Branding Bangladesh through Denim-Speech of The Ambassador
Branding Bangladesh through Denim
International Convention City, 9th November, 2016
Speech of HE Sophie Aubert, Ambassador of France to Bangladesh
I have been in Bangladesh for now two years and I must say that I have seen many initiatives and a huge dynamic in the garment sector and in particular in the denim sector.
I was a little bit surprised to be requested to give a speech on the topics we are talking about today ; because I am not a specialist of these topics.
But I decided to accept ; because it was an opportunity to recall where denim comes from.
You perhaps know that this fabric is called Denim because it comes from, and from is “de” in French, so it comes from the French city of Nîmes.
In this city in the 18th century, they were manufacturing “tents” which were exported with our armies to what is now the US and given by us to the Americans at war with the British for their independence.
Later as they had nothing to wear, the Americans used the fabric of these tents to make trousers that we now know under the name of jeans, or denim, because this fabric was coming from Nimes.
And you may also know that what you call washing and stone was also invented by French business people, in the 70ties in France.
Coming back to this workshop, I want to focus on branding.
In the past, products had a brand to promote themselves, as a matter of differentiation and as a matter of identity.
The idea was that if you consider one specific brand, then you expect the public opinion to recognize it and to adhere to the product, which means to buy it more than what could be expected without the brand’s popularity.
So the brand is a guarantee that when you buy the product, your expectations meet even more with what you got.
Brand is a matter of doing more business and strengthening one’s commercial position.
This concept of branding has now been integrated in a large range of areas.
In France, cities and regions have decided to promote themselves as a brand.
Let’s take Paris for example. Paris has become a brand, and when you say “Paris”, a large majority of the audience will have in mind a specific idea of what Paris represents for them.
The reason for branding is that we want to control the perception the others have from ourselves.
This is the result of a strategy elaborated having in mind, first of all, what we want to achieve : what our target is, what we want to obtain, more than what we would expect, if we had not implemented this strategy and how we will do to carry out this strategy.
Now coming back to denim. Garment industry has popularized Bangladesh as the second textile workshop in the world, thanks to the low wages of its workforce.
Unfortunately, an outdated picture still sticks to the Bangladeshi garment industry, whether you want it or not, and the journalists don’t care whether Bangladesh has made an exceptional effort to move its industry forward towards very high standards of safety and quality.
Media people will always find the example to show the opposite of the reality.
Denim industry, in my view, is the corner to explore in order to change this image.
Denim has the image of modernity, freedom and creativity. This is what Bangladesh wants to be and this is what Bangladesh wants to showcase.
Through Denim, you can advertise the high standards factories you have ; you can show the respect given to the workers, the dignity of the workers doing their job in a clean, modern and safe working environment.
I mean that through denim you can show evidence that social and environmental responsibility has become a reality here even if, it’s true, it has to be developed on a larger range in the industry.
In my view, the time has now come for Bangladesh to stop promoting the fact that the workforce is one of the cheapest of the world.
As Bangladesh is on its way to becoming a developing country, being one of the cheapest workforce of the world is not what you should spotlight.
This is my personal position.
Your buyers already know about the wages of your workforce and this argument, that’s my analysis, is a negative one in terms of branding.
In my view, you should promote the creativity of your industry, the commitment of the Bangladeshi youth to change their world, your skilled workforce capable to develop creative and complex products.
Yes, denim is the corner to explore in order to brand Bangladesh as a modern, dynamic, creative and successful country.
You should promote the fact that whoever talks denim has to be in Bangladesh. You already have all the tools in hand and now time has come for you address the issue of your image abroad, through showcasing your creativity out of Bangladesh.
Here in Bangladesh, you are already convinced ; now you have to convince the others, abroad.
Many specialized fairs including ready-made garment fairs are taking place all over the world every year where Bangladesh Denim can be, and I suppose, is present in order to showcase your creation.
It is a long-term strategy but for Bangladesh it is a winning strategy.
“I am made in Bangladesh” was a wonderful initiative, because Bangladesh has to be proud of its success and this has to start here.
But now Bangladesh should address the issue of the perception of its identity abroad.
So many times I have heard people and in particular garment people complaining about the image of their country abroad. But it only depends on you.
Your perception abroad must be how you, Bangladesh, want to be seen, not what the others think you are.
And the definition of your image and identity as denim industry, and what makes you be what you are, the definition of your added-value which makes you different from others and more attractive than others has to be under your control.
I thank you for your attention./.