SHANGHAI — The continued slow economies in Europe and the U.S., and a gradual shift of sourcing away from China, were apparent at the Intertextile Apparel Fabrics Fall 2013 show.
Chinese exhibitors and those who traveled here from Europe and elsewhere in Asia for the annual event, held Oct. 22 to 25, said that, while the fair was busy, there seemed to be a loss of momentum as apparently fewer Westerners attended.
Intertextile organizers did not respond to requests for attendance figures, but observers said some exhibitors reduced their booth size this year because of weak economies in the West.
The lack of international visitors was most apparent in sections designated for Chinese apparel makers, where scores of textile manufacturers reported slow business.
“This year, in terms of the people who are attending, it seems like less than last year,” said Shi Changjiang, a sales associate with HTT Material Technology Co., a manufacturer based in Fujian Province specializing in fabrics for sportswear. “Most of the foreigners coming are already our customers. Last year, there were lots of new faces from abroad.”
Business in the U.S. for HTT Material Technology, which makes apparel for companies including Columbia Sportswear and Nautica, is stable, while sales to Europe have been slightly more volatile. Shi said orders have sharply declined in the domestic market, where a number of Chinese sportswear brands, such as Li Ning and Anta, have experienced dramatic declines in profitability due to fierce competition from foreign players and changing consumer tastes in the sportswear category.
“We were shocked by the decrease” in the Chinese market, Shi said. “The domestic market has been the most up and down.”
He added that the manufacturer is finding it harder to maintain margins due to rising raw material and labor costs combined with clientele who are unwilling to pay higher prices for fabrics. He said sales are down 20 percent this year.
The situation was even bleaker for Bosun Textile & Garments Co. Ltd., a maker of men’s suiting fabrics in Zhejiang Province near Shanghai.
“Some of our [foreign] customers have gone out of business,” said Allen Zhang, a Bosun manager. “It is very bad. Customers are very careful with placing orders because actually they are not so sure how the market will be. It is very hard to guess.”
The manager said profits are down 20 percent this year, and there is continued concern in the industry that if the Chinese yuan appreciates further against the dollar, margins will become even thinner.
Zhang said the company is focusing on expansion in the Chinese market to try to offset any further declines in its export business.
“The Chinese market is still very good,” he said. “It is a very big market and there is a lot of potential. Chinese still have money to spend.”
If anything, the Shanghai Intertextile show served as a weather vane for where domestic brands are betting Chinese will spend money on apparel. In an exhibition hall with Chinese denim manufacturers there was more of a bustle, but mostly with local buyers sourcing for Chinese retailers. According to Vincent Qin, general manager for marketing and sales with Prosperity Textile Ltd., a denim maker for a number of foreign brands, including Levi’s and Zara, Chinese stores are increasingly looking to launch their own denim lines to compete with international players in the market.
“All the domestic brands want to follow the latest European trends,” Qin said. “So they want to work together with us because we can share some information with them, some international resources and help them develop more European looks. We have to show the domestic brands we have a good international market.”
Qin said 50 percent of the Guangzhou-based Prosperity’s business now comes from China. Europe makes up around 30 percent and America around 20 percent.
“The U.S. market is dropping because of pricing issues,” he said. “Their target price is far away from our costs. India and Pakistan, their price is more competitive.”
Pier Luigi Loro Piana, chief executive officer of the Italian luxury brand and high-end fabric maker Loro Piana, said demand in China for expensive materials is continuing to grow and that, even with a slowing domestic economy, Chinese brands are willing to pay a premium for European luxury fabrics.
“It is quite an important market for us,” said the executive, adding that he expects China to become around 30 percent of the company’s export business. “The high-end segment of the market is growing faster than the lower level. I see a good potential in the future to supply more and more sophisticated, high-quality fabric [in China].”
Loro Piana said while he is concerned that a decline in exports to the West might hurt the Chinese economy in the short term, he feels like the country can weather any external economic storms by boosting domestic consumption.
“People are saying they don’t see any deep risk of a recession or decline in demand, particularly in the high-quality segment,” he said. “I am positive about next year. I think it will not be booming, but there will be steady growth that will continue.”
China’s gross domestic product expanded 7.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012.
Loro Piana had a small exhibition in a special Milano Unica exhibition within Intertextile. The Italian trade fair created its own platform inside the show in an attempt to form a more unified front of Italian textile makers to market themselves to the Chinese.
Other international sellers, including the German-based Amann Group, which makes high-end threads, also said demand from China remained strong.
“In China, there are lots of high-quality brands,” said Jeff Luo, a general manager with Amann. “They want the high-quality stuff.”
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews