By Jeimmy Paola Sierra
Medellin, Colombia, Nov 22 (EFE).- Already known for its social and urban transformation, chair-makers and urban artists, Medellin has also received attention for its textile development, innovation and creative potential, attributes that have positioned it as Colombia’s key fashion city and a reference point for this industry in Latin America.
Its fashion fairs and supplies, textile firms, garments for export, emerging talent, designs and commercial offerings have also made the city a promising shopping location.
Medellin’s offerings range from boutiques, local design and international brands to big malls, outlet stores and raw material firms for wholesalers.
The executive president of Colombia’s Institute for Export and Fashion (Inexmoda), Carlos Eduardo Botero, told EFE that the city understands its importance in the sector and “has made a big bet on (becoming) a fashion ecosystem.”
He said that the city has “more than 100 years of textile tradition” with big companies like Coltejer and Fabricato, which laid down roots and fostered the creation of local brands that currently are models of design and creativity.
Among the firms with international clout are Leonisa, Agua Bendita, Maaji, GEF, Arturo Calle and Velez, as well as others like Lugo Lugo, Noise Lab, Miguemo and Andres Pajon, among others.
Medellin’s fashion offerings made it to Qatar recently, where Alado participated in the Fashion Trust Arabia 2021 awards with its garments that tell stories and designs that unite style and sustainability.
Botero emphasized that Inexmoda, the organizer of the Colombiatex de las Americas and Colombiamoda fashion fairs, has strengthened the fashion system with knowledge and projects geared towards, and with a social impact on, migrants and military veterans.
“When you have an important industry, an institute as a center of thought devoted to fashion and, in addition, a committed city, that triad makes Medellin the capital of Latin American fashion today,” he said.
Denim, undergarments and bathing suits, as well as leather goods and footwear, are all part of the offerings that, Botero said, have “great presence” in the international market and highlight the city as a “big producer” in these categories.
Turning out jeans has been a very traditional business in Medellin, with producers such as Expofaro, a family firm founded 47 years ago and which in made a big splash in the textile industry, connecting with the international market to produce world-famous brands like Levi’s.
It started as a small production operation and, over time, moved into the “big exporter” category, Expofaro’s vice president of operations, Luis Javier Rodriguez, told EFE, adding that the company didn’t only assemble the garments but also began working with the “complete package” – buying the supplies, producing the garments, and then washing, packing and shipping them to the United States.
“It became a huge producer and gigantic job creator,” he said, noting that the firm now has 930 employees and has just launched Neim as its latest new brand.
Amid the process of growth and expansion, the firm witnessed the transformation of Medellin, which went from being a “fashion reference point” for Colombia to one for the world.
“When we began to assemble (products) for Levi’s, nobody came here. Foreigners were scared,” said Rodriguez regarding Medellin’s violent past, largely connected with drug trafficking and rampant killings.
Today, the scenario is much different. The “Strategy 25K” project was pushed by local authorities and now within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the city center are located firms specializing in machinery, thread, ladies’ apparel and fabric printing, inking, design and logistics, software and technological services.
“Someone coming to Medellin finds everything, from the raw materials to the garments,” Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, with the knowledge acquired by producing brands for the US, South American and European markets, the firm created its own creative laboratory and innovation, technology and sustainability center.
The company’s operations are ever more environmentally friendly, it performs social work and it even has a water treatment plant that allows it to reuse up to 40 percent of the water it requires.