Today, buying fashionable, high-quality locally made products resonates with Moldovans and evokes a sense of national pride. But it was not always this way.
Although Moldova has always enjoyed a vibrant apparel industry, local companies face tough competition from well-known international brands. Moldovan consumers have historically been skeptical about buying Moldovan-made clothing, footwear, and accessories, which makes it difficult for local companies to get a foothold in the market. Combine these perceptions with limited marketing budgets and little affordable retail space, and Moldova’s clothing companies face serious challenges.
Ionel is one of these companies. Started in 1945, the clothing manufacturer employs more than 900 people. Originally offering a “cut-and-make” service for foreign clients, Ionel expanded into producing and selling apparel under its own brand. Sales were initially slow, but over time the local market started to grow. Still, operating on its own had its challenges.
“We allocate 20 percent of the production for the internal market, and the remaining 80 percent is for export. We work with companies from Italy, Germany, Poland, Austria, and France, and we export clothing for men and women,” said Ionel Director Tamara Luchian.
Yet, Ionel and other local clothing companies knew that domestic Moldovan fashion could compete with the biggest names in the industry. But they needed to work together.