By  on January 10, 2012

Sierra Club, meet Seventh Avenue.

The inaugural edition of The Continuum Show, to be held in conjunction with Kingpins at Center 548 in New York on Jan. 17 and 18, will unite suppliers involved in all facets of the network for sustainable textiles and apparel on a single floor and expose them to brands and retailers looking to build a sustainable supply chain from scratch or simply fill in pieces that are missing.

“The philosophy behind the show is that there is no end point in sustainability,” said Anne Gillespie, co-producer of the show. “The most we can say is that we are all at some point along the continuum of sustainability. Recognizing that fact, our goal is to help companies along that continuum, whether it’s a small step or a big leap.”

Gillespie, who serves as director of industry integrity for Textile Exchange, and Stuart Adams are partners in the show as well as in Continuum Textiles. Andrew Olah, the founder of Kingpins and chief executive officer of textile concern Olah Inc., approached Gillespie several years ago, seeking to add a sustainability element to Kingpins and has a stake in the new market, as well.

“It’s really a marriage of his background in developing a very focused, relaxed trade show and our background in sustainability,” Gillespie said.

The show was conceived as a one-stop shop for companies that met standards for health, safety and welfare issues but, to succeed, the producers felt it needed more.

“We want to become a place where people can come and find true sustainability solutions,” Gillespie said. “But we took it a little bit further. Often there are small boutique companies that can do small volumes, but we’re looking for companies that can meet the higher volumes and service levels required by the larger retailers and brands you would find at Kingpins.”

Exhibitors don’t just sign up for Continuum; they are invited by the show producers and then vetted. The exhibitor application says those showing need to “represent innovative and credible solutions to sustainability challenges” and “have the capacity to supply large commercial quantities.” Interested applicants are asked to specify third-party verification for their environmental sustainability claims and outline the steps they take to ensure social and ecological responsibility. There will only be 12 suppliers at the initial show, including Jeanologia, makers of garment finishing technology; chemical producers Bozzetto Group; fabric mill CV Badjatex, and packaging firm Nexgen Packaging. Included among the exhibitors is SGS North America Inc., which certifies the compliance of textiles, apparel and other products with various environmental and safety standards.

Jeanologia will be demonstrating its machinery at the Continuum show and, during the opening night parties of Kingpins in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, and Kingpins/Continuum in New York, on Jan. 17, showing the flexibility of its Twin GFK 3e laser machine as it executes various wash and other denim design concepts from Ecco Domani Fashion Fund winner Siki Im, as well as Gap Inc., GoldSign, Marithé + François Girbaud, Joe’s Jeans, Earnest Sewn, Henry Duarte, Stussy and Creative Growth for Everyone.

For a company that operates under the “3E” motto of ecology, efficiency and ethics, the association with Continuum was a natural.

“Jeanswear today isn’t only about the aesthetics of the product,” said Enrique Silla, president and founder of the Valencia, Spain-based company. “Today, it’s also about the way we make the product, and the way we make a product is part of the soul of the product. That’s a huge change for our industry and this idea is a major part of our brand identity. We believe that this is a revolution and will lead sustainability to become a must.”

With consumers aware of the social consequences of their purchasing decisions and eager to share this information on the Internet and through social media, “we are in the era of transparency.” He said his firm will bring more than four tons of its technology to the show as it seeks to boost its share of global jeans finishing from its current level of about 15 percent. Silla is looking to double that number in the next year.

While Silla’s company has displayed at trade shows before, the presence of its machinery is an additional step and he looks forward to the interaction with prospective buyers.

“They will feel it, they will see it and they will touch it,” he noted. “It’s like testing the wine in the cellar or seeing the kitchen of a restaurant where you’re having a great lunch. We want to contribute to the success of Continuum, which is a great initiative.”

While he concedes that no show has any guarantee of success as it launches, Continuum has a better shot than most because of its tie-in with Olah and Kingpins and what he considers the certainty that the apparel and textile industries’ focus on sustainability can only sharpen.

Monadnock Paper Mills Inc., a manufacturer of the paper for tags and labels based in Bennington, N.H., will be exhibiting alongside its downstream production partner, Nexgen Packaging, which markets a variety of apparel brand identification products.

“A lot of retailers have jumped on the environmental bandwagon, but they’ve done it later than most,” said Lisa Hardin Berghaus, marketing and corporate communications director at Monadnock. “The printing business has changed drastically — we’re doing a lot less of our work for annual reports and fancy brochures and products like that — and retailers, in the U.S. and abroad, have really been driving the demand for environmental and social responsibility. We weren’t involved with Kingpins previously, but Nexgen was and really wanted us to be involved with them in the new show.”

While environmental responsibility might mean one set of standards for an apparel or a textile manufacturer, for a paper producer it means certification by the Forest Stewardship Council that its paper came from healthy sources and was manufactured following best practices.

“It’s not just a matter of what we’re putting on the market,” Berghaus said. “We also have to make sure that our papers can work with the equipment and inks of the partners we work with.”

Monadnock hasn’t participated in similar trade shows before. “We’re in New Hampshire and it’s close to home,” said Berghaus. “Nexgen does shows like this all the time, but we’ll see how it goes and then decide how to proceed next time.”

Poole Co., based in Greenville, S.C., manufactures EcoSure, a line of polyester fibers manufactured from postconsumer recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) packaging materials such as soft drink bottles. It works in tandem with a sister company, Fiber & Yarn Products Inc., that’s principally focused on yarn treatments and texturing for the hosiery market. Although it’s exhibited its nonwoven products for industrial markets at other shows, its first association with a trade show with substantial apparel representation was the Outdoor Retailer market in Salt Lake City in August.

“We were very pleased to be approached by the people at Continuum, which appears to be the right kind of venue for us, and we’re moving forward with the hope and expectation that there’ll be a lot of people at Kingpins and Texworld up the street who will want to see companies that are involved with recycled fibers,” said Bill Coffey, who oversees marketing at Poole. “Along with our sister company, we’re able to offer products that provide cooling, wicking, anti-microbial characteristics and abrasion resistance, and all with recycled yarns with prices that are very competitive with virgin polyester. This should be a good way to promote the brand.”

Continuum will stage two seminars for its guests. The first, to be held at 11 a.m. on the show’s first day, will be a presentation by Continuum and Textile Exchange on the factors that are driving companies to adopt a sustainability strategy. On Wednesday, a roundtable discussion, moderated by Textile Exchange, will explore the experience of companies that have pursued sustainability and the opportunities and challenges they see ahead.

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