The war, sneaky started by Russia against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, undoubtedly became a personal tragedy for the whole state and every Ukrainian. However, having survived the first shock, the citizens of Ukraine demonstrated unprecedented fortitude and proved to the whole world the ability to unite for victory on all fronts, including on the economic one.
In pre-cluster times
Attempts to unite sewing manufacturers in the city of Khmelnytskyi lasted almost two decades. The first attempts to prove to the players of the local sewing industry, that combining efforts and resources is always beneficial, were in 2001 with the assistance of USAID. Then, there was a program to support sewing clusters from the EBRD in 2019-2020, but then the “union cart” never moved.
The war is CLUSTERllizes…
Only military operations on the territory of Ukraine became a kind of catalyst for the creation of Podillia Fashion Cluster. In March of current year, seven sawing manufacturers from Khmelnytskyi particularly, JSC “VPP Universal”, JSC “TM ARTY”, JSC “Khmelnychanka”, IE “Robinson Tim”, NPE O. Shemchuk, NPE N. Potapova, NPE S. Kryvulyanskyi have focused on meet the urgent needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and internally displaced persons. Using the express survey method and taking into account the orientation of potential donors in support of mostly civilian goals, the cluster participants quickly identified an operational goal – sewing 40,000 sets of underwear and socks.
In order to achieve this goal, it was necessary to first develop an algorithm of activity – after all, before the war, none of the companies were represented in the niche of military clothing in the clothing industry market. A list of products was formed with the joint efforts, as well as technical conditions for products were found, a list of national and foreign suppliers of raw materials was compiled, sources of financing were identified, and requirements for garment companies were determined.
The team of the NGO ” Sustainable Development Agency ASTAR ” acted as a driver of the association of cluster participants and its coordinator, taking into account the experience gained in the field of cluster functioning (the NGO “ASTAR” managed to create and launch the International Agrotourism Cluster “Dnister 1362”, which brought together participants from seven rRegions of Ukraine and from the Republic of Moldova).
When Europe supports you
Thanks to the platform proposed by the European Cluster Alliance, Podillia Fashion Cluster managed to establish international cooperation.
Thus, the supplier of high-quality cotton (13,000 m of running) was the Polish factory “Teofila”. Its work was paid for by the Polish Foundation “Spiritual Culture of The Borderlands” (about UAH 2 million). The German company BAFATEX Bellingroth GmbH & Co provided 750 kilograms of high-quality yarn for socks free of charge.
GIZ’s German Technical Assistance Office also provided grant assistance to PFC, purchasing 5 flatlocks with a total value of more than UAH 1 million. Another effective step in the work of the GIZ-funded cluster is a deep diagnosis of cluster participants (together with other 28 manufacturers from Western Ukrainian Regions).
Today, Podillia Fashion Cluster’s the most valuable resource is more than 200 employees who have knowledge and skills in the production of underwear, jackets, sports, women’s and children’s clothing, cloth printing, etc.
So far, Podillia Fashion Cluster’s members have managed to produce 30% of the products from the planned volume mentioned above.
Quo vadis Cluster?
Having received the first mutually beneficial results, members of the Cluster conducted a facilitation session, developed 12 principles of work in the Cluster. In addition, short-term plans for the quarter were formulated, including:
search for cluster manager,
visualization in video of production processes,
creation of a bilingual Cluster site and social pages,
launch of a joint DB (design bureau),
creation of a joint marketing department and sales department,
search for grants for the educational and production complex on the principle of dual education,
definition of the Cluster specialization (sportswear or art fashion),
technical re-equipment of Cluster’s members (development of a business plan for the launch of automated production lines, a machine for pumping down into jackets, automated cutting equipment).
The most important for implementation are the definition of the Cluster’s specialization and the creation of joint structural units for all its members.
The first results of Podillia Fashion Cluster
Thus, Podilliia Fashion Cluster has successfully united a number of local players in the sewing products market, launched a batch of clothing and developed an international partnership with the two countries.
However, it is important to understand how the cluster participants themselves evaluate these results?
Oleh Demchuk, Head of NGO “ASTAR”, Podillia Fasion Cluster coordinator, believes that
“taking into account how long Khmelnytskyi manufacturers in the garment industry have been daring to unite, we have high hopes for this project. After all, the longer the fruit ripens, the more valuable and desirable it is.”
“The fact that today the Cluster’s members have already got along and received the first results,” adds Mr. Demchuk, “inspires unconditional and sincere faith in the good future of Podillia Fashion Cluster. In addition, joint efforts to use the common resources of Cluster’s member producers will necessarily provide common additional benefits and advantages. The project participants together will not only more efficiently, productively and effectively achieve their goals, but also consistently produce new ideas, determine ways of further development and – I hope – will become almost an “academic” case for those who seek to develop the economy of the region and the country.
“Probably, I have always been a supporter of the idea of clustering,” says Vadim Ortynskyi, the owner and Head of “ARTY”.- “However, earlier, it was extremely difficult to agree with colleagues about amalgamation: we looked at each other, as a competitor, although they specialized in different segments of the sewing products market. Today, when the common misfortune – the war – came to our country, the concept of “your-mine” has become blurred. The mutual purpose, the victory, appeared. As for me, the Cluster became an idea for which is time. For my business, a participation in the Cluster is not only new producer opportunities; it is also a new horizon for better local and international collaboration, strengthening your positive image and, in the end – the feeling that you do not stand aside in the case of the approaching Victory of your state. You are also a warrior, but on the economic front, and this is no less important than the fight against the enemy with weapons in your hands.”
Yurchak Oleksandr, the Head of the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance (UCA), expressed his reasoning:
“UCA is also “born by the war” and this is our affinity with the activities of Podilliia Fashion Cluster. More than 30 clusters of Ukraine joined UCA from March to May, why we are really happy. As we can fight for our economic front together only. At the same time, in order to unite and motivate clusters and their participants to cooperate, we need bright, practical cases. That is why the case of Podillia Fasion Cluster represented here is the best among young clusters in UCA. It demonstrates all the advantages of cooperation between cluster participants – both with each other and with international partners. At the same time, I want to note the key role of the leader of the organization Oleg Demchuk – the grouping of cluster members and its first results have been achieved, including due to his extensive experience and belief in the cluster idea of cooperation. Faith always leads to itself.”