In Bangladesh, Mostafiz Uddin is a man who needs no introduction - he is the founder of many garment industry events like the Bangladesh Denim Expo and a driving force when it comes to putting Bangladesh on the map. Now, Uddin is reaching across borders with a nation-branding programme called Best of Bangladesh (BoB) Europe. Conceived to showcase Bangladesh success stories to international buyers, brands and distributors, the event will take place from 4th to 5th September in Amsterdam. FashionUnited spoke with Mostafiz Uddin in the fore-field to the event.
What prompted you to organise an event outside of Bangladesh?
The tragic Rana Plaza incident put negative spotlight on Bangladesh apparel industry. So, after the incident, I have been promoting sustainable development of Bangladesh apparel industry. In 2014 I started organising Bangladesh Denim Expo which has become a must awaited show in global denim calendar. In 2017 I launched Sustainable Apparel from my organisation Bangladesh Apparel Exchange to accelerate the momentum of sustainability in Bangladesh apparel industry. In 2018 I commenced Bangladesh Fashionology Summit to promote innovation. Last year we organised ‘Made in Bangladesh Week" in Dhaka.
So, it was time to extend our horizons and broaden our focus. While the apparel industry continues to be a pillar of our nation's economy, we recognised the need to showcase the depth and breadth of Bangladesh's potential across various emerging sectors. The upcoming Best of Bangladesh Europe event is a testament to this broader vision. Beyond being a sourcing destination, we are determined to establish Bangladesh as a hub of innovation and excellence.
This event is strategically designed to change perceptions in Europe and beyond, thus paving the way for the growth and recognition that our industries truly deserve. Best of Bangladesh is not just an exhibition; it's about showcasing our culture, our heritage, and the indomitable spirit of our people.
For me personally, this mission is deeply intertwined with my life's purpose. This endeavour isn't just about organising events; it's about contributing to our nation's progress.
What can BoB visitors expect and how many visitors are you expecting?
Best of Bangladesh visitors will have the exclusive opportunity to explore the best of Bangladeshi companies under one roof. They can look forward to exploring an extensive range of sustainable products and groundbreaking innovations. Our exhibitors are ready to engage with potential partners and address the unique needs of businesses, emphasising safety and sustainability at every step.
The event has been meticulously designed to offer a diverse and enriching experience, making it an exceptional platform for both business and cultural exchange. With a strong presence of esteemed policymakers from the EU and Bangladesh, along with international media, the event becomes a hub of networking and forging meaningful connections.
Best of Bangladesh encompasses a remarkable lineup, including more than 40 exhibitors, 6 insightful panel sessions, more than 45 distinguished national and international speakers, the captivating “Bangladesh Innovation Runway,” and exclusive immersion visits to the Fashion for Good Museum and the Renewcell factory in Sweden. Each facet is designed to showcase the latest industry trends, designs, and sustainable practices that have propelled Bangladesh's industries to the global forefront.Throughout the event, our branding aims to champion and spotlight Bangladesh's remarkable journey and progress.
In terms of attendance, we're expecting over 1,000 attendees, comprising prominent brands, retailers, innovators, development organisations etc. This impressive gathering will also include high-profile delegates from government agencies, ministers from Bangladesh, and esteemed participants from across Europe, alongside our more than 40 partner organisations.
Can you tell us a bit about whom to expect in terms of exhibitors and panel speakers?
Absolutely. The array of exhibitors and panel speakers at the Best of Bangladesh event is thoughtfully curated to reflect the nation's multifaceted growth journey across various industries.
Our exhibitors, hailing from sectors as diverse as apparel, textile, handicraft, agro-food, FMCG, technology, digital, and more, embody the dynamism of Bangladesh's economy. Their presence signifies a transformation that goes beyond traditional manufacturing, showcasing how innovation and sustainable practices are steering our nation's progress.
The panel speakers, resonating with the event's theme, delve into a spectrum of topics crucial for our nation's advancement. In sessions like “Bangladesh – Perspectives from an Emerging Economy,” experts will offer insights into our growth trajectory and future prospects. “Sustainable Sourcing Realities” delves into the evolution of responsible practices, while “Empowering the Future” highlights our commitment to the well-being of the workforce driving our industries.
The event also showcases avenues for global collaboration, with sessions like “Bangladesh Agro-Food: A Next Opportunity for Collaboration” and “Impact Investing - The Next Frontier.” These discussions underscore Bangladesh's readiness to embrace innovative partnerships for holistic growth.
And in a particularly timely panel session, “Sustainable Synergy: Circular Economy, Climate Action & Bangladesh’s Future,” the spotlight will be on how Bangladesh is aligning its future with sustainability and climate action. This session is intricately linked with our upcoming Bangladesh Climate Action Forum, where these discussions will be taken to a broader platform.
[Editor’s note: Jan Peter Balkenende, minister of state and former prime minister of the Netherlands; Tipu Munshi, MP, commerce minister of Bangladesh; Pallak Seth, founder and vice chairman, PDS Limited; Alexander Kohnstamm, executive director, Fairwear Foundation; Ashish Damle, country director, Oxfam in Bangladesh; Joris Oldenziel, executive director, International Accord; Peter McAllister, executive director, Ethical Trading Initiative, Bob Assenberg, fund firector, Good Fashion Fund and others have been confirmed as speakers, according to a press release.]
Could you talk a little bit more about the Bangladesh Innovation Runway?
The first ever Bangladesh Innovation Runway will be held as part of BoB in Amsterdam on 4th September and will be presented by Pacific Jeans. It will unfold the emerging revolution the industries of Bangladesh spearheaded in innovation and will showcase innovative, high-value products of ‘Made in Bangladesh’.
The objective of the Bangladesh Innovation Runway is to redefine ‘Made in Bangladesh’ as a label of value-added products. As seeing is believing, we want to present to western audiences the capability of Bangladesh apparel industry in manufacturing sustainable and innovative products. So, the Bangladesh Innovation Runway invites you to witness the pulse of this innovation revolution, where Bangladesh's journey from manufacturing excellence to innovation hub is illuminated.
And what about the immersive experience InnovateXchange?
InnovateXchange is an exclusive journey curated for BoB exhibitors. Our mission is to ignite cross-cultural learning and inspire change within Bangladeshi businesses. During these immersive trips, exhibitors will engage with industry pioneers, witness state-of-the-art facilities, the immense potential of circularity and explore practices driving European success through sustainability.
One of the highlights of InnovateXchange is an exclusive tour of the Renewcell factory in Sweden to give exhibitors an unprecedented insight into the future of fashion sustainability as they step inside the world's first industrial-scale textile-to-textile recycling plant. Another captivating tour awaits them at the Fashion for Good Museum to expand their horizons of sustainability and innovation.
Apart from panel sessions on the topic, how important will sustainability be at the event?
Sustainability isn't just a checkbox in the event agenda; it's a blazing commitment that underscores the very existence of Best of Bangladesh. From event decoration to the grand dinner, everywhere the essence of sustainability will be embodied.
The exhibitors themselves are champions of sustainability and trendsetters in Bangladesh in sustainable manufacturing. The products on display at their booths are produced in a sustainable manner.
As you walk through the Bangladesh Innovation Runway, every product showcased speaks of a greener, more responsible future. Our InnovateXchange isn't merely a visit; it's a journey into the heart of circularity, where sustainability isn't a buzzword but a way of life.
Sustainability isn't an add-on; it's the guiding direction of Best of Bangladesh. It's our invitation to witness the transformation that's taking place in Bangladesh, one that's rooted in sustainable practices and innovation. From the moment one steps into the event, you'll know that sustainability isn't just a theme – it's our unwavering commitment.
With dates for 2024 already announced, can we expect BoB Europe to become an annual event?
Absolutely, Best of Bangladesh is on a remarkable journey to become an annual global phenomenon. We have already announced our next edition date to be organised in Amsterdam on 11th and 12th September 2024. From Europe to the United States and beyond, the Best of Bangladesh event will continue to create waves of transformation and responsible business.
Our platform will be a canvas for innovation, a stage for collaboration, and a powerful catalyst for change. With every passing year, we'll be shaping not just an event, but the narrative of our nation. This event will be more than a gathering; it will symbolise the journey of Bangladesh's progress, connecting the world with the remarkable stories of our industries and culture.
This interview was conducted in written format.