The Woolmark Company representative for Vietnam Dr Quyen, AWI board member David Webster, AWI chair Wal Merriman, Vietnam deputy minister for trade and industry Mrs Ho Thi Kim Thoa, The Woolmark Company general manager product development and commercialisation Jimmy Jackson, along with two Vietnamese government officials.
As the global authority on Merino wool, The Woolmark Company has been working towards developing a sustainable supply chain in Vietnam and expand its current manufacturing market by introducing Australian wool into the pipeline.
The Out of Vietnam project has garnered an overwhelming response since its launch in Hanoi in June 2012, and the project’s second phase was rolled out in Ho Chi Minh City in November last year.
“When we embarked on the Out of Vietnam project just one year ago, the original plan was to have 12 manufacturing partners on board by the end of June 2013,” The Woolmark Company’s general manager for product development and commercialisation Jimmy Jackson said. “But because of the keenness of the Vietnamese industry, today we have nearly 50 companies.
“These companies produce an array of different types of apparel products which include sweaters, socks, accessories, sportswear, underwear and quilted products.”
Mr Jackson, who recently returned from a trip to Vietnam with Australian Wool Innovation (The Woolmark Company’s parent company) chair Wal Merriman and board director David Webster, said when the project first started none of the partners knew anything about wool. But through workshops run by technicians from The Woolmark Company covering the production pipeline, and visits from a delegation of buyers, the Vietnamese manufacturers had their confidence boosted.
“We travelled to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, delivering workshops on Easy Care Wool which focussed on garment washing and shrinkage prevention. We also visited a number of factories, which are using fairly modern equipment. All our partner knitters are using computerised electronic machines in a full range of gauges.
“Some of the companies are now capable of producing good quality apparel products made from Australian wool. Other companies need a bit more help to improve the quality in terms of hand feel and appearance, so we will continue to work with them on this matter.”
During the trip Mr Jackson, Mr Merriman and Mr Webster also visited the Vietnamese Government Department of Trade and Industry, where they had talks with deputy minister Mrs Ho Thi Kim Thoa. Mrs Thoa had already heard about the project and welcomed The Woolmark Company’s continued partnership to assist the Vietnamese industry produce more high value premium products made from Australian wool and to increase the demand for them.
The next step once the Vietnamese companies feel confident to produce good quality wool garments is to introduce them to potential retail and brand buyers across the world. The first delegation of buyers from Japan comprising of 10 companies will travel to Vietnam in July to meet The Woolmark Company’s Vietnamese partners
“We are confident that this visit will see some commercial business take place,” Mr Jackson said. “This confidence is boosted by the fact that some of our partners have already received commercial orders for products made from Australian wool.”
Following the visit of Japanese buyers, The Woolmark Company is planning a similar visit with Korean retailers and in the future will emulate similar visits with buyers from Europe and the USA.
As the project name ‘Out of Vietnam’ suggests, business in Vietnam is primarily export focussed. However, The Woolmark Company is working with Dopimex in Ho Chi Minh City to produce a classic ladies Vietnamese dress called the áo dài. This traditional national dress is still very popular and frequently worn by Vietnamese women today.
“Traditionally, the garment is made from silk,” Mr Jackson said. “But today it is increasingly made from polyester. Yet with the increasing wages in Vietnam we felt there is a chance for wool, which has great breathability properties and is able to cope with Vietnam’s warmer climate.”