From 24th to 26th of October a delegation from Liverpool visited Villa Nova de Familacão for a comprehensive programme organised by the city’s municipality.

The British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, Chris Barton, accompanied the visiting delegation which included the textile lead from Liverpool Hope University; a fashion lead at Liverpool John Moores University – LJMU (who also wore an additional hat as a Director representing the Baltic Creative incubator); the Head of Liverpool’s Try and Lilly (one of the UK’s oldest hat makers who was also wearing an additional hat as a key stakeholder in Liverpool’s Fabric District); plus a manager from the Liverpool’s Fabric District’s Fashion Hub incubator; a Director from DoES Liverpool (Europe’s most successful maker space – wearable tech and nanotechnology); the owner of Virrata Ltd (helps clients improve operational efficiency and effectiveness); and finally 2 “Fashion Innovation” Masters students from LJMU.

The first full day started with a catch-up with the Mayor of VNF and 60 international students, followed by a visit to MADEIN and then a tour of a fashion/textile/digital related incubator setup. At this incubator we met 5 businesses including Burn Outline, Fashium, Kortex, Swonkie and IOTech. This incubator (INCUBAR) is interestingly managed and funded by a private business called Riopele – but in partnership the with Municipal Government. Founded in 1927, Riopele is one of the oldest textile companies in Portugal and an international reference in the creation and production of fabrics for fashion and clothing collections. This was followed by a visit to Riopele’s brand new large-scale photovoltaic setup and then to their Head Office. Following lunch, the group visited AAC Textiles (see below), then a visit to CITEVE (the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries), and to their partner organisation CeNTI (Centre for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials). The festivities concluded with an event to celebrate VNF’s International Day and for us to witness the signing of an “Alliance” between a host of businesses, organisations, universities and the municipal government in Famalicão, but interestingly also from across the border into Galicia, Spain where the Mayor of the home of Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Uterqüe joined us. We finished the evening with a working dinner with the visit’s organisers and with other members representatives from the board of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.

What impressed all of us participating in this exchange was the sincerity of the collaboration between the municipality and the companies within their region. The sense of unity and togetherness with the common goal of promoting the region for the wellbeing of its population was almost tangible. In the days following the visit there has been a flurry of e.mail exchanges as a direct result of the new contacts made.

Upon his return to Liverpool Gary Millar, Liverpool’s Deputy Mayor, who was leading the mission enthusiastically reported back to his colleagues:
”… I can confirm that VNF is open for International relationships, for business, capacity building and student exchanges. They create and supply textiles and clothing and if you are looking for a new reliable supply chain they may be ideal partners. Flights to Porto are normally only 2.5 hours long and VNF is then only 20 minutes from the airport. The area is full of textile manufacturers, fabric and clothing suppliers, full turnaround specialists, innovators and testing agencies and all are based within 20 minutes of the airport. Therefore, they are close to home, are keen to do business with Liverpool and the city region, and because of this visit (and the International Business Festival back in June) we now have a very willing partner in the Mayor of VNF and his wonderful team. The Mayor advised me during the trip that they want to visit Liverpool in February 2019. Please contact me on [email protected] if you want to be involved in that visit or if you want to engage with those that we met in VNF between 24th and 26th October 2018.

About Riopele
Incorporating sustainable practices across the entire business, Riopele invests in the production of high-quality fabrics, based on natural, synthetic, artificial and recycled fibres, with great expertise in polyester/viscose/elastane blends. They currently create over 700,000 metres of fabric a month, employ over 1000 people and 2017’s turnover was 74 million Euros. They partner with some of the world’s leading fashion brands, Riopele offers a vertical textile production system that can meet the current demands of the fast-paced fashion industry. With 90 years of experience in fabric development, Riopele is also offering its customers a private label service, which allows combining fabric production and clothing manufacturing with customized deliveries. Our visit included a tour of their impressive R&D department where they are helping major brands create textiles and styles 2 years ahead! They are worth a visit for that alone. Have a look at their website at https://www.riopele.pt/.

About AAC Textiles
AAC has 30 years of experience in the production and sale of textiles. They design and develop high quality services tailored to the individual needs of their clients. They offer development; samples; costing and pricing; products; quality control; logistics and confidentiality. In short, the provide a full turnaround service for prototyping of clothing for world leading brands – sourcing most of their textiles, techniques and production within 50 km of their base. They work with men, women and children’s clothing, offering casual, sportswear, swimwear, ready-to-wear, signature and haute couture fashions. Their clients are British, German, Belgian, Spanish, French, North American and Swedish. I was convinced that some of the example products I seen must have been made in China were in fact fully produced in Portugal. They also lead the way in 3D patterned fabrics, embroidered clothing, flock, laser embellishments, etc. Have a look at http://www.aactextiles.com/en/, https://www.pinterest.co.uk/aactextiles/ and https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/594028723998561/aac-textiles/?hl=en for further examples of their expertise and services.

About CITEVE (the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries)
CITEVE – The Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industry of Portugal, is a private non-profit organization active since 1989 being a reference organization within the national and European scene, regarding research, innovation and technology transfer promotion for the Textile & Clothing Industry. CITEVE’s mission is to support the technical and technological development of the textile & clothing industry, promoting innovation and inducing new capacities and new competences as well as helping on the definition of industrial public policies. With facilities in Vila Nova de Famalicão and in Covilhã, and commercial delegations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Tunisia and Pakistan, CITEVE offers technological services of the highest level in different areas: Laboratorial activities, Technological consultancy & development, R&D + Innovation, Technology Watch, Product standards and certification, Training and Fashion intelligence. Since April 2017, CITEVE is the managing authority of the Portuguese Textile Cluster strengthening the engagement and cooperation with the T&C value chain. Check them out at https://www.citeve.pt/ and https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/kets-tools/infrastructure/citeve-technological-centre-textile-and-clothing-portugal.

About CeNTI (Centre for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials)
They create technology that works within clothing and create fabrics that save lives and sense things. Have a look at http://www.centi.pt/index.php/en/services/functional-fibres and http://www.centi.pt/index.php/en/projects/past-projects-with-reference-customers for further details.