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LAS VEGAS — The fallout from the Bangladesh factory disasters rippled through the latest edition of Sourcing at MAGIC, where both exhibitors and attendees prioritized social compliance along with price and quality.
This story first appeared in the September 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Vendors ranging from Chinese sock maker Jingjiang Eknit Co. to Indian apparel and accessories producer Fashion Matrix Overseas prominently displayed computer printouts, framed certificates and giant signs touting their social compliance credibility from organizations such as GlobalMarket.com, Tradegood, Social Accountability International and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production.
“It’s very important to customers now,” said Vipin Sethi, director of Fashion Matrix, which produces 80,000 pieces a month for clients including Replay, Diesel, Calvin Klein and Quiksilver. “That basically indicates you are following all the social, ethical, health and safety norms.…You basically cannot exist without it now.”
Wenzhou Shiben Clothing Co., a Chinese maker of polyurethane jackets, windbreakers and wool coats, decorated its booth with GlobalMarket.com’s Global Manufacturer Certificate, which listed check marks for criteria such as trustworthiness, social and environmental responsibility, high-quality products and a dedicated export team.
“Some buyers request that we have to pass some certification,” said Elaine Zhou, a sales representative at Wenzhou. “This shows the reputation of our company.”
It’s not just foreign factories that need to be certified. Joyce Torris, private brand manager at Bealls Outlet, a Bradenton, Fla.-based discount chain that operates 460 stores, said the knits companies in Brooklyn, N.Y., and T-shirt vendors out of Los Angeles that her company uses must abide by the same compliance standards as its factories in Asia and South Africa.
In the past three years, she said, “We increased our visibility with factories. We require now more government standards — not only our government standards but theirs — with testing and building inspections.” In addition to compliance, quality, value and logistics are the other key points to verify before working with a supplier, she said.
Britain’s Intertek launched Tradegood, a service that connects buyers to suppliers, at the show. The fair also reserved a sizable section for Premier China, which promised attendees that they can “connect with more than 50 top certified factories from China.”
While China retains the top apparel manufacturing spot for now, other countries are closely chasing it. Jeans Resources, a Houston-based firm that manufactures jeans in Vietnam, participated in Sourcing for the first time in an effort to establish a foothold as an alternative to China. Requiring a minimum of 600 units, it can deliver an order in six to eight weeks, following the approval of a sample. Among its handiwork are garment-dyed skinny jeans with acid-wash treatment and denim cutoff shorts with novelty fabric lining.
“After China moves to higher technology, apparel will move out of China,” said Phil Le, a representative for Jeans Resources. “Vietnam is similar, so it could be a success.”
As there is competition between countries for business, regions and cities also faced off against each other. Dongguan Gangtian Textile & Garment Co., which manufactures cutoff jeans shorts, ikat overall shorts and other denim products in Guangdong outside of Hong Kong, jockeys for workers against factories in northern Chinese provinces. The advantage that the distant provinces hold is that they’re closer to the workers’ hometowns, said Serena Li, vice president at Dongguan.
The difficulty of the Chinese labor market and interest in U.S.-made goods convinced Beijing-based Knitworks LLC to begin shifting production of its hand-knit sweaters to Virginia from China. Knitworks, which counts most of its clients in Japan, strove to attract new customers with its angora cape trimmed with rabbit fur and fake leather toggles and Dolman sleeve sweater enhanced by beading and shirring on the sleeves. It has already set up shop in Richmond, Va., with a design and sales team.
“More and more customers like the Made in USA product,” said Na Yin, Knitworks’ business development specialist. “If we make everything here, it’s definitely going to reduce the shipping and taxes.”
The Sourcing show featured 1,100 apparel and accessories resources. The Americas pavilion made its third annual appearance, but with a more limited role from the U.S. Department of Commerce as compared with previous editions due to budget cuts.
Creative Eye American Apparels Inc. also aimed to capitalize on the growing interest for American-made clothing. The Kentucky-based vertical manufacturer charges at least 25 percent more than a factory in India to make a men’s polo knit shirt accentuated with a frayed chambray lapel and gingham trim on the collar and sleeves. But it can turn around the order in 15 to 30 days, compared with two months for an Indian competitor.
“It’s just more cost-effective, really, in the long term to produce in the U.S.,” said Creative Eye’s marketing director, Dan Puckett.