WASHINGTON — Janet Fox, the newly elected chairwoman of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, aims to keep the organization relevant in a quota-free world and a global economic downturn.
Fox, vice president and director of strategic sourcing at J.C. Penney Private Brands Inc., is taking the helm of the importing trade and lobbying association at a critical time for retailers and importers.
USA-ITA has 200 members, including J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Kohl’s Corp., Target Corp., Pacific Sunwear of California Inc., AnnTaylor Stores Corp., Quiksilver Inc. and Macy’s Inc.
“In the old days, the big reason everyone joined trade associations was because of the fear of quotas and what quotas could do to their business,” said Fox. “With the elimination of quotas, people talk about the relevancy of trade associations.”
Fox began her career at Penney’s as a merchandise trainee in a store and has worked her way up to head of the company’s strategic sourcing division. She has navigated the complex waters of global sourcing for the company for 17 years and is responsible for the development of the sourcing plans and managing the assets to support global merchandise procurement.
“It really is one of those things that once you get in it, it kind of becomes your passion — you either love it or you don’t,” said Fox. “And it’s something I love because it is so intertwined with history and politics. I used to say I would wake up in the morning and see what the Clinton administration had done to mess up my shipments. It is all government related.”
Global quotas were eliminated in 2005 as part of the World Trade Organization’s Uruguay Round, but the U.S. imposed quotas on 34 categories of Chinese apparel and textile imports for three years because of big import surges and an outcry from the domestic textile industry. Those quotas expired on Jan. 1.
With bankruptcies, store closures and layoffs mounting every day as the global recession deepens, Fox said her biggest challenge will be educating Capitol Hill lawmakers and the Obama administration about the importance of maintaining retail jobs and warning them about the devastating impact of punitive trade measures.
“I think one of the things that gets lost, especially in Washington, is the impact of the retail industry on the U.S. economy,” said Fox. “The retail industry as a whole lost 589,000 jobs last year, and when you look at the landscape it’s littered with bodies — Mervyns, Circuit City, Gottschalks and Goody’s are all out of business.”
Fox plans to highlight the job losses as importers’ outline their opposition to the government taking any action to impose punitive duties on imports through antidumping or countervailing duty cases or legislation.
“Anything that brings uncertainty or potentially could raise our prices is something that is damaging to our industry,” said Fox. “U.S. consumers have enjoyed deflationary pricing on apparel for the last 10 years and this is not the time to raise prices.”
One of the association’s top priorities this year will be building a case for legislation to eliminate tariffs on apparel imports, which can run as high as 33 percent, as in the case of nylon blouses, Fox said.
“One of the main things we would like to talk about is taking away tariffs on apparel and textiles,” she said. “That’s a tax that costs U.S. consumers, the average family, $800 a year or so. If [Congress] is looking for a tax rebate, there it is.”
The footwear industry has built a coalition around legislation that would eliminate $800 million in duties across several categories. The legislation was recently reintroduced in Congress, but has not yet moved. Fox said many retailers, including Penney’s, are part of that coalition and monitoring the legislation as they craft a case for eliminating duties on apparel.
On the defensive side, USA-ITA and other importing groups also plan to continue pressing their case against a Vietnam and China apparel-import monitoring program included in the recently enacted $410 billion spending bill. The Obama administration has the discretion to decide whether to implement the program.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews