Breathing new life into Armenia’s garment industry

Breathing new life into Armenia’s garment industry

In 2010, one of the world’s oldest garments, a woman’s straw-woven skirt, was discovered by archaeologists in a cave in the Areni region of Armenia. It is estimated to be an astonishing 5,900 years old. In honour of this incredible discovery, an Armenian clothing brand called 5900 BC was created.

During the Soviet era, the Armenian economy was mostly based on industrial production (chemicals and electronics) and light industry such as textiles, clothing and leather. After independence in 1991, the country lost its traditional export markets and the economy declined dramatically, by almost 60%. There was a major negative impact on  the textile and clothing sector, which used to employ 150,000 people, a quarter of the workforce, but now only provides about 3,500 jobs.

Aiming to revive and upgrade the garment production and textile and clothing industry in Armenia, a project titled, “Improving competitiveness of export-oriented industries in Armenia through modernization and market access”, is currently being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Funded by the Government of the Russian Federation and in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of Armenia and the Development Foundation of Armenia, the project brings together eight garment-producing Armenian enterprises to design and produce fashionable and affordable modern clothes. The 5900BC companies currently employ 440 workers.

In order to improve the technical capabilities of Armenian clothing manufacturers, a team of twelve UNIDO national experts supported by four UNIDO international experts have closely worked with the eight beneficiary companies on a wide range of technical and business issues, including product design and development, quality process, production planning systems, legal matters, human resources, finance, marketing, networking and project communication. Capacity-building training covering industrial product design and grading for national experts were held at the Instituto di Moda Burgo in Milan, Italy, and a workshop on pattern-making via the Lectra software was conducted at the newly-inaugurated Atex-Burgo Fashion School in Yerevan in Armenia. UNIDO experts also helped design and launch a website to promote the 5900 BC brand.

Hovsep Poghosyan, co-chairman of the Union of Light Industry Employers, said “We managed to gain many tangible results, including the establishment of the Atex-Burgo Fashion Institution and the organization of a business forum on 20 March 2015 in Yerevan. Uniting the selected eight companies around a unique idea, creating a new collection within a very short period of time, selecting and elaborating a brand, are significant achievements”.

Poghosyan added, “Another outcome of this project’s implementation is that Armenian manufacturers regained their self-confidence”.

Since September 2014, the project team has designed and exhibited three high-quality collections and has also established contacts with some of the biggest garment producers and retailers in the Russian Federation.

In addition, the Armenian brand 5900 BC has participated in several local, regional and international exhibitions and fairs, including the Russian Federal Trade Fair “Textillegprom” held on 2-5 September 2015, as well as in one of the most prestigious international fashion exhibition events and the largest fashion fair in Eastern Europe – the Collection Premiere Moscow, on 23-25 February 2016. During this latter event, the brand successfully promoted its third collection, called “Winter Charm”, to more than 17,000 visitors from twenty-three countries, including fashion producers and sales specialists. The brand producers were also able to meet with representatives of the largest Russian retail chains, garment producers and well-known fashion leaders, who assessed the quality of 5900 BC products as high.

Arman Khachatryan, General Director of Development Foundation of Armenia, the project’s main national counterpart, noted that “In a very short period of time, the UNIDO project has realized a large amount of work by creating three high quality fashion collections, which were presented at different international exhibitions. Important business connections have been established with the largest Russian producers and retailers of fashion apparel. Given the interest of large international chains to export the 5900BC production, we can say that the brand is already competitive”.

Ivan Volinkin, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Russia to Armenia, notes that “the Russian Federation believes that the funds for the project have been used efficiently and that this project should be financed further, as it will create new employment opportunities and will motivate Armenian producers."

Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Vladimir Voronkov also noted that “We see UNIDO as a reliable, time-tested partner… As a result of the UNIDO project, the companies participating in the project, reached a new level of quality, three modern, high-quality new clothing collections were created, which were also presented at the leading international specialized platforms under a single brand of 5900 BC”.

By Dorra Berrebeh
With special thanks to Gulnaz Azimbayeva