LOS ANGELES — Cities such as Dallas, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles once had vibrant textile industries and professional support organizations. However, with the domestic textile landscape scorched by foreign competition, most of the organizations and many major mills were wiped out. But the Textile Association of Los Angeles, founded in 1944, has survived.
New TALA president Brian Thaler, president and founder of Scott-Thaler Associates, and his predecessor, Hal Kaltman, owner of Hal Kaltman Textiles, discuss how the group has kept going in this volatile environment.
WWD: What are your goals for TALA?
Brian Thaler: I am evaluating the current trending that is taking place in the industry and the world. We have been approached by 13 to 14 embassies that want to bring members of their countries into L.A. TALA also sponsors scholarships for the students. All these students graduate at some point and a percentage work for companies or a percentage work for themselves doing design. We have become an information exchange organization.
WWD: How are you different from past presidents?
B.T.: I own an executive search firm. We specialize in textiles, apparel, accessories, home gifts, retail and logistics. We search for candidates and clients, and we are a matchmaker. We represent both the candidate and the client. I know how to find new TALA members. I know how to recruit companies that want to deal with our members. I am helping TALA be logical in putting together the salespeople with potential business.
WWD: How do TALA members cope with competition from China and elsewhere?
B.T.: TALA is…made up of salespeople. Our salespeople can get positions at these foreign companies. A lot of these foreign companies have no clue what to do. There is confusion and there are people scared with what is happening with the changeover. But if we build our organization as a network, there will be a lot of guidance for the industry.
WWD: When a foreign company approaches you, what do you tell them about why they should be doing business in Los Angeles?B.T.: California creates things. California is innovative. Look at the ski and surf. Look what is going on in jeans. We offer a hub.
WWD: What are some challenges you face leading TALA?
B.T.: I don't really see any challenges. Either you become a member and join in with the visibility and education, or you don't. What I am doing for TALA is I am bringing in people who can help other people achieve their objectives. I wish I had more hours in the day, but I am a volunteer. Every country is going to be coming to TALA for help. I hear these old-time salespeople saying textiles are dead. They are not.
WWD: Who are members of TALA?
Hal Kaltman: We have different categories of membership. We have people that are involved in the direct sale of textiles or textile-related items. We have another category of membership that includes the bankers, the factors, the freight companies and anything related to the industry, as far as designers, print designers, studios. The only ones that are not allowed to be members of TALA are manufacturers.
WWD: Are there any recent additions to the membership?
H.K.: We get a lot of traffic from foreign embassies, so we are starting a campaign to bring them in and set up a kind of membership for them to be part of TALA and give them the access to anybody and everybody they want. They have companies that need representation.
WWD: How many TALA members are there?
H.K.: Roughly 500, plus our retired membership. For our membership, we are trying to create alliances with China, India, Vietnam.
WWD: What changes in the industry should TALA members anticipate?
H.K.: Over the last decade, the changes have been coming so fast. You have to try to be smart enough to get a feel for where things are moving. Everybody was scared to death of China. They finally got a clamp on that. Now, you have got [normal trade relations] with Vietnam, you've got the sub-Saharan trade agreement, you've got the trade agreements coming out of…Central and South America.WWD: Do you believe these trade agreements are implemented effectively?
H.K.: My biggest complaint has always been that, while we sign treaties with other nations, our government will fall over backward to make sure that we stick to the letter of that agreement. When it comes to making the other guy keep to the agreement, we turn our heads. Washington, starting at the White House level down through Congress, has decided that we are an expendable industry.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
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Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast