NEW YORK — Asian yarn spinners were well positioned for new business at last week’s Yarn Fair, since they had competitive prices and had stepped up their game considerably in terms of creativity, according to buyers.
The volatile exchange rate between the euro and the dollar created price increases for European spinners at the show, which took place July 21-23 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York.
“It’s both the raw material prices and the exchange rate working together,” said Nicola Bonello, a salesman at Di.Vé, a spinner based in Biella, Italy. “The market does not accept the increase, but you can’t automatically pass it along if you want to sell anything.”
The dollar Monday stood at 0.87 euros, down 13.9 percent from a year ago.
In addition to currency issues, raw material prices also have increased. The price of wool, for example, has increased by about 5.6 percent since last year, so spinners are adding synthetics such as nylon and acrylic to their yarns, which helps bring the price down.
Vendors said this is a viable option to combat the current price issues as long as the end product featuring the synthetic yarns feels the same to a consumer as a purely natural version.
Dawn Desler, who plans to launch a knit apparel and accessories line called Claudine Calais by the year’s end, said she was looking for soft, bulky yarns with texture, such as mohair and alpaca. Though she favors garments made entirely of natural fibers, she was impressed by the soft feel of some synthetic blends at the show.
Several buyers at Yarn Fair said they were excited by the creativity coming out of Asian spinners. With some notable exceptions, particularly among Japanese companies, Asian yarn makers traditionally have been sought for commodities while Europeans were noted for their fancy yarns and innovations.
Bengt Jacobsson of Carlin International, a Paris-based trend forecasting and marketing company that executed Yarn Fair’s trend area and was also an exhibitor, said more Chinese companies are making fancy yarns such as angora and mohair. Since they’ve worked with Western countries for a while now, they’ve started catering to a Western aesthetic, said Jacobsson.“They didn’t do that before. They used to copy, but they’re so quick now, they can get out the same yarns as a European or American spinner,” said Jacobsson. “It’s good they’ve upgraded a little, but it’s bad for Europe.”
But buyers said European spinners still have advantages, such as their willingness to offer smaller minimum orders and a better understanding of the consumer who will end up wearing knits out of the yarns they make, which helps in research and development.
Jacobsson said it’s important for all companies to find their own identities in terms of what type of product they offer, since too many spinners doing the same thing makes the market bland. He said it then becomes all about price, which is unhealthy for the industry.
Jacobsson wasn’t the only designer complimenting the creativity of many Asian spinners.
“The Asian sources have really worked on their research and development to offer variety at a very good price,” said Linda Kinney, the sweater designer for the Costa Mesa, Ca.-based skiwear company, Nils. “And I’ve found good sources for manufacturing.”
Europeans, Kinney said, had a difficult time quoting prices because of the currency fluctuations. (That is not an issue for Chinese suppliers, for instance, since they write contracts in dollars and because the yuan is pegged to the dollar.)
Kinney also said some of the resources she met with offered full-package garment production. She said she hadn’t worked that way previously, but said she would look into it.
At Philadelphia-based Huntingdon Yarn Mill Inc., focusing on companies that make high-end products means producing novelty yarns, which are more difficult to be copied. The company produces rayon, wool, acrylic and cotton yarns.
According to owner Majid Jarahat, the domestic resource has navigated the difficult market conditions of recent years by offering high-end products, developing products for designers and setting no minimum order sizes. Huntingdon added its own dyeing capability six months ago, which further helps it develop unique products.
At Pinori Group USA, which represents spinners including Eitorf, Germany-based Schoeller; Barcelona, Spain-based Casanovas, and Prato, Italy-based Pinori, sales assistant Katie Kolupke said knitwear designers are being extra picky with what they’re looking for, which could be a reaction to increased prices.They’re choosing mainly acrylics because they cost less, said Kolupke, who also speculated that several people she met with were planning to copy yarns she was showing. This is a common concern for high-end novelty producers, and Kolupke said she believed red flags for this type of behavior include the request of extensive amounts of color cards, swatches or detailed information about certain yarns. Still, she added there wasn’t much that she could do to prevent it.
In terms of newer product, Filati Maclodio has a line of yarn made out of Lenpur, a cellulosic fiber derived from Canadian White Pine trees that has natural anti-odor characteristics, according to a spokesman for the spinner.
Trends at the three-day fair included space-dyed cotton or acrylic blends, as well as lofty-looking, lightweight and ultrafine gauge yarns.
At both Italian spinner Pinori and Spain’s Hilaturas Miel, U.S. representatives were seeing a huge demand for year-round cotton looks. “People want the look of fall but in cotton,” said Dinah de Avalos, an agent at Pinori Group USA. “It’s something that can sell throughout the U.S., come fall and winter.” Some examples there included looks that featured a mixture of thick and thin yarns, all in 100 percent cotton.
“Cotton is becoming more important as [a year-round] fiber,” said Felise Lowenstein Erdal, a saleswoman at Yarn Mavens, which represents Hilaturas Miel in the U.S.
Acrylic was also on many buyers’ shopping lists, particularly in blended yarns with a tweed feel or a lightweight bouclé feel. At Di.Vé, one acrylic blend included wool and alpaca in a low twist construction with different components in the yarn to make it look printed.
Casanovas showed rayon, acrylic and nylon blends that were soft despite their wooly look. Schoeller, meanwhile, had a wool, acrylic, alpaca and nylon blended yarn that was incredibly chunky, yet lightweight. China’s Loyal Light offered an alpaca and mohair look in nylon, acrylic, wool and polyester.
“Alpaca and mohair-like textures are doing well this season,” said Joanna Lee, an assistant at Loyal Light.
Fine-gauge yarns were also key. At Silk City Fibers, 12-gauge yarns featured either crisp or supersoft hands, according to Peter Sagal, president.
Alberta Ferretti's "Rainbow Week" sweaters are back. The designer closed her #MFW show with a few day-of-the-week sweaters, which first debuted on the catwalk last January as part of the pre-fall 2017 collection. #wwdfashion (📷: @delphineachard)