Fashion and new fashion trends interest every woman and more than just a few men. This led GRReporter to visit the annual fashion forum in Athens "Next Season 2015" attended by fashion industry professionals from Greece and abroad. The goal of the event was to exchange information regarding future trends and also to exchange experience in fashion production. However, an unpleasant surprise awaited us there. During the heated dialogue between the defenders of two different positions on what the words "Made in..." incorporate, an ugly truth about Greek entrepreneurs in Bulgaria emerged, which for seamstresses from Sofia, Pernik, Sandanski (and perhaps other cities), ihas been no secret for years.
The Vice President of Attrativo Fashion House Pantelis Avramidis showed the true colours of Greek entrepreneurs abroad by trying to defend the idea that all goods, produced anywhere in the world can have the label "Made in Greece" if their design is created in Greece. In front of the public in Maroussi Hall Plaza he frankly admitted that Greek producers have not benefited enough from the lack of laws and culture in Balkan countries, to be able to reap greater profits. Avramidis said with honest regret in his voice that businessmen from Bulgaria's southern neighbour have not exercised sufficient pressure and speculation on Balkan countries so they could increase their profits. While defending the claim that "Made in Greece" can be made in Bulgaria, China or Thailand, he said:
"Hasn’t Greek mentality always been this way?" he asked rhetorically and continued: "We are business people, not production people. This is our future as well. We can easily take advantage of Balkan countries, which lack not only fashion culture, but culture in general, in order to use their productive forces as much as we possibly can. This way, we, who have a culture and I want to believe we do, can export more products abroad because now and in coming years the Greek market will be a ghost market." Continuing his thought Avramidis insisted that speculation exercised by Greeks entrepreneurs in Bulgaria, Macedonia and other Balkan countries has not brought enough dividends and it could have brought more at the expense of the “working”-countries.
The Forum enjoyed average attendance. Present were representatives of fashion magazines and blogs, owners of famous chains, fashion designers, marketing directors from major companies for import and export of sportswear. The audience of the Forum was not small and apparently no one thought that among them there might be a journalist from the Bulgarian media. The almost proud statement of Avramidis left some of the audience quiet in amazement, on the faces of others, one could see obvious disapproval, while still othes simply remained indifferent to his speech.
The moderator of the discussion turned to the audience for questions. GRReporter did not pass by this opportunity. We wanted to learn two things from Avramidis: 1. What did he mean by saying that speculation at the expense of Bulgaria and other countries Greece is working with, was not enough and 2. As a visionary businessman, does he have an action plan for tomorrow if Greece has to settle its financial agreements in a new currency? Now came the comic moment. The participants in the discussion were slightly astonished (mainly Avramidis) and part of the audience burst into laughter. "Ha, let's see now," a voice was heard from the back rows. The following response of Avramidis was a string of attacks and explanations. First the businessman changed the tone with which he spoke and became significantly more reticent. People in the audience reacted. He hurried to explain that he had not said anything wrong, then entered into a detailed analysis of the semantics of the word "speculation". After that "speculation" turned to "cooperation", and finally was even proved to be fruitful for both Greece and Bulgaria. "Your country gained jobs, and we gained as well. So we have all won," he said.
Earlier in the discussion it had become clear that the monthly emploment of a seamstress costs the Greek company about 250 Euros, while a salary for the same in Greece can range from 800 Euros to 1,400 Euros. The question that was stuck in my throat was: "How much more can you squeeze out of a Bulgarian seamstress?". Attrativo deals mainly with design patterns, and the production of collections is given to companies contractors in China, Bulgaria and Macedonia, said in a private conversation later the vice president of the company.
"Your country is directly related to Greece and over the years you have failed to create you own production. I hope that today’s difficulties will be overcome and we will stay in the Eurozone. Then we will have an even greater cooperation," responded evasively Avramidis to my second question. Finally, obviously he could not maintain his good manners and with condescension he concluded: "I do not want to upset you, but it is still too early for Bulgaria to think that it can have its own brands. You have been part of the western block for a very short period of time and you need to enrich your culture in order to be able to compete with Western countries" – still part of which is Greece.