LIMA, Peru — It doesn’t take long for a textile or apparel maker in Lima to start talking about quality control.
This story first appeared in the March 25, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With prices that can’t compete with China’s low-cost exports and ambitions as high as the Andes’ peaks, Peru’s industry executives are touting their high-quality Pima cotton and alpaca, quick turnaround ability, short shipping times to U.S. ports and attention to detail to U.S. and European brands as they seek to grow and recover from the recent economic crisis.
“I want the ‘Made in Peru’ label to mean the quality of that garment is better,” said Patricia Flores Rodriguez, production chief of Textiles of Peru.
Her company, which in 2013 doubled its production over 2012 by annually turning out 400,000 units of apparel and 400 tons of textiles, is ranked 14th in textile exports from Peru and expects to move into the top 50 apparel exporting companies in Peru by 2014.
Textiles of Peru has done that, she said, by keeping its costs low. It produces its knitted fabrics, but outsources all of its sewing. The firm has quality-control inspectors at every step of production, she said. Most of the firm’s apparel heads for the U.S. under the brands Southern Point Co., Harley-Davidson, Pippen Lane, Coast, Grande Plaine and Agape North.
Alfredo Malatesta, chief executive officer of the California-based apparel maker Intercontex Inc., which sources about 15 percent of its work in Peru, said, “Peru can’t compete against Asian prices. People go to Peru for quality, not price.”
Christian Asbeck, who founded the Lima apparel company Venator nine years ago, exports all of his production to the U.S. and Europe. His company saw production double in 2013, with 45,000 units in sweaters and about 30,000 units in T-shirts. Some 60 percent of his production is for the U.S. market and the remainder ships to Europe.
Venator is typical of most of Peru’s textile and apparel exporting firms, according to PromPeru, which handles international marketing for the domestic industry.
Asbeck said Peru has the equivalent of two levels of textile and apparel industries: one that produces for the Peruvian market, and a second that manufactures for export. Those firms in pursuit of the domestic market have been hard hit by low-cost Chinese exports, he said. Others after the higher-end export market are doing better, he noted.
In the first 10 months of 2013, textile and apparel exports to the U.S. were down 17.7 percent, according to the Sociedad Nacional de Industrias/National Industries’ Society. Through Oct. 31, total exports were $1.4 billion compared $1.76 billion in the same period in 2012.
Rodriguez at Textiles of Peru said her company is developing markets in other Latin American countries, and early in 2014 plans to open a European office in France. Veronica Telge, ceo of the Lima apparel maker Lives, said about 10 percent of her firm’s production goes to Latin America, another 10 percent goes to Europe, and the remaining 80 percent heads for the U.S.