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Colombian Brands Take Protective Apparel to International Markets

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As COVID-19 ushered in a new normal in public health, the fashion industry in Colombia has shown its most resilient and innovative side by quickly launching new collections for adults and children featuring anti-fluid materials and face masks.

This group of companies—including Maaji, Uniondame, Color siete, Layatte, Protela, Totto, Cueros Vélez, and Polito—already have production orders from clients in the international markets, such as the United States, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Aruba, and the Dominican Republic.

“These entrepreneurs are proving that Colombia’s internationalization and businesses are moving forward,” said Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia, the entity that promotes exports, tourism and foreign investment in Colombia. “We celebrate the versatility of Colombian fashion, which—despite circumstances—continues to position our industry through high-quality designer garments that comply with new health protocols. At ProColombia, we will continue to support companies in this important sector on their path to internationalization with virtual showrooms, training, webinars, and fashion talks, among other actions.”

As an example of the industry’s rapid shift to protective apparel, in just over 10 days Maaji managed to launch its 1World 2gether collection of overclothes. The line includes overalls, joggers, trousers, jackets with built-in face coverings and masks, all made in fluid-repellant fabric. “While our focus is on swimwear, our creative team was able to launch this collection in a very short span of time,” noted Carolina Restrepo, Maaji’s director of innovation and sustainability. “Out of the 52 countries to which we export our products, 20 percent have already placed an order with us for these new garments, which will be arriving at their destinations in early June; these markets include the United States in particular, as well as Germany, Greece, Japan, Spain, Canada, and others.”

Polito, which has been in the children’s clothing and accessories market for more than 40 years, quickly adapted to the new circumstances and designed a protective collection, including jackets and full suits with masks. “Acknowledging how active children are, we wanted to offer clothes that are cheerful, playful, tender, and full of color so that they can continue to enjoy their childhood, while simultaneously taking into account safety and protection,” explained Natalia Zabala, Polito’s sales and marketing manager. “We already have an order for these garments for June in Ecuador, and we hope to reach more countries in South America, some in Central America, and the United States with this collection.”

Monica Bonilla, director of corporate affairs at Totto, said, “Our most recent collection, Totto Element Block, is made with anti-fluid fabrics, includes reusable protective overalls, shoe covers, reusable protective collars, a wind-breaker, backpack protector, and a double-layer adjustable mask. So far, we have received orders from countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Aruba, and Dominican Republic. We expect the first exports of this collection to take place in June so that we can have international coverage and convey our commitment to caring for and protecting people around the world.”

Cueros Vélez, who launched a line of leather face masks with various designs and functionalities, among other products, stated, “From the beginning of the pandemic, we knocked on ProColombia’s doors to seek potential markets in Asia and Europe. We have already received mask orders from Holland, and we are in touch with potential clients in Spain and England. Finally, in the United States and Canada we also have prospective clients and are in the process of issuing quotes.”

Due to the high demand for Colombian garments in the Ecuadorian market, ProColombia launched a showroom for the country on May 12. So far, approximately 70 Colombian exporters have uploaded their products featuring protective designs and components. As a result, about 25 virtual business meetings have been conducted between Ecuadorian buyers and Colombian exporters.

Between January and April of this year, the country’s fashion industry exports rose to $212.6 million, according to DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics) and ProColombia. The United States, Ecuador, and Mexico were the primary destinations for Colombian fashion exports. Garments, fabrics, jeans, corsets, and form-fitting pieces along with leather goods and home clothes were the most exported products from January to April 2020.

Looking to build on this momentum, Colombia will hold its most important fashion trade show, COLOMBIAMODA, virtually from July 27 to August 2. The event will feature a new shopping experience for clients, connecting international demand to Colombia’s supply in an innovative way to support businesses in their exporting and growth processes.

This show is a great opportunity to take full advantage of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States, as well as other countries. To be part of this experience, contact ProColombia’s USA representative Sebastian Echavarria at sechavarria@procolombia.co.

Click here to learn more about ProColombia.

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