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NEW YORK — Change is in the air in global sourcing, from new avenues to manufacturing to innovations in fabric development, and a venue switch for a key trade fair.
In many cases, the desire for creativity in yarn and piece goods production is moving decision-makers to explore a more diversified production platform.
The U.S. mills and manufacturers exhibiting at Texworld USA said the revival in Made in America has become a reality, but is not without its limitations and obstacles. Most agreed that many brands and retailers are choosing to move more of their production to the U.S. for the quality and quick turn capability it offers, while lowering the risk factor of bad publicity, delayed shipments and potential for poorer quality that exists at a higher level on goods imported from Asia.
This was underscored last week with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s move to create a $10 million fund to support the Made in America revival, with Bill Simon, chief executive officer and president of Wal-Mart U.S., declaring “the time is right for a resurgence,” and that commercial trends are leaning more toward “American production for American demand.”
At Tuscarora Yarns, Tom McCall, director of business development, and Kim Williams, director of marketing, said product development is the main driver of business for the North Carolina spinner, but the Made in America factor has been a strength as well.
“All the big brands that we sell are bringing a percentage of their production back to the U.S.,” McCall said. “We’ve also had a lot of companies come to talk to us about becoming part of their supply chain this year. We’ve expanded our capacity, with more ring spinners and knitting machines.”
McCall noted that Tuscarora now supplies 300 Belk stores with various types of T-shirts. Williams said the increased orders and new accounts wouldn’t come without product innovation. A key look for spring 2015 was an Alamac striped knit fabric that uses Tuscarora yarn made of five fibers. Williams said the company is also developing a new colored denim with Golding Fabrics that has drawn interest from several brands.
David Roshan, president of Laguna Fabrics, a Los Angeles-based knitter, said, “Business is good. We’ve expanded in the last year, mainly because more companies are looking to do domestic production. Made in U.S.A. is only going to get stronger — you can sense it and feel it.”
Laguna sells mainly contemporary brands and specialty chains, such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, but has also started getting business from Kohl’s, the Marmaxx Group and Forever 21. Laguna, which concentrates on natural and eco-friendly fabrics, has been doing well with Lenzing’s Tencel and Modal, as well as flax and linen yarns it knits into tops and dresses.
Warren Zaretsky, vice president of sales at Mansfield Textiles, based in Vernon, Calif., said the company had a 25 percent increase in sales in 2013.
“Companies are telling us they are ordering more from the U.S. rather than China,” Zaretsky said. “The price differential has shrunk, and with the quality and delivery times from U.S. manufacturers, many companies are placing more orders here.”
He said Mansfield has invested in new jacquard machines and has a new custom printing lab. Mansfield also has production flexibility, Zaretsky added, and can handle 10,000-yard orders or 40,000- to 50,000-yard ones.
Manufacture New York set up an exhibit to promote its incubator project aimed at providing independent designers with the resources and skills to streamline their production process and boost local manufacturing.
Not all the action was at the booths of the U.S. firms at Texworld and the colocated Apparel Sourcing Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where 265 exhibitors from 17 countries showed their wares. Turkey was well represented, with companies such as Kotonteks, which specializes in yarn-dyed fabrics and jacquards; Grup Textiles, a women’s wear manufacturer focused on rayon, high-twist yarns, acetate and viscose fibers, and Larmatex, a fiber firm that works with high-end clients looking for certified organic products.
One of the busier booths was Mozartex, a Chinese maker of fine yarns. Mozartex is capable of producing digital prints and foam coating finishes, and uses Tencel in areas such as formal wear and lightweight women’s blouses.
Presenting a broader view at a seminar on sourcing was Tricia Carey, U.S. merchandising manager for Lenzing, and David Sasso, vice president of international sales at Buhler Quality Yarns. Carey said companies today are generally working on a “balanced portfolio” strategy.
“There are companies interested in opportunities that might arise from free-trade agreements such as the [Trans-Pacific Partnership], while at the same time people are definitely looking closer to home for their manufacturing,” she said. “So it’s taking that pie and breaking it up into pieces that make sense for a particular company, while not putting all their eggs in one basket.”
Carey said availability of materials and expertise also come into play, noting that in the Americas, for instance, denim and knits tops are key categories.
“There’s more to manufacturing apparel than just fabric,” Sasso said. “So one of the things I try to understand is how can a U.S. manufacturer of yarns fit into the supply chain.”
Sasso said one advantage he sees for U.S. and Western Hemisphere production is better transparency compared with Asia, from more hands-on quality control and factory visits to better laws and compliance on factory safety.
“In conversations that I have, people are looking more into Made in U.S.A. and Made in Central America — there are trade and speed advantages,” Carey said. “But at the same time there is a barrier in the minds of many people that the price of fabric and labor is an issue. So they need to reevaluate that and balance many factors.”
Sasso said for Made in America to take off, companies have to stress “speed, the ability to go from yarn to fabric to garment in six to eight weeks — that’s what makes money for retailers.”
RELATED STORY: Première Vision Examines Spring 2015 Trends >>
At Première Vision New York, the European fabric exhibitors were generally upbeat about the North American market. But some of the buzz was also about the news that the show will move at its next edition in July to Pier 92, at West 55th Street on the West Side Highway, from the Metropolitan Pavilion in Midtown, where it has been staged since 2000. Some supplier executives were pleased about moving to a more open, larger venue, while others voiced concern about the logistical challenges created by the places on Manhattan’s far West Side.
Gilles Lasbordes, exhibitions director at PV, said, “We are moving because we want to expand our offer, in particular in the accessories and trimmings area. In Paris, those exhibitors are in Modamont. We have had multiple demands to bring them to New York, and we were not able to accommodate them here.”
With Pier 92, the PV fabric firms, the Indigo textile design studios and the accessories and trimming suppliers will be under one roof and on a single floor, with about 20 to 25 percent more overall space. The show is set for July 22 and 23.
The number of exhibitors at the latest edition, held Jan. 14 and 15, increased to 124 from 106 last year, with 4,223 registered attendees, a 5 percent increase over January 2013. Most exhibitors reported solid order taking and networking.
“After many years of price issues for fabrics, it seems some U.S. companies are going back to investing in more creative products,” Lasbordes added. “We promote the fashion textile industry from a qualitative and creative point of view — added-value products versus more commodity-type of products, so that development is good for our exhibitors.”
Ioana Banu, director of sales at Liberty Art Fabrics North America, said traffic picked up as the show went along and business had been strong. Liberty was featuring printed fabrics inspired by “Alice in Wonderland” in its spring 2015 collection. A new line that includes women’s swimwear fabrics in a range of motifs and men’s boardshort fabrics was also a center of attention.
Colorful and graphic prints were important in many collections, from Mahlia Kent’s multicolor striped knits and laser prints to Solstiss’ technical takes on lace. Sandrine Bernard, executive vice president of Solstiss USA, said key looks getting attention included geometric and floral motifs, and lace and denim combinations.