Chairman’s address at the textile institute Sri lanka Section AGM- 14th December 2019
Very good evening to all of you. As chairman of the Textile Institute Sri Lanka section, I welcome you to the post business session of the AGM of the Sri Lanka section. The Textile Institute headquarters in Manchester, represents the bringing together of technologists, research scientist, engineers, and practitioners in the field of retail, fashion and textile and endorses future developments and exploration to ensure that all promising theories and original research are fully realised and applied. This will give us the opportunity to interact and have better conversations on a global platform, network and share knowledge. We are continuously looking for new partnerships and develop friendships, relationships and collaborations. With this in background, it is a great honour to give you the opportunity to interact with our membership and realise the benefits of our institute.
Let us turn our attention for a moment to the industry. We have had textile manufacturing as an organised industry since 1940s, and clothing industry since 1970s. Our textile and clothing exports have just reached US$ 5 billion. We have less than 500 outfits in both textile and clothing. Our neighbours in the South Asian region are much bigger and doing good. We have not expanded in this field as a country. Our nations around us are competitive.
The total US textile and clothing imports were US$111 billion in 2018. US imports of textile and clothing increased in value by 4.9% in 2018. In volume terms, imports rose by 5.9% in 2018. This was an indication that textile and clothing accounted for a bigger share of total imports to USA.
Sri Lanka’s total textile and clothing exports were up by 5.7% in 2018 and out of this exports of clothing increased by 4.7% in 2018 over 2017. The average price of US textile and clothing imports fell in 2018 for the seventh year in succession to a record low of US$ 1.62 per square meter equivalent. The main cause for this was a decline in the average price of imports from China.
The US textile and clothing imports from China were up by 4.8% in value and by 6.7% in volume. Whist the price per square metre equivalentdrops year by year the value and volume increases. This is an incredible achievement. As a result, the share of US textile and clothing imports which came from China in volume terms accounted for 49.3% and in terms of value it accounted for 36.5%. Cambodia, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam also showed a rise in value and volume to USA. However, the shares of US import which came from above countries are not really significant in value and volume terms. Therefore, the real challenge is to be competitive and yet increase significantly the share of value and volume in the market.
So, the question is how do we do that? It is easily said than done! It is not simply increasing efficiency thus improving productivity. We need to bring in a new broad perspective. A paradigm shift. Our supply chain practices need a new look. The craftsmanship must be perfect and this should be coupled with branded labels. Professional ethics and relationships must be improved. In today’s context we must understand, that we are living in a radical state of uncertainty. Heightened demand for volatility, geopolitical risks, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, social media disruptions are all taking their toll on global supply chains. The changes are inevitable to disrupt the textile supply chains. We need to create a knowledge hub with emerging technologies and innovations such as AI and advancements in material science coupled with digitalization, big data and analytics to create the perfect platform for modern day business. We need to make a change to keep our industry moving forward. The world is on the verge of a change and this change will have implications on the way we do business in the future. The ways in which we design, source, manufacture and deliver must be redesigned, if we are truly to stay alive our textile industry. A new policy for textile and clothing must emerge and steps must be taken to implement. All stakeholders must converge to support to make the change and carry it forward.
Finally, in keeping with our proposal we have brought in a young textile scientist to address you on emerging technologies and advanced textile materials to understand the direction the industry should move.
Recognition of achievement – Ms. Chandra Thenuwara
Most of us gathered here today know Ms. Chandra Thenuwara. Therefore, I do not hope to elaborate on her achievements but for those who are not very familiar with her work, I shall make known some of her great achievements.
Chandra studied at Ladies College, Colombo 7 and went on to the University of Ceylon to study science. She is a talented artist and therefore she wanted to fine tune her talent. She was able to cajole her father to move to England to study Art and Design. She studied textile design and obtained a Diploma of Associateship from the Salford College of Technology, Manchester, UK in 1969. She is the first Sri Lankan woman to be a Chartered Textile Technologist and also the first woman in Sri Lanka to be awarded the FTI of UK.
Chandra’s forte is colour on woven fabric. She has very cleverly used colour on fabricto excite and admire the effects of combinations of colour. She has created a wide range of designs and unusual colour combinations for the handloom fabric. She said once to me, “that art can be and is a vital tool in personality development and can instill a large amount of aesthetics within a person resulting in discipline and sensitivity through our chosen field of work as an ultimate career.
Chandra was instrumental in bringing back handwoven fabric to vogue in the mid -1980s. Exquisitely woven bed sheets, painstakingly crafted table cloths, curtains, cushion covers and other household linen are today beautifying the sitting rooms and bedrooms of plush homes. All this was possible because of her exclusive colour and designs.
Chandra Thenuwara loves teaching. She started her teaching at the Department of Small Industries to handloom designers. Chandra has been able to uplift the lives of handloom community and showing the path of creativity to those who wish to embark on a design career. She then started teaching fabric structure for students at the University of Moratuwa. She visits the Institute of Aesthetic Studies of the Kelaniya University for teaching of fabric designs.
Chandra is like double cloth. She has two distinctive characters. That is, she is a textile technologist and a textile designer. It is a very rare combination. She is a pioneer in harnessing the craft skills of hand-woven industry. She has made a unique imprint on contemporary Sri Lankan design. She serves as a bridge from past to present; between the villages and the city; between traditional craftsmen and women – a keeper of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and the next generation of Sri Lankan textile artists.