Blog: Leonie BarrieMinds meet at Prime Source Forum

Leonie Barrie | 4 April 2011

There are few industries as buffeted on so many sides as the textile and clothing industry - and there are equally few events brave enough to tackle head-on the full range of challenges and opportunities faced by the sector and its supply chain.

But one that has always stood out for its ability to provide a platform that taps into the sourcing issues that matter - and for the refreshingly open way in which both speakers and delegates share their views - is the annual Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong. And last week's meeting of minds more than lived up to expectations.

It's been several years since I last attended (although news editor Joe Ayling has been valiantly flying the flag for just-style in the intervening period) and to be honest I wasn't sure whether the spark of the early years would still be there. After all, the event was borne out of concerns around the abolition of quotas back in 2005 and a lot has changed since then.

So credit must go to the organiser APLF - and in particular Forum director Derek Dickins, who I have got to know well over the years - for managing to move with the times.

This year the event was set up to get underneath the latest raft of challenges the industry is facing. Speakers are no longer given a chance to make formal presentations, but are encouraged to present their views - including contentious and challenging comments to spur debate - before the audience is invited to take part. And take part they do, resulting in a genuine two-way dialogue, with comments, criticisms and suggestions flying across the floor.

The result is a real platform to discuss pressing global challenges. Not surprisingly, China continued to top the agenda this year, but other issues include rising commodity and labour costs, labour shortages, the supply chain and its many weak links, production trends moving forward, and what we're doing to train and promote the talent in our industry. As always, there are more questions than answers, but the textile and clothing industry is nothing if not resilient, and continues to rise to the challenges with innovation, creativity and the will to survive.

The richness of the event undoubtedly comes from the content provided by everyone who attends, and it continues to be a great opportunity to get everybody in one place and to ask tough questions. The format will continue next year - the date for your diaries is 28-30 March 2012 - but the 7th Prime Source Forum is also opening its doors to the footwear industry for the first time, which should add another layer to proceedings.

To say it's a challenge to report on an event such as this is something of an understatement, since it's like listening in on a two-day conversation amongst several hundred people. But it's fascinating nevertheless, and there are definite trends in the way industry executives are currently thinking. You can tap into them here.


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