For all its talk of being an international city, Miami is missing a significant demographic. Asians accounted for only 1.6 percent of Miami-Dade County’s population in 2016, according to the U.S. Census, while Asian tourism is so low it doesn’t even warrant its own sliver on the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s pie chart. The Mainland’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cluster of Asian grocery stores is a feeble attempt at a Chinatown within the dearth of Asian culture here.
Now a group of entrepreneurs, economic initiatives including the Miami-Dade Beacon Council and Florida Enterprise, and politicians from the local and state levels are collaborating to eradicate the white space in the face of President Trump’s trade war threats with China. They acknowledge the first obvious step is to introduce a direct flight to China and are developing infrastructure for the day it finally happens.
The expansion of Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada’s annual trade show in Toronto to Miami from May 21 to 23 is just the tipping point, according to Jason Prescott, chief executive officer of JP Communications, which produces both events. He relocated from California to Miami for a larger role as a liaison between the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel and local business interests and emerging commercial real estate developments, such as Mana Wynwood, whose convention center is hosting ATS-M, and the Poinciana Industrial Park, a former manufacturing zone situated on the Florida East Coast Railway northwest of downtown.
“We have been selected to represent CCCT’s interests in North America, and there’s no better platform than a trade show to introduce something new to a market,” said Prescott, who chose Miami for its lack of sourcing, proximity to Latin America and influx of immigrants from around the world. “China’s textile industry has the most advanced logistics, technology and production systems, so it’s hard to create infrastructure without their investment. Everyone needs to merge for a thriving ecosystem.”
Besides seeing parallels between Toronto and Miami as established trade hubs with ethnic neighborhoods, he is tapping into Miami’s fashion heritage and its resurgence, from the explosion of retail on every level to designers like Rene Ruiz and Naeem Khan, who champion building state-of-the-art factories in Miami to produce their collections. Perry Ellis International’s Miami headquarters and other major fashion brands based in the Southeast were bonuses.
“Perry has already registered, but we also need to service middle-of-the-market producers who focus on low quantities. For every big brand, we’ll have a few hundred smaller companies and entrepreneurs,” said Prescott.
Launched in 2016, Apparel Textile Sourcing Canada has grown from 10 regions and 200 booths to 30 regions and 800 booths. ATS-Miami will offer 15 regions mainly from Asia and the Americas — including a Made in the USA pavilion — and nearly 300 booths for apparel, accessories, fabrics, raw materials and home and hospitality textiles and linens. Prescott said Grupo Karims, a Miami-based Honduran textile producer, is taking four booths; he hopes other Canada show participants like FICCI from India follow its lead. Three thousand attendees including Zara, Levi’s and Macy’s had registered by April.
“Once we have the ear of the CCCT and create a great brand, Miami can expand quickly to complete the New York-Las Vegas triangle,” he said, of the rise of regional events to accommodate speed-to-market production.
ATS’ investment in education will also be a boon for Miami’s fashion community. Whereas the annual SwimShow in Miami Beach offered two seminars last year, for example, ATS-M plans more than 20 about artificial intelligence, influencers, NAFTA and sustainability, among other topics. Among the speakers will be Jeff Streader, managing director for Go Global, who will focus on the effects of data and digital consumers in “Winning at Omnichannel and that Importance of an Aligned Supply Chain;” Dr. Shan-jie Li, chief executive officer and chief economist for American Da Tang Group, a luxury real estate services firm for Chinese transplants in the U.S., will discuss his firsthand knowledge of the cultural gap and attempt to build a Chinatown in Miami in “The Rise to Success in America, A Story Business in China & the USA,” and developer Moishe Mana will talk about transforming Miami into the Hong Kong of the Americas in “Miami Embraces International Business with China, the Americas and Beyond.”
A group runway presentation on May 22 will showcase looks from 10 Miami fashion brands such as Perry Ellis’ portfolio and Eberjey, as well as the city’s three main fashion schools.