has been floundering over the years, Government is not prepared to give up on it.
This was the clear message sent by Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, when he addressed the launch of the 2020 fashion line Style Out Loud by entrepreneur and founder of CH Needleworks, Cicely Harewood, at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre, Queen’s Park last night.
While registering his satisfaction with the show, the Minister praised Ms. Harewood for using her “creative ability as a vehicle for self-empowerment and economic enfranchisement”, and noted that her work would be comparable to, or even superior to any exhibit displayed “by leading designers from North America, Europe or Canada”.
He commended the “self-taught creative” for her forward thinking business approach and her understanding of the need to keep abreast of changing customer preferences and lifestyles, while producing products that targeted such changing lifestyles.
Mr. Sutherland also noted that the launch was a clear demonstration of what a business in this modern era should be and should emulate, no matter what kind of product they choose to produce.
“It is this kind of business aptitude, accompanied by commitment and dedication, that is needed to complement Government’s efforts to support the development and growth of micro and small business if Government’s programmes are to realize overall success and the sector be positioned to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the Barbados economy,” Minister Sutherland said.
He, however, lamented that the local apparel industry was failing. Providing statistics, he said its overall contribution to Barbados’ economy was now but a shadow of what it was.
He stated: “Export earnings from apparels in 1983 was approximately $70 million. In 2017, export earnings from this sector were recorded as $300, 000, which is less than 0.5 per cent of the 1983 figure. Further to this, employment that was at a level of 4,000 jobs back in 1983 is now 200.
“Quite amazingly, however, when we consider the market for apparel on the global scale, it is estimated at about US$1.7 trillion strong, employing over 60 million individuals worldwide and growing.”
The Small Business Minister said despite the radical decline in the industry realized by Barbados over the years, he still believed all was not lost.
He stressed: “With the right skill set the likes of Cicely, working in unison, through the formation of cooperatives with people that are committed and dedicated to the growth of business, and putting in place the right marketing mix, I believe that Barbados’ apparel industry can be revitalized and rebuilt and Barbados be poised to access such a lucrative market with a higher end Barbadian product, and at a level of international competitiveness than it was in the former glory days.”
Mr. Sutherland, who had earlier in the evening engaged Ms. Harewood on her own vision for the sector, assured her and others gathered that her appeal for a fashion week on the island would materialize.
He also called on all designers to help build out and revive the sector.