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Carlos Miele: San Paolo, Brazil.

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Sao Paulo fashion week ss 2007 Runway

Garment manufacturers from Minas Gerais create fashion and own brand

In the city of Divinópolis, in the southeastern Brazilian state, six companies count on the help of stylist Ronaldo Fraga to create new products and the identity of their brands. Brought together in project Divino Minas, which became the group's brand, they produce clothes that mix handicraft, natural material and technology, and have won their first customers abroad.



Geovana Pagel*

São Paulo – One year ago, six small garment manufacturers from the city of Divinópolis, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, established Divino Minas. The project, whose intention is to improve competitiveness and expand business, was so successful that it became the group's brand. Apart from increasing the number of clients on the foreign market, businessmen from Minas have already made their first exports. One of the training activities of the project is making the creation processes more professional and the development of collections. The process is coordinated by stylist Ronaldo Fraga. "Many brands in the city that did not have product development are structuring their style teams," explained the stylist.

The project has the support of the Minas Gerais state branch of the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae), of the Divinópolis Garment Industry Union (Sinvesd), of the Federation of Industries of the State of Minas Gerais (Fiemg) and of the Minas Gerais Technology Centre Foundation (Cetec), through the Program for Technical Support to Export (Progex).

To stimulate and inspire creators, the stylist always suggests a theme for each collection. According to Fraga, the strategy of uniting the companies around just one collection has the objective of simplifying the launching process and the finding of new customers. "It is easier to do things together," he explained.

Threatened biodiversity in the Amazon and the evolution of species and of behaviours are some of the discussions that guide the creation of the 2008 Spring/Summer Collection, whose theme is Transformation. The news includes beach fashion, female and male fashion, jeans wear and knit. Among the models, there are clothes that mix handicraft, like embroidery with beads and threads, with natural and technological fabrics.

The innovation is through fabrics made from bamboo fibre, latest generation fabrics and digital printing. The traditional cotton and silk also have privileged space in the collection.

"An image was created for the garment manufacturers of Divinópolis, for the hub to gain visibility in larger events. The Divino Minas brand has become a reference for the hub and a synonym of quality and service before, during and after sales," pointed out Cacilda Almeida, technical coordinator of Sebrae Minas.

The new Divino Minas collection was launched in early June at the Fashion Business, an event that took place in the sidelines of Fashion Rio, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. This was the third time that the group participated in the fair that operates as a business centre for fashion. Businessmen from Minas made contact with national and foreign buyers.

"We made 24 contacts with retailers and distributors from various countries, among them the United States, Argentina, France, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Turkey, Lebanon, South Africa and Mexico," explained the Sebrae coordinator. According to her, the businessmen who are part of Divino Minas are very focussed on winning the foreign market. This is so true that the group hired an international business consultant to promote the brand.

Before the participation of Fashion Business, for example, he sent catalogues and releases about the brand to importers. “We also visited the hotels where they were to promote the Divino Minas stand at the fair," explained Cacilda.

"We are confident with the contacts made in this edition of Fashion Business. A retailer from Mexico showed great interest in our products. We should also send samples to Switzerland, Italy and Portugal," explained businessmen Aderi Antônio Silva Filho, the owner of Magathus. A maker of male and female garments, Magathus has been in operation for 19 years, but only closed its first export contract after entering Divino Minas.

"We made a sale of 300 articles to Australia in April, due to our participation in Fashion Business, in January", he said. According to Aderi, in less than two months, the Australian retailer has already sold almost 60% of the products imported from Divinópolis. "We are again in contact to send new samples and catalogues in the new collection and are very optimistic regarding new business," he guarantees.

Specialized in female fashion, Sintonia is another company in Divino Minas that is about to close its third foreign sale. "We are negotiating with a distributor based in Paris. He has already seen our samples at the fair and loved them," stated owner Cida Malta. The businesswoman explains the transformation the garment manufacturer has been through over the last year. "My development department has matured significantly. This partnership with Ronaldo Fraga has broadened our outlook. We are more daring, more creative. Sintonia has been in the market for 15 years and this was our best collection," she pointed out.

The hub

The city of Divinópolis, with over 200,000 inhabitants, houses 1,340 formal garment manufacturers that generate over 30,000 direct jobs and produce 24 million garments a year. Among the targets of the Divino Minas project is the increase of company sales and productivity by 15% and 25%, respectively, up to December 2007


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