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Yvette Ashby, CEO of PCIAW®, discusses the state of the professional clothing industry

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The Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW®) is a trade body that facilitates collaboration and encourages peer-to-peer support with events that offer business connections to its members. CEO Yvette Ashby discusses the major events that stormed the professional clothing industry in 2020, how the association helped members tide through it, and how it is now helping members to navigate the complexity of new trading rules after Brexit.

How was 2020 a different year for people in the professional clothing industry?

2020 was a dramatic, unprecedented and turbulent year for the professional clothing industry. Personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers worked tirelessly to try and keep up with an unprecedented global demand for face masks, gloves and gowns, while corporate wear suppliers saw demand dramatically fall due to their core customer base in the travel, hospitality and events industries being heavily restricted.   Companies that were both agile and flexible adapted to manufacture PPE and mitigated the financial impact of the pandemic on their businesses. Digital solutions accelerated with 3D body scanning technology for exact size and fit, and wardrobe management solutions helped order and distribute professional clothing, alleviating the need for social contact. While company executives normally travel the world for sourcing materials and conducting business, platforms such as Zoom have become the new normal for virtual meetings.

The demand for PPE kits increased last year with the spread of COVID-19. How did PCIAW® help its members meet the growing demand?

PCIAW® helped its members by putting buyers in touch with suppliers. Buyers looking to procure PPE for the first time got in contact with PCIAW® and we constructively pointed them in the direction of our trusted members that have the experience and capacity to deliver PPE.  

I worked along with Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) to help educate the UK government on the strict regulatory requirements of PPE. In the joint report to the UK Cabinet Office, we provided a list of our trusted members for the government to work with and to manufacture PPE in the United Kingdom. 

We brought the industry together by helping our members with manufacturing capabilities connect with our other members in the digital technology sector for patterns and samples, which were used to help redirect PCIAW® trusted members manufacturing capacity towards PPE. 

Please share a brief history of PCIAW®. How many member companies does it have? Is there any bifurcation in terms of buyers and suppliers?

PCIAW® was founded by me in early 2018, after publishing the director-e magazine for the professional clothing industry for over two decades. It was recognised that the professional clothing industry lacked representation as there was no association dedicated to the market, as other organisations deal with the fashion and retail markets.  

I was approached to spearhead PCIAW® as I was the key player in the professional clothing industry with the largest ready-to-go network of businesses across the workwear, corporate wear and PPE sectors, which now comprise the PCIAW® Network. 

PCIAW® works across the entire supply chain of the professional clothing industry, from fibre, thread and yarn producers; fabric, fastenings and accessories companies; to the end-product manufacturers from head to toe. As PCIAW® connects the professional clothing industry, our trusted members have become ever more interconnected as they collaboratively adopt each other’s innovative technologies to achieve higher quality.  We strive to expand our international membership base to reach every corner of the globe. Raymond Group, Milliken & Company, Hunter Apparel Solutions, Carrington Textiles, Lenzing, Gerber Technology, BTTG, Shirley Technologies, Invista Cordura Brand, W L Gore, Anivec, Incorporatewear, Cobmex Apparel are all PCIAW® trusted members. 

PCIAW® membership packages feature a tiered structure to ensure accessibility to all businesses, regardless of size. We prioritise passion and quality in the professional clothing industry.   Buyers or end users can become members of PCIAW® for free and can submit their tenders onto the PCIAW® tender directory to access credible, reliable businesses that they can trust. PCIAW® helps buyers for airlines, banks, supermarkets, plus hospitality, events and construction industries and more. 

What are the various ways in which PCIAW® supports its members? What are the advantages to companies joining this group?

PCIAW® is a member-only association, which represents the professional clothing industry to the governments on behalf of our members, by reporting to the UK National Audit Office for the correct information about PPE regulation during the pandemic or representing workers in the textile industry to the UK Home Office Employers Consultation Group. We have just published the PCIAW® Guide to Rules of Origin, which will help our members navigate the complexity of new trading rules after Brexit. 

We are currently collaborating on a project with British and Tunisian embassies, OCO Global and CEPEX Tunisia to offer nearshore manufacturing opportunities to our trusted members, providing new choices, which can help develop their businesses and facilitate unique investment opportunities. We are always seeking to forge new partnerships around the world to provide greater benefits to its members.

Our trusted members can exclusively access the PCIAW® Tender Directory for lucrative business development opportunities and our buyer members can upload their tenders into the directory and ensure credible, reliable companies supply their professional clothing. 

PCIAW® offers first-to-market industry insights, the latest news on business acquisitions and unmissable coverage on important innovations which progresses the professional clothing industry. PCIAW® is here to help; if we don’t know the answer, we promise to find who does.

As digital communication has become the new normal during the pandemic, we launched a new website and hosted a series of educational webinars. It is imperative that we engage with the professional clothing industry as our members ask for guidance on new regulations like the new UKCA marking, now that Brexit has come into force.

The PCIAW® annual summit is one of the most-awaited events by members in the industry. Please share some background of the event. How is it different from other events?

The PCIAW® Summit, Networking & Awards is the most anticipated and informative event in the professional clothing calendar, which is set to return on November 2-3 this year at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, London Heathrow.  On the opening day, the PCIAW® Summit will host over 20 global industry leaders to present their insights on the most pressing subjects of the year, such as circular textiles, sustainability, manufacturing closer to home, PPE, new regulations, size and fit, Brexit and more.  Day two will commence in the morning with the PCIAW® Uniform Buyers’ Network event, run by the buyers, for the buyers for peer-to-peer discussions on the latest in tendering. In the evening, the PCIAW® Awards ceremony will celebrate the achievements of businesses and remarkable individuals, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. This year’s awards will feature a new special Key Worker Award to honour the front-line workers in the pandemic.

In terms of countries or regions, where does PCIAW® have most participants. Which are your focus countries at present? Any additional countries or regions that you would like to focus on in near future?

PCIAW® has a broad global reach. The United Kingdom, the United States, Europe and India are our top regions and we are seeing a growing trend in Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. We are hoping to see more members from the Asian, African and Australasian continents in the near future.

How big is the current global market for corporate wear and workwear? At what rate is it expected to grow?

The global workwear and PPE market, excluding corporate wear, is estimated at $56.3 billion and is expected to grow significantly, up to $92 billion by 2025, according to Vynz Research. The pandemic is still ongoing and there are no signs of the demand for PPE to change any time soon. In addition to this, as the countries begin decarbonising their economies, offering ‘Green New Deals’, the investment will lead to more jobs. Most, if not all, will need some form of protective workwear.

Workwear Express | PCIAW

What additional or special qualities should fabrics meant for workwear have? Which are the leading companies producing such fabrics?

Flame-retardant and electric arc fabrics which have seen an explosion of innovation to protect against thermal hazards like arc flash, flash fire, combustible dust, welding, and molten metal splash. Milliken & Company has been at the forefront of delivering high quality protection for over 60 years, servicing the global utility, electrical maintenance, oil and gas and metals industries.

Since the emergence of the pandemic, anti-viral fabric has been of paramount importance. Carrington Textiles supplied millions of metres of fabric to the National Health Service to protect frontline health professionals. The anti-viral finishes for woven fabrics are ISO 18184:2019 tested to deactivate over 99 per cent of enveloped viruses.

Lenzing operates as an industry leader in sustainable fibres. Producing yarns from wood-based cellulosic fibres, Lenzing’s sustainable fibre is biodegradable and so is a more sustainable alternative to fossil-based plastic materials found in most textiles.

What is PCIAW® Uniform Buyers’ Network? What is its purpose? How does it work?

The PCIAW® Uniform Buyers’ Network (UBN) is run by the buyers, for the buyers and is free to join. UBN is an important global event, specifically designed to help facilitate peer-to-peer discussion in uniform sourcing and tendering. 

Its aim is to provide an international platform for buyers to debate issues that are important to them without the pressure of speaking directly to suppliers. It provides a safe space to connect new buyers with experienced buyers so that they can learn from one another in an independent, private gathering.

The closed-shop network for buyers hosts over 200 international buyers from a multitude of different sectors. The agenda covers important topics like legislation, tenders, sustainability, sourcing, costing, sizing and Brexit. PCIAW® helps facilitate this important network to provide insights from experience from end user buyers from the airlines, banks, construction, hospitality and events industries. UBN will take place this year on November 3, the second day of the PCIAW® Summit, Networking & Awards event.

What is the focus in terms of circularity?

Sustainability lies at the heart of PCIAW®. The textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world after aviation. This needs to change. 

PCIAW® works with WRAP, Worn Again, Plan B and a few more organisations, all of which are pioneering the effort towards creating a truly circular textile economy on a commercial scale. We are not quite there yet, and more work and investment are needed to fulfil these ambitions.

Read the original article on Fibre2Fashion

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