By  on May 24, 2007

NEW YORK — In a roundabout way, denim designers located in the Northeastern U.S. have two apparel industry titans and their legal wrangling against each other to thank for the emergence of one of the region's only wash and development facilities.

Hannibal Apparel Development Services opened on the outskirts of Jersey City, N.J., in late February, taking over a laundry that had been exclusively used and owned by Jones Apparel Group. In February 2006, a three-year legal battle between Jones and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. over several licensing issues ended in a settlement, the terms of which included Polo paying Jones $355 million in cash to acquire the Polo Jeans business. Jones' need for the Jersey City facility following the settlement subsequently disappeared.

Olah Inc., a U.S. agent for foreign contract manufacturers and textile and hardware vendors targeting denim designers, and Frederic Guy, a textile and apparel industry veteran who had been working as a consultant, saw an opportunity to provide a service that hadn't been available to the apparel industry here for years. Guy purchased the facility and renamed it Hannibal Apparel Development Services, or HADS, and Olah Inc. agreed to handle marketing of the facility's capabilities.

Andrew Olah described the arrangement as more of a collaboration than a business partnership. Guy is also maintaining his long-standing relationship with Tunisia's Sartex, a manufacturer specializing in jeans and casual garments for brands such as Ralph Lauren, Carhartt and Timberland. The majority of Sartex's business is based in Europe, but the company hopes HADS can provide a vehicle to help expand its presence in the American market.

"The idea is two things," said Guy. "First, Olah is a partner in the facility, which is a tool for him to help his customers and to develop new washes for the fabrics they sell. The second thing is it's an open eye for Sartex, who is also a partner, on the U.S. market."

The real power of HADS, however, is that it offers designers and product developers access to a facility right in their backyard. Big and small brands are discovering that they can free themselves from dependence on Los Angeles' wash houses or their foreign factories, cutting down on time, and the cost of flights to the West Coast and FedEx bills.

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