MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s textile and apparel production is expected to rise 2 percent to just more than 100 billion pesos, or $7.3 billion, in 2012, as U.S. apparel brands shift some production south of the border and local demand remains strong in a stable economy.

This story first appeared in the February 7, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We are expecting U.S. producers to increase their full-package and fast-fashion clothing orders,” said Miguel Angel Andreu, director of the Mexican Textiles Institute, an industry consultancy.

Andreu said while U.S. apparel manufacturers are viewing Mexico as a fresh sourcing destination over a more problematic Asia, the “massive” shift that some have hoped for has not fully materialized.

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Angel Salazar, technical secretary at textiles trade union Sindicato Nacional de la Industria Texil, said U.S. brands are waiting for the global market to improve before increasing production or investing in Mexico.

“We also have a major competitor in Central America which has cheaper wages than us,” Salazar said.

Andreu was hopeful that U.S. labels will continue to see Mexico as a more attractive and stable destination than Asia to source their clothes, especially items that require a quick delivery.

“U.S. retailers are tired of markdowns, so they are looking for an affordable production spot that can supply their more fashionable merchandise as frequently as possible,” Andreu added.

A few large U.S. apparel firms already make apparel in Mexico, including Levis Strauss & Co., Van Heusen, Warnaco Group and Victoria’s Secret. Some have their own factories, but others outsource with firms such as Grupo Kaltex, Modelos de Asyro and Dasa. Andreu said all these companies have workers trained in full-package production and the manufacture of high quality apparel.

Some firms are also concentrating on becoming larger suppliers of so-called “intelligent” garments, including Grupo Kaltex, which is making “eco-friendly” apparel from bamboo plants and corn soya, and fire-proof apparel brand Carolina Protect. Martex Potosi and American Textile (a Mexican firm) are also working to make technical sportswear, Andreu said.

Andreu noted that Mexico’s manufacturing chain has been significantly modernized in the past five years. He said production processes are “much more agile, quick and of higher quality,” while the past two years have seen producers investing in new machinery to boost their commitment to quality.

Exporting more apparel to the U.S. and other parts of the world has become a priority for textile and apparel organizations Canaintex and Canaive, which are working to promote Mexican fashion and designers in the international arena. Salazar said boosting the nation’s exports has never been more crucial given the government’s decision last year to cut Chinese import duties to 30 percent from 80 percent.

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