After recently stepping into the CEO shoes at TFIA, Richard Evans has hit the ground running, literally. Having specialised in working with industry peak bodies to improve their reputation, relevance and revenues, Richard brings years of experience to the role.
“The TFIA appealed to me because the industry needs to alter their perception within the market, specifically politically but with a broader strategy to increase brand awareness for the industry to the wider market,” he said.
“For much too long the TCF sector has been viewed as a dying industry and this is far from correct. Sure there has been significant changes to the mass production we had some thirty years ago but to suggest the TCF industry is dead in Australia is to totally misread the importance of the textile and fashion industry to our society.
“What I bring to the TFIA is specialist capabilities to rebuild the brand, increase influence, overcome the negative stakeholders, such as the misguided Union, and provide leadership on the issues that impact the industry.”
We took five with Richard to discuss the need for a peak industry body; providing a voice for the textile, fashion and footwear industry; and their plans to ramp up the educational program at TFIA.
What type of industries and roles make up the TFIA members?
The TFIA provides a voice for the entire supply channel from the seed of a creative dream to the consumer.
There are several services available to TFIA members, can you detail these? And who they apply to? How can we gain access?
A peak industry body exists for one specific reason – to provide a voice to its members and the industry it represents. Without such a voice protecting the interests of all stakeholders then those that would take self-interested advantage prevail, and we witness that with the over regulation of the industry.
A peak body has other roles to play in providing member advantages within services it can bring to market, education, networking opportunities and providing low cost leadership. The TFIA will focus on providing services to small business to help them grow and prosper and we will also be helping major brands with their industry needs. We are currently reviewing our membership offering and will be launching more information towards the end of September.
The TFIA plan to ramp up their existing education offering in 2014, can you reveal which areas you plan to improve or develop?
Industry specific education is a no-brainer when it comes to an industry body offering members access. We are currently reviewing our offering and will be launching more early in 2014. Our primary focus is to help our members and the broader industry access quality education at a reasonable price so they can maximise their potential to grow and prosper.
It can be a minefield for designers wanting to make their collections in Australia and source fabric, and stay within the ethical guidelines – what kind of legislative support do you provide?
Small business is very difficult, overly so in Australia. Australians generally want two things; to own their own house and to be their own boss, and the TCF sector allows entry very easily, especially in retail.
There are huge regulatory issues to consider before diving into the market and folks just need to curb their enthusiasm before investing too much into their dream. They need to understand the market and what it takes to be successful before entering the market otherwise it can ll end very badly.
The TFIA will be building a resource for new entrants to allow them to carefully think about their business plan and the many traps unsuspecting entrepreneurs will be faced with when establishing the business. The biggest issue many new entrants face is under capitalisation … in other words not enough money. Get this right, manage cash flow and draw upon the experts and the maze of endeavor can be overcome.
What are some of the government assistance programs available to the industry?
There are many government funded programs available for those seeking support. These are normally competitive which means the enterprise that has the best English expression and presents well will get the nod.
My advice is to not rely on government funding, as it is complex to navigate the application process; expensive to have someone do it for you, which is the preferred option and gets your focus off the main game, which is building your business.
If you think you need government welfare to survive in business then perhaps you ought to consider another vocation. Government programs are readily accessible and can be sourced via their websites
What are some of the new issues facing the industry now?
We need a strategic plan for the future. The industry has been on the ‘guilt’ money teat for too long, and we need a cultural change within government policy. We need the government to work with the industry to develop a 20-year strategic plan that will open doors to the market that will allow optimistic growth for the over 5000 companies that employ 40,000 currently. We need career pathways for the tertiary-trained students that enter the market every yea; and we need a focus on artisan and trade training that allows us to build skilled capability.
We need a new focus from those that regulate the market to recognise the era of sweat shops has been exported along with the thousands of jobs that were once available and begin to build rather than break the labour market. We need a new attitude to government procurement and we need great attention to the unacceptable imports that are entering Australia.
There is much to do, so we need a government that will listen rather than turn their back on the industry as has happened in the past.
How can we plan for the future?
The most significant thing we can do is begin to realise the importance of the textile and fashion industry to our everyday lives. We sleep on a textile product, between textile products under a textile product in a textile product onesie. We pad on a textile product as we walk through our home or office, bathe using textile, dress in textile and fashion products, and indeed almost everything we do has textile as part of it. Our individuality is determined by fashion, and we provide our for our comfort with fashion products.
Yet, we seem to not consider the importance of textile and fashion to our lives. We take it for granted and indeed government policy takes the security of the textile and fashion supply channel for granted. As weird as it may sound, the supply channel is a national security issue; for without these products our security is at threat.
TFIA has been successfully representing the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industries since the 1940s – from big business to small and medium enterprises. This session focuses on how the TFIA helps local designers and retailers conduct business in mutually beneficial, financially sound ways with our Asian, sub-continental and northern hemisphere neighbours.
- Providing legislative support for members
- A word on government assistance programmes available to the industry
- Current industry requirements and regulations
- New issues facing the industry
For more information on the FREE Sourcing Fair seminar program, visit; sourcingfair.com.au