On last 8 February, Assintecal, the Brazilian Association of components for leather, footwear and manufactured goods, announced an important change in its top management. After 25 years, Ilse Guimaraes,  passes the torch of superintendency, leaving the office for personal reasons. Silvana Dilly, will take up the challenge, whom we interviewed to take stock of the situation of the association and above all of its future projects, among which the support for the digital transformation and sustainable development of member companies, as well as the promotion of ‘Inspiramais’, the show of reference in Latin America for design and innovation in the field of materials.

Where will you focus your efforts in the near future?

 The two fronts on which we will work in the coming years are, in particular, sustainability and digital transformation in companies. Sustainability is the keyword in the business world today, because companies need to have a responsible and sustainable growth goal, today more than ever: consumers want to buy products from brands that work within a conscious capitalism, the expression of companies capable of generating value for all its stakeholders. Companies must see sustainability as an added value for their business and for society as a whole. By working on the mapping of raw materials, the company can use fewer resources with greater economic gains, and at the same time with a lower impact on the environment. For this reason, Assintecal works for the inclusion of its companies within the “Sustainable Origins Programme”.

Another priority is digital transformation: companies must be aware of the fact that digitisation is not a palliative related to the spread of the pandemic, but a new and fundamental way of operating that will remain and develop in the future. With this we do not think that digital will completely replace sales made in the traditional way, with face to face visits and trips, companies must however explore the new digital channel and, through it, be able to exploit the opportunities that it offers to be present on the global market. Companies must prepare themselves to participate in online fairs, round tables and virtual business meetings, have an attractive environment for the presentation of live events, invest in photos and videos that show their products in a clear and attractive way. We need to see this evolution in the digital world as a new and parallel sales channel for companies.

 

Are there any support actions by the Brazilian government in relation to the fashion, footwear and leather goods sector?

Recently Assintecal approved an agreement with SEBRAE – the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service – for the development and improvement of small businesses in the sector in relation to various areas: intelligence, promotion of national trade and export training. These types of agreements are of fundamental importance to SMEs, which most suffered from the pandemic’s consequences. Furthermore, the renewal of the agreement with APEX-BRASIL – the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency – is in the final negotiation phase, which focuses on the internationalisation of companies in the segment and on the construction of a Brazilian reference image, through its ‘By Brasil’ brand for Components, Machinery and Chemicals. In this respect, companies are effectively supported by government guidelines, with tools aimed at getting them as soon as possible out of the deep crisis that has involved the whole world.

From a more institutional point of view, Assintecal is instead more closely and more actively monitoring the Government’s policies and agendas concerning the sector. There is, in particular, a certain concern about the so-called “Brazil’s Risk”, a set of indicators that define the ability of companies to compete on the global market, and which see our country engaged in an ambitious programme of tax and administrative reforms, which are priority. The challenge is enormous: on one side stimulationg consumption and economic activities and on the other reducing bureaucracy, which has represented one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of the sector over the last few years. We therefore understand that it is paramount to align ourselves with the other entities of the segment in the search for easier paths to more effectively face the health and economic crisis and to be of course in line with the international reality to give new stimuli to our sector.

 

How do you see the situation of the Brazilian market today?

 Companies in the fashion sector as in the rest of the world, are going through a very delicate moment. Retail has, in fact, been hit hard by the pandemic and all companies have suffered huge losses, although some have been more affected than others due to the lack of a clearly organised strategy and a certain familiarity with digital channels and sustainability development. Today more than ever, brands have in fact an urgent need to make a careful evaluation of their processes, products and sales channels in the light of new consumer needs and new market trends. It is time for brands to meditate on their business strategy and, if appropriate, to reinvent themselves to respond to the new needs and expectations of the market.

How are companies in your sector reacting to the pandemic and what initiatives have you taken?

As already mentioned, some companies have been affected by the pandemic more than others precisely because at their base they did not have a strategy suitable for dealing with a crisis such as the one generated by the spread of Covid-19. Others, instead, which had long since structured their sales channels in a digital sense, are facing this difficult moment with greater serenity. As an Association we operate on several fronts with the aim of supporting companies in the sector of components to get out of this crisis soon and well, through initiatives related to sustainability, such as certification of sustainable origin, but also with actions addressed to the Government with representation objectives and the defense of the sector’s interests, internationalisation and market intelligence, as well as with the organisation of round tables related to business and training, in conjunction with the By Brasil project, which aims to promote the export of companies. Without forgetting our commitment to preparing for digital negotiation and promoting innovation, which represets our DNA and the cornerstone of our flagship, the Inspiramais Show.

 

The sustainability theme is now central to all sectors. Do you have any targeted initiatives in this area?

 Sustainability has always been one of the strategic pillars of Assintecal, which promotes new ways of providing services and products with a positive social impact for its members. But sustainability must also be seen as an economic pillar, as consumers increasingly want to know the origin of the products they buy and sustainable development appears ever more as an added value and an economic return also for companies. And it is with this ‘vision’ that the ‘Sustainable Origins Programme’ was developed, a certification for Brazilian companies included in the footwear production chain and which incorporate sustainability into their production processes according to certain indicators in the four economic, environmental, social and cultural dimensions. An initiative created in 2013 by Assintecal and Abicalçados – the Brazilian Footwear Industries Association – and which aims at the sustainable development of member companies, thus involving the manufacturers of footwear, accessories and the suppliers of their components.

 

Let’s talk about Inspiramais. How will the fair evolve in future?

The next edition of Inspiramais will remain digital, a format that allows us to have no boundaries and to reach visitors from all over the world with a single appointment, who can thus learn about new and more innovative materials and inspirations for the fashion market. Regardless of the return of the physical event, we will thus continue to also develop the digital platform, with the aim of unifying the fashion language, presenting the trends and inspirations for the next season, in order to support the development of new materials and components, and the expansion of the business into the other sectors of the production chain.