By  on March 5, 2013

LAS VEGAS — With 1,000 exhibitors from 43 countries, the Sourcing at MAGIC show aimed for a global scope to match fashion’s quickening evolution.

The show, which ended its four-day run at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Feb. 21, drew hundreds of companies, from start-ups to established brands, looking to do everything from locating domestic sample-makers to increasing production runs with overseas manufacturers.

“There’s an overwhelming amount of choices,” said Lana Marcus, who was hoping to launch an accessories line in Atlanta next year and was eyeing several Indian companies offering beading and embellishments on cotton handbags. “We’d like to keep production close to home, but we’re curious about what kinds of materials and prices there are overseas. It seems like there isn’t one set way to do things, which is both good and bad.”

One seminar in a four-part sourcing series captured the theme of the moment: In today’s global market, rules are made to be broken. Presented by the American Apparel & Footwear Association and Bureau Veritas, “Making Money in the ‘New Normal’” examined current sourcing trends with panelists Liisa Pierce Fiedelholtz, senior vice president of sourcing for Ann Inc.; Mark Fegley, senior vice president of supply chain at Deckers Outdoor Corp.; Bill McRaith, chief supply chain officer, global sourcing at PVH Corp., and Tom Travis, managing partner at private equity firm Sadler, Travis & Rosenberg.

“Everyone wants to know what the new China is, but there is no new China,” said McRaith. “There’s no place to go next. The ‘new’ thing is about how you redraw the supply chain. It’s been in the wrong place for too long. Don’t follow what the big companies are doing today, change the dynamic completely. The small guys are the craftiest people I know. And all the big guys started out as small guys.”

Travis said, “So much of the focus is on taking costs out, but we can’t change the fact that costs are going up. So instead change the sourcing dynamic and have tier-one suppliers who will step up to the plate.”

Fegley used Ugg as an example of materials inflation, saying, “The price of sheepskin doubled between 2010 and 2012. We learned we needed to have a better understanding of market forces and have strategies in place to manage it. It’s about what we can control and how we buy inputs.”

Fiedelholtz said, “We’re not about chasing costs as much as pleasing customers, so creating relationships with our vendors is key, whether you’re big or small. If they are invested in the relationship, you’re going to get better speed to market and better quality.”

Nadiyah Bradshaw Spencer, head of sourcing at New York label Suno, said the onus is on smaller companies to find new sources, but the result is often innovative products, such as the textiles and prints made by East African artisans used by designers Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis.

But for many domestic companies, Made in USA sources are still the focus.

In the Made in Los Angeles section, Deborah Kirkland, a partner at Trend Chasers, which makes women’s apparel, said, “I think there’s an increasing demand with people looking for quick turn and prices in China going up. There’s a comfort level knowing it’s in your backyard.”

While many of the start-ups were too small to meet her minimums, Kirkland readily passed referrals on to other nearby booths.

“I wish there were more U.S. resources here,” she said. “The more competition there is, the healthier we’ll be. I’m hearing a lot of people say they’re looking for more U.S. dye houses and fabric-makers at the show.”

In the resource center, experts like Fashion Business Inc. founder Frances Harder were on hand to offer guidance.

“There are manufacturers all over the country, not just in Los Angeles,” said textile expert and About Sources publisher Susan Power. “The Midwest, the Carolinas and Pennsylvania are places where real estate is cheaper and more plentiful than in California or New York. And many of these guys are looking for all these little companies and not depending on one guy to give them a big order.”

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