Can T&T’s Fashion Industry become Globally Competitive? PART ONE: The Current State of T&T’s Fashion Industry

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has identified the Fashion Industry as a priority sector in its drive for economic diversification and the strategic plan seeks to analyze the development of the sector, its current state, and what interventions would be most cost effective to maximize growth, exports, and vitality of the industry and its impact on the overall economy of Trinidad and Tobago.

The framework that connects the current state and the desired future contribution of the industry involves the conditions and processes of viability and competitiveness. The aim is to have an industry in which the firms that make up the sectors, and the sectors that make up the industry, are able to respond dynamically to changes in market conditions and opportunities. Additionally, the linkages and coordination within the industry and between the industry and other related sectors should ensure that competiveness is maximized, sales, and in particular exports, are growing and the industry is fulfilling its full potential in terms of contribution to national income and meaningful employment.

In the first part of this series of articles, we will present a situational analysis of the local fashion industry centred on the question: “Is the Fashion Industry of Trinidad and Tobago a viable industry?”

Data and research conducted for this project indicates that the business strategies of the firms that form the core of the Fashion Industry as defined under this project, are generally not focused, competitive or lend toward sustainability of these firms. Additionally, the manufacturing and operational capacity of many of the players are basic and at the same time inefficient.

Further, the majority of firms are small players and do not have the capacity to compete on the international market presently. Young, newly-graduated designers have difficulty starting up, middle-range designers/firms have problems expanding and financing projects whist some are now starting off, others are mid-range (have some level of success) but require significant support to scale up and expand overseas.

The challenges presently experienced by the local Fashion Industry can be summarized as follows:

  • Operates within a small domestic market with disposable income
  • Players within each sector are not at the same level and many are not export-ready
  • Fragmentation exists within the industry fueled by a lack of trust resulting in the hesitation of partnerships, collaboration and sharing production costs
  • Competency of pattern-makers are high, but the manufacturing process is inefficient to fill bulk orders
  • Support infrastructure is not cohesive

However, the industry does appear to have the potential to develop and opportunities for growth do exist. The Benefits Potential Framework looks at assessing the external and internal opportunities that exist within the sector and the industry as a whole, in relation to current capacity in each area. These opportunities are highlighted in the table below.

Click table:


The analysis also signalled the existence of several strengths and opportunities that can be harnessed to increase industry viability. These are outlined below:

§  High level Government policy focusing on strengthening local industry §  Passionate and skilled designers §  High level of creativity and innovation §  Trained pool of workers in garment construction §  Presence of support institutions (though there needs to be some strengthening and increased coordination)§  Increased sales through stronger linkages with related industries such as Mas, Film and Tourism §  There is demand for resort wear / Caribbean inspired products §  Harnessing local creatively to create brands that are unique and recognizable §  Increase in collaborations amongst designers to exploit synergies and economies of scale §  Focusing on niche market segments §  Opening up a local fashion retail space exclusive to local designers §  International shows for overseas for both sales exposure and partnering opportunities

In order for Trinidad and Tobago’s Fashion Industry to participate in the global Fashion Industry on a larger scale, an understanding of the main drivers shaping tomorrow’s Fashion Industry is required.

Additionally, there are consumer trends, demographic shifts in population and technological and resource changes that have salience for small country players like Trinidad and Tobago. Some key ones are listed below.

1. Technology and Resource Shifts

  • Biology and technology are increasingly being merged to create new products
  • This involves a convergence of material science, ICT, micro-electronics and fashion design

2. Demographic Shifts

  • Ageing populations or ‘Old Gold’ Fashion which offer new opportunities to design for elderly (adaptive clothing )
  • Designing with the elder consumer in mind-less mobility, technology being applied even for this demographic, e.g. RFID chips in clothing to locate people with Alzheimers
  • In terms of US market, fastest growing ethnic group in the US – Hispanics
  • Different tastes and influencing trends

3. Consumer Trends

  • Markets of one – catering to individual needs rather than the mass marketing concept.

4. Technology Trends

  • Environment adjusting materials
  • Electronic and ICT-based smart materials

The core strategic challenge for the Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Industry is therefore to become viable and most importantly competitive. In next week’s article, we will explore increasing the industry’s competitiveness on a global scale.

The complete strategic plan for the Fashion Industry of Trinidad and Tobago can be found at

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