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Eighteen fashion brands from Belarus have been looking into the possibility of expanding into the European Union for the past two years. Even though extra challenges have arisen due to the coronavirus, they have decided to continue pushing forward regardless. Nikolai Morozov from the Morozov label and Larissa Balunova from Balunova have explained the challenges and opportunities. They also told us about a project they’re participating with, alongside a number of Moldovan companies: Ready to Trade.
The greatest challenge faced by Belarusian companies in the past few months is the postponement of European fashion trade shows. After participating with twenty different marketing, management and production training opportunities, visiting numerous trade shows and preparing their international websites, the next step was to exhibit at fashion trade shows. They were completely prepared, only for these trade shows to then be cancelled.
These women's clothing brands have since recovered. The focus is now on online matchmaking between fashion brands in Belarus and companies in the European Union, project coordinator Andrei Fedarau explains. The brands are therefore being given even more training focussed on e-commerce, efficient online business practices and regulations regarding import duties. The online matchmaking can really get going over the next few months.
Belarusian fashion companies are expanding into the EU
Morozov and Balunova are two companies participating with the Ready to Trade project by the CBI (Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries www.cbi.eu), in collaboration with ITC (International Trade Centre. www.intracen.org), commissioned by the European Union and with help from sector experts. Why were they interested in expanding into the EU?
“Belarus is close to both Russia and the European Union, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of all the available opportunities,” says Nikolai Morozov. He has already done business with Czech, Polish and German customers with his label for (corporate) women’s fashion in the mid-high segment, but he also wants to serve other countries in the EU. “Participating with the CBI project gave me the confidence I needed to do that.”
Larissa Balunova identified opportunities in the EU after she exhibited at Belarus Fashion Week. “Many European fashion professionals approached me to share positive feedback. Including buyers and fashion journalists. They said my brand would be a good fit for the European market.” Her aim is to do business with popular online stores in the EU. Where physical shops are concerned, she believes her women’s fashion brand, with its minimalistic cut and cheerful prints, would be an excellent match for both large department stores and boutiques. She is therefore considering working with an agent with a showroom.
The advantages for European companies
Morozov thinks Belarusian fashion labels have a unique market position because they can effectively observe what customers want both in Russia and the EU. “Our designs are therefore a unique mix,” the fashion designer explains.
The Belarusian designs’ identity has been strengthened by the country’s current political situation, according to Morozov. Fashion designers want to make a statement with their clothes. Balunova adds: “This is completely in line with the tendency in our country to peacefully protest against the government - without violence, but with fashion.”
The brands are open to many different types of collaborations. Morozov believes knowledge exchange with a trend agency in the EU may be helpful for both parties. He can also make a strong contribution to brands which want to manufacture their own collections in Belarus. “We are very well positioned from a geographical point of view, which means we can manufacture very quickly,” he says. “It also means we can manufacture top quality collections at an attractive price.”
Balunova: “We have gained experience with the entire manufacturing process. We design collections, we can draft patterns, we know everything about the technical aspects of fashion and we can make the product. We have good machines and software in place for this, as well as highly trained staff."
Ready to Trade
The Ready to Trade project is financed by EU4Business, an initiative for SMEs in the EU's Eastern Partnership countries. For more information about this programme, click here . For more information about the participating companies, click here .
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