The garment and textile industry in Vietnam has played a significant role in enhancing the social and economic conditions of the country. The sector today accounts for nearly 2.4 million jobs, with women constituting 80 per cent of these. While women workforce have been effectively the spine of Vietnam’s industry over last several years, it is pertinent to note that a lot of women have not only taken on the mantle of leadership but have also been an inspiring and guiding force for many other women striving to make a mark in the industry.
Apparel Resources, during its numerous visits to Vietnam, met many such inspiring women leaders and understood their vision that is taking them and the nation to the path of progress. Here we will focus on the vision that these women leaders have to take Vietnam forward.
Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai, Secretary General, VITAS, is one such lady who has been very clear with her thoughts on the country’s garment and textile industry. Everyone in Vietnam, who is a part of the textile industry, knows Tuyet Mai – the face of VITAS. When she spoke about the efforts put by VITAS to encourage the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Vietnam, the conviction in her voice complemented the confidence of the organisation.
Corroborating further on the same, Tuyet Mai averred, “There are special projects providing training courses to our members. These projects are supported by companies from Korea, Germany and Bureau Veritas wherein we make them aware of all the dos and don’ts that are essential to export apparels to USA and Europe. Besides, we also conduct seminars and help them understand business sustainability and environmental sustainability.”
It’s been a struggle for SMEs to find a footing in the industry unlike bigwigs, like Saitex, Nhabe Corporation or Phong Phu Corporation. Talking of Phong Phu Corporation immediately reminds one of the lady with the magnetic personality – Phan Kim Hang, Vice General Director, Phong Phu Corporation. The company is a big name in Vietnam’s apparel and textile sector over the last five decades and Phan Kim Hang’s contribution towards it is immeasurable.
While substantiating on how Phong Phu has successfully managed to carve a niche for itself, the Vice General Director remarked, “We try to provide the best response to the requirement of the customer both in garments and fabrics, so that customers get everything on time. That is what gives us an edge over our competitors; we have been doing it consistently with good amount of success.”
Phong Phu Corporation, a renowned manufacturer of denim and knitted fabrics in Vietnam, has also been a leader in setting up a highly creative and customer-oriented product development team and huge credit for that goes to Phan Kim Hang. She has made it a norm that the core management at Phong Phu Corporation – including herself – is committed to enhancing the product development that is central to weaving, spinning and garmenting.
There is nothing that drives the growth of the company than the complete involvement of the management in understanding and executing the process and Phan Kim Hang has ensured it happens the way she wants it to happen. Endorsing the same thoughts is Meishin Bui, Managing Director, 5S Interlining – whose ever smiling face would never reveal her true persona of a lady with strong conviction in everything she does. In a candid tête-à-tête with Apparel Resources, Meishin said that the management is an active part of the internal training programmes at 5S Interlining. She said that organised training and active involvement of management in training programmes is the key to success of any organisation, and 5S Interlining strongly believes in it.
Corroborating on the above, Meishin underlines, “We ensure that both sales team and the client servicing team are well acquainted with the products that are manufactured by us. We train every sales person who joins us and I personally give each of them knowledge about the fabric quality of the product. This is our training process and I am a part of it.” 5S Interlining is today one of the prominent interlining suppliers in Vietnam with wide range of interlinings for more than 150 items, including non-woven, non-fused, woven fusible, woven, top fuse and tear away for embroidery.
“My company is keen to tell the whole world about the way HP Link Fashion works,” said Ana Huynh, Director of the company. No vision could be bigger than the intent to grow bigger than the competitors, and at HP Link Fashion it does not end there. The efforts, initiatives and the conviction of the young lady, who also owns the company, are worth every applause. In its bid to grow big, the company recently opened a new well-equipped sample room in their plush office located in Ho Chi Minh City. The intent has been to make samples at a rapid pace for customers. Elucidating on the same, Ana said, “I have complete ability to take orders very fast. While most of the factories take 15 days to finish a sample, we at HP Link Fashion take 2 or 3 days at the most to complete a sample.”
What has been fast working towards HP Link Fashion’s advantage is that they have a big factory that produces sportswear, a big office and a well-equipped sample room, both at the factory and in the office. Ana, who also happens to be the owner, believes that the philosophy at HP Link Fashion is not just to defeat the challenges but also to turn those challenges into your strengths – a mindset that is essential to drive the company and the nation to the path of progress.
The University of Technical Education in Ho Chi Minh City has been an institute, which has over the last several years, taken up the challenge – and succeeded – of discovering as well as nurturing the best candidates for the country’s garment and textile industry. And, one person who has been keeping it going for the institute is Khanh Thi Thuc Ho, Head, Fashion Design Section, University of Technical Education. While she could be easily passed off as a student, it is only after meeting her one could realise the ‘mine of knowledge’ the lady is.
“Our objective was and will always be to discover the talent in an individual and then hone those talents to make them the best for the future,” underlined Khanh. Her vision matched exactly with that of the institute. She said that when everything from the process of enrolment to the syllabus of the 4-year course is very tough, it helps in producing the best professionals…, and best professionals define the industry.
The Institute teaches the students everything from designing and sewing to sampling, marketing and merchandising. Khanh says what delights her most is that despite having nearly 12 universities all across Vietnam, the training methods and elite faculty members make The University of Technical Education the best in the country.
The story of young Jennifer Nguyen, Owner, Candy Rox Studio is also interesting. From a fashion studio owner to being in apparel production business, clearly shows the pace at which Jennifer and her company has been growing in recent years. Having done her education in the West, she is one Vietnamese entrepreneur whose strong command over English language has strengthened her leadership credentials. “When I was new into fashion, I launched 1 store and it did well; and within no time 2 more stores were opened. Soon, I had launched 5 more stores and it was around the same time Vietnamese market started booming. Now the competition is tough. Gradually, Vietnam started doing very well in garment production too and so I thought there was no better time than now to get into it,” averred Jennifer.
Quite like what Phan Kim Hang does, Jennifer has also been actively involved in the product development of her company and is keen to take it to the highest possible level of quality and service. Compared to the other women we discussed, she may be small entrepreneur now, but has all the potential to join the big league. Being a fashion designer herself, Jennifer has been successful in guiding and directing not only other designers of her product development team, but also the pattern makers, fabric cutters and seamstress workers. “I guide my team to give what I exactly want. I also go and search the fabrics and help the team prepare sample according to customer specifications,” said Jennifer.
What makes the contribution of women in business notable is the struggle that they almost and always have to undergo in keeping a balance between work and home. Utilising her sheer skill to be the best at both places deserves every award and recognition. The Women Leaders International Forum is an annual event held in March by the Women Leaders International Network (WLIN), under the direction of the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council. During the past 4 years, the Women Leaders International Forum has made a lot of buzz in the local and international business community, confirming the vision of women in the new age – women can rise and assert themselves as a leader. It will indeed be great to see a lot of women from Vietnam’s garment and textile sector receive this award in future.