The Apparel Summit of the Americas: Largest Apparel Industry Event of the Year

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It’s all over, we’re back in the good old USA. But boy was the last week something else.

The Apparel Summit of the Americas was held November 27 – 29, 2018 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It was one of AAPN’s most ambitious undertakings to date, but we think it all came together great (and fortunately everyone we’ve spoken to seems to agree)

The event’s attendance was 250 executives from 125 organizations. This number does not include over 40 volunteers from AAPN member and local organizations plus other officials who visited.

The complex event required travel from/to the airport to three hotels, to one Reception, to the convention center, to 2 factory tours and to a magical evening dinner and fashion show. This meeting involved more planning, logistics and people than any event in the AAPN’s 37-year history in the apparel industry.

Most importantly 18 brands and retailers sent high level executives to see the investments first hand. One major integrated producer committed to supplying several global brands sent 9 of their most senior executives.

A welcoming reception was hosted on Nov 27 at the Intercontinental Hotel. This kickoff, like in all AAPN events, was a true highlight. It was not only a great opportunity for friends and colleagues to catch up; but also an inviting venue to make new friends and business partners.

Day 1: Keynote Speaker, Lots of Data and the First Factory Tours

At 8 AM on Nov 28, everyone convened at the Copantl Convention Center. The event was opened by Jesus ‘Chuy’ Canahuati, President of Elcatex. Canahuati promoted Honduras as the #1 destination for USA yarn exports globally totaling over $1 Billion annually and is the #1 country of origin for USA imports of Cotton T-Shirts and sweatshirts.

The new strategic textile investments are focusing on synthetic knits, adding to the region’s importance in this growing category of activewear. The anchor to this strategy is UTEXA, a brand-new filament polyester yarn mill, representing an $80 million investment in plant, equipment and training.

The agenda also included a highly supportive video talk by the Honorable Juan Orlando Hernández, President of Honduras.

Next up, yours truly followed by Tony Anzovino, President of the AAPN and Chief Sourcing & Merchandising Officer of the Haggar Clothing Co. offering up some facts about AAPN and a slew of trade data we’d managed to pull together.

Our keynote speaker was Simon Mainwaring, founder of We First, a leading brand and leadership consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training. Simon spoke about ‘purpose-based branding’ which is exactly what the Honduras2020 plan accomplished. This vision of investment, innovation and jobs, which was presented by Jesus Canahuati at the 2016 AAPN Annual Conference, led directly to this summit. It brands the region as one committed to our apparel industry.

Finishing the first day’s agenda was a panel moderated by Walter Wilhelm, CEO of WWA Advisors. His panelists of Steve Cochran, CEO, Tegra Global; Ricardo Pettenati, CEO, Pettenati Industrias Textil; and David Ha, CEO, TexOps shared their own stories of investment and innovation in the Americas.

That afternoon attendees left on buses for two tours of facilities. The first included UTEXA’s filament yarn production; Honduras Green Energy; and the Villas San Juan Housing Project. The second was of Finotex Honduras; and Coats (Finishing & Dyeing).

That evening, UTEXA sponsored a cocktail reception and fashion show, featuring activewear produced by regional AAPN factory members. Following the show, regional banking powerhouse FICOHSA hosted a multi-cultural gourmet dinner. Both of these social events were held at the Club Hondureño Arabe.

Day 2: More Tours, More Talks, More Ideas

Thursday morning Nov 29 began with two more tours. The first was of Genesis Apparel; the Elcatex Textile Mill; and Stretchline. The second focused on the Honduran Spinning Mill of Karim’s Group.

I got the honor of opening up the afternoon program by presenting the AAPN Apparel Industry Leadership Award to Chuy Canahuati and also to Joe Cuervo who, prior to being recruited by Kohl’s, worked in the Honduras2020 project office in Tegucigalpa Honduras.

The agenda included two core AAPN speakers. Ed Gribbin, CEO, Gribbin Strategic LLC and Senior Advisor to Alvanon spoke on how to leverage all the new innovations within the region. He was followed by a complimentary talk by Kurt Cavano, Founder & President, GT Nexus (an Infor Company) on a topic Kurt calls Disruptopia: An Overview of the Speed of Technology.

Mario Canahuati, President of the Honduran Association of Maquiladoras, said, “These investments will radically change the economic activity of the North Coast. Having 250 representatives of the most important companies in the world drives more investment, creates jobs and improves the living conditions of our workers”.

Juan Zighelboim, of TexOps in El Salvador and an investor in Utexa said, “This is not only important for the local Honduran industry, but for the Central American region. It is a movement that shows we are ready to fight with Asia”.

As is customary in AAPN events, the conference was closed by allowing attendees to voice their own impressions of the value of the content. Many of those, including long time veterans of our events, called this the best in our history. We know business was closed, joint ventures were initiated and mergers were being negotiated. In other words, it was a typical AAPN meeting, the only one of its kind in the industry.

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