“I’m certain of that,” he said at the latest Sourcing at Magic trade show in Las Vegas, where Vogue’s manufacturing arm, Velocity Apparelz, exhibited as part of the African pavilion. “But it will collapse if it grows too fast.”
Production recently started at Velocity’s new plant in Mekelle in northern Ethiopia and the facility is slated to officially launch in May to coincide with its first shipment. “Most people don’t want to touch [Mekelle], but we’ve gone in there because we believe that that’s the place that needs it most,” Sinha offered, noting that when he first decided to establish a garment factory in East Africa three years ago, he wanted to be sure he was doing it in a sustainable way. That’s something Vogue has been committed to since its inception in 1988.
“We studied the country for one year, sat around in cafes and spoke to people for a full year to find which location would work for us best. And then we actually went and met government officials,” he explained, adding, “I can quite comfortably say that it is the most advanced factory in the entire world.”
Velocity, which also has factories in United Arab Emirates and Egypt, specializes in denim and sources material from China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and Italy. The Mekelle plant, located on a campus measuring just under a square mile, will produce jeans and knit garments. The entire factory is fully automated, set up on conveyor systems, powered by wind and lit by LED bulbs, and has its own water treatment facilities on-site. Other sustainable practices include waterless washing, sublimation fabric printing and laser-blast technology.
“We’ve developed a campus-based structure and we house all our workers, so we take care of housing and entertainment, everything is there. Everything is done for them and then our plan is that as we grow we’re going to put up schools, hospitals and all of that,” Sinha shared.
Velocity hopes to ultimately provide jobs for around 10,000 people in Ethiopia.
“Africa is the next manufacturing base of the world,” Sinha reiterated, adding, “We are doing our bit. I think buyers have to do their bit. But we all have to be a little patient because it’s a part of the world that’s been ignored for a long time so it will take a little time to bring it up to speed.”