Rahul Mehta talks about sourcing in the apparel industry at Prime Source Forum

IAF’s President Rahul Mehta spoke in a panel discussion at the Prime Source Forum that took place last week in Hong Kong. He gave the audience a clear timeline of the sourcing developments in the global apparel industry, moving from the age of finding capacity, to lowering costs, to responsible sourcing to end up in the current time of fast fashion. Sourcing solutions in 2015 must involve ways to reduce waste created by an inefficient system. It must take into account the costs that can be saved by bringing supply closer, at least in term of time, sometimes physically, to demand.

This year’s edition of Prime Source Forum gave a very balanced picture of the issues that are crucial to apparel sourcing. Certainly moving production to upcoming lower cost production markets is a reality. Africa is not a question mark anymore. Many at PSF including Mehta attested to this, as did the presence as a speaker of Kenya’s Minister of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Hon. Adan Mohamed

But at the same time, Rahul Mehta questioned in his speech the next step after Africa, when all the continents are already home to the global garment industry. He said that it is time to start looking at Cost of Selling instead of just focussing on Cost of Purchase. And indeed, PSF 2015 also tackled the functioning of the supply chain and the making more attractive and more sustainable products. Sourcing is now more than ever a mix of moving and improving production. And the Accord, the Alliance, strong environmental legislation in the US, in Europe and now also in China are creating more necessity for innovation.

But a heated discussion between brands and representatives of manufacturers at PSF showed that in practice of course investments are often held up by the question ‘who is paying?’ The industry is indebted to those companies that do not wait for the answer, but that move first, take the risk and so step by step change the industry.

In parallel, IAF believes it’s important to keep talking together about these issues. We will do so again at the World Fashion Conference and Istanbul Fashion Conference October 14th and 15th in Istanbul.


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