Vendors in the Casual Lifestyle area of WWDMAGIC often run budding businesses, but they share many of the same concerns as fashion giants such as Polo Ralph Lauren or Jones Apparel Group.
Among those concerns are the elimination of trade quotas earlier this year and the impact of China’s place of prominence in an increasingly global production network.
Vendors also are keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of new marketing and branding campaigns, which are necessary to reach untapped customers and expand their retail presence.
The apparel sourcing landscape changed Jan. 1 when the 148 nations of the World Trade Organization set aside the quota system that regulated world trade in a number of product categories, including apparel and textiles, for decades.
Excepting the likelihood of temporary safeguard quotas, which could continue to regulate the market in the near term, the elimination of quotas has opened up an opportunity for China to dramatically increase its market share.
Already, the fashions from China account for 13.9 percent of the apparel imported into the U.S. for the year ended in November. That’s $8.88 billion worth of apparel, a 23.7 percent increase over the year before.
In the post-quota world, “China will look to bully everyone around,” said Martin Klein, executive vice president of sales at New York-based Kaktus Inc., which produces sportswear, activewear and dresses.
“It’s going to hurt a lot of the smaller manufacturers because they won’t be able to compete with the ones that are in China and India,” he added.
Most of Kaktus’ production is already in Asia. However, apparel firms that manufacture their wares in the U.S. have found that, in order to remain competitive, they will need to follow suit and move their production overseas.
“We were 100 percent domestic up until a couple of years ago,” said Jerry Stone, vice president of sales at Lawrence, Mass.-based sweater producer Alps Sportswear, which sells to specialty stores, boutiques and catalogues. “At this point, 70 percent of our line is import. We’ve been forced to go overseas for a number of reasons, not only price but also tailoring.”Plants in India, China and Africa, all places Alps employs in its sourcing efforts, not only can produce goods for lower prices but also have machines that can put whole sweaters together.
Vendors also are looking to nose ahead of the competition by buying or developing a name that consumers will come to recognize and trust.
“We are interested in getting into a branded business to expand our scope,” said Kaktus’ Klein.
Klein declined to detail the company’s plan, but getting into a branded business has obvious benefits.
If a customer knows a brand name and what it represents, they are more likely to purchase it, fattening the vendor’s sales.
Longmont, Colo.-based sweater firm Icelandic Design is looking to bolster its brand by more clearly communicating its history to consumers, said Kristin Kalush, marketing manager.
“We’re looking to grow the business in new markets if we can, but not lose what we have. It can be kind of tricky,” she said. “We’re taking a few different marketing directions, trying to put a story behind the line.”
That story goes back to the Eighties, when owner Gerdur Kristjansdottir started the firm in Iceland, her homeland.
Drawing upon the knitting skills of her family, Kristjansdottir created sweaters with designs based on landscapes and European art.
She came to the U.S. and started selling sweaters made by her and her family. A few specialty store accounts in Colorado were parlayed into the 1,500 wholesale accounts the firm now boasts.
Some of the company’s products still have elements that are handmade, though production has moved to Nepal, China and India. The inspiration drawn from landscapes and European art also has remained.
“We definitely try to promote just the uniqueness of it,” said Kalush. “We don’t really have too much competition in our niche. We do have some knockoff issues, but not as bad as some other industries and types of clothing.”
Icelandic’s branding campaign also is an effort to appeal to a new kind of store base.“We would love to get new business in more contemporary boutiques,” said Kalush. To that end, the company also is updating its styling.
Icelandic isn’t alone in its desire to branch out.
Albuquerque, N.M.-based Modern Cowgirl, which offers a line of sheer T-shirts featuring prints of retro cowgirl pinups, will be in Las Vegas looking for more retailers in large urban centers to complement its current retail distribution of about 80 specialty and department store doors.
“We are trying to get into more of the mainstream,” said owner Shana Gibson. “We do a lot of boutiques in the Western areas, but we found that the products are very popular in larger cities like Dallas.”
After all, Madonna’s interest in the cowgirl look might come and go, but Gibson said the style, a nod to the American West, will always be popular.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)