Female Entrepreneurs: Strengthening Export Competitiveness of Women Entrepreneurs in the Arequipa Textile and Clothing Sector

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Arequipa, Peru's second most industrialized city and commercial hub, supplies 85% of the world's alpaca fibre. Recognizing the export potential of women entrepreneurs in the Arequipa alpaca textile and clothing sector, ITC--together with the Peruvian Export and Tourism Promotion Commission (PROMPERU)--developed a project to strengthen their capacity to penetrate international markets more competitively. The project approach focused on three key areas: design and product development; market access; and business development and marketing strategies.

The textile and clothing industry is the most protected of all manufacturing industries in the global economy. This project, funded by the Government of Spain, is an example of the importance of quality, design and creative marketing in successfully accessing international and high-end markets. The women participating in the project are exposed to hands-on training in these three areas with demonstrable results. A case in point: prior to the project, the entrepreneurs did not have up-to-date or sophisticated catalogues that 'spoke' to their target markets. In fact, it was reported by one of the project consultants that their promotional materials were more likely to dissuade high-end buyers from taking a second look at their collections. However, after taking part in some of the training courses, the project beneficiaries have already developed highly refined product catalogues and other marketing information.

Similarly, while they were already producing textile and clothing of a relatively high quality, in-factory training courses and international study tours enabled the women to adapt their designs to their target markets and reinforced the value of quality and detail in their finished products.

For the women, the climax of the project was exhibiting their collection at the Peru Moda fair, which was held in April 2010. Peru Moda is considered one of the most important fashion industry events in Latin America and attracts buyers from across the globe. The trade show was a first for many of the entrepreneurs, who displayed collections centred mainly on women's dresses and coats, while a few of the collections catered for men and children.

Some of the pieces in the collection were hand-made. Dresses were made from organic cotton and coats from woven alpaca fabric. What was striking about these collections were the impeccable finishing, detailed stitching and unique colours. The simplicity of the cotton pieces and the delicacy of the hand-knit accessories also contributed to giving the women's products a competitive edge and marketability in high-end boutiques and other luxury outlets. …