The International Apparel Federation (IAF)'s 30th annual convention launched in Medellin, Colombia on Tuesday (29 September), luring 330 delegates from over 15 countries to discuss the industry's latest challenges.

Under the slogan "Understanding the challenges of the fashion business," the two-day event will feature 12 panels focusing on a specific industry issue and will feature talks from the likes of Desigual, VF Corporation, The Doneger Group and McKinsey.

The World Bank's trade specialist Emiliano Duch began the event with a presentation focusing on the industry's need to include poorer countries in the fast-fashion game. He spoke about how old and inefficient low-cost industry models must be reshuffled to become more consumer centric, noting that everyone could benefit by emulating the "the Zara lesson" in developing countries.

According to Duch, World Bank is re-evaluating its aid strategy to help poor countries set up fast-fashion supply chains which, he noted, are a low-cost way to help develop their apparel industries and boost economic growth.

The day also saw Walt Disney's Latin American general manger Claudio Chiaromonte muse about how his company is leveraging "consumer centricity" to grow its business.

Then came Diesel co-founder Adriano Goldschmied's much-awaited talk.

Titled "Transforming the Denim Business", Goldschmied recounted how he helped make denim fashionable, launching several brands in the 70s that gave way to the genesis of today's multi-billion dollar Diesel brand.

Goldschmied said the denim market is facing headwinds from a lack of innovation that has triggered a sales slump. However, he said his firm GoldSign is working to promote new and more comfortable stretch fabrics to boost innovation and sales in the category.

Choosing Colombia
In a press conference, IAF's president Harry van Dalfsen cited Colombia's "high innovation" and entrepreneurial spirit for picking it as the first South American country to host the convention.

Despite Colombia's violent past (an image it has now largely shaken off), Dalfsen said he was "amazed about the industry's high standing, innovation and eco-friendliness" when visiting Bogota and Medellin. He added he wanted "to share this with the rest of the world" by bringing the federation's delegates to Medellin. With two integrated fashion fairs (Colombiatex and Colombiamoda), Medellin is increasingly seen a regional fashion hub.

Speaking to just-style, Dalfsen said Brazil will host the 2017 Convention. He said Latin America's largest economy is a relatively new member to the IAF while Colombia has been a much longer and familiar partner.

Meanwhile, Carlos Eduardo Botero, president of IAF's partner and largest Colombian industry trade group Inexmoda, said the event comes at a time of great prosperity for the country.

In 2013, GDP grew 4.7%, making it Latin America's third-biggest economy, while foreign investment surged 20% from 2005 levels.