The Woolmark Company General Manger Product Development and Commercialisation Jimmy Jackson with members of the Vietnamese delegation inspecting Australian Merino sheep.
Comprising sweater, sock, underwear and accessory manufacturers, the self-funded tour visited farms, testing houses and an auction. They also had meetings with a number of Australian brands and retailers, providing an opportunity to showcase garments produced with Australian wool.
The Woolmark Company's Out of Vietnam project was launched just under two years ago and aims to develop a sustainable supply chain in Vietnam and expand its current manufacturing sector. The project is creating new business opportunities for the fibre and today around 50 Vietnamese manufacturing companies are participating in the project.
Prior to the Out of Vietnam project, none of the Vietnamese companies were familiar with making garments from wool, with them largely using cotton, acrylic and polyester.
"Our value proposition to the Vietnamese companies was that we will teach them firstly how to produce higher value products made from Australian wool, and then we will introduce them to potential new customers who can pay a higher price,” said The Woolmark Company's General Manger Product Development and Commercialisation, Jimmy Jackson.
“Since the project began this is exactly what we have done. As a first stage, our technicians visited the factories in Vietnam to teach them about what yarns to buy, how to dye wool, and finish fabrics or garments made from it. Once the companies were technically confident we then embark on the second stage, where some six months ago, we arranged the visit to Vietnam of a delegation of Japanese retail buyers to meet our new manufacturing partners. This was replicated last month with a visit to Vietnam by Korean retail buyers".
During the visit to Australia, Saigon Wool and Trading Corporation chief executive, Mde Vu Thanh Thuy, said The Woolmark Company had assisted her in how to make garments from wool, particularly how to finish the garments after knitting, after which The Woolmark Company introduced her to potential new customers, and today she has started exporting wool garments to Japan.
"I am hoping to gain a Woolmark licence and use more Australian wool. Business is looking encouraging with some orders for school jumpers including an order from Australia," she added.
Although the focus of the project is on producing wool garments for export, largely due to the warm climate in Vietnam, hence the project name "Out of Vietnam", Mde Doan Thi Bich Ngoc, the CEO of Canifa which is both a manufacturer and a leading fashion apparel retailer with a chain of some 30 stores in and around Hanoi in North Vietnam, said "We decided to launch a range of wool sweaters last winter, and these sold very well, and now we are in discussion with The Woolmark Company about increasing and expanding the range for next winter".
Mr Jackson added, "The next step in the setting up of wool manufacturing supply chains in Vietnam is establishing local manufacturers of wool yarns, and we are already in talks with both Vietnamese companies and a number of potential foreign investors about establishing wool spinning plants in Vietnam. Then the focus will be on raw wool scouring and top-making, enabling greasy wool to be sold and exported directly from Australia".