COTTON INC. LENDS SMALL DESIGNERS A HAND
Byline: Stuart Chirls
NEW YORK — You’re a talented designer of women’s sportswear, one with enough guts and edge to make your collection a leader in the market. But you’re also a small company, and it takes everything you’ve got to land orders from big department and specialty retailers. Trips to exhibit at trade shows are usually out of the question. You’ve got the goods, but what you really need is an angel, someone with the resources to shine a light on your business.
Enter Cotton Incorporated.
The marketing arm of American cotton growers will play John D. Rockefeller to a group of women’s designers, called the Innovators, showcasing their products at its vast booth during WWDMagic in Las Vegas. Cotton Inc. sponsors the event twice a year at the trade show. This is the fifth edition of Innovators.
This season’s lineup is a mix of East and West and includes Charlotte Tarantola, Estevan Ramos, Mary Jane Marcasiano, Kanai & Onyx, Uniform by Gemma Kahng and Urchin and Urchin Knits by Mark Eisen.
For the designers, it’s a dream come true: having a deep-pockets sponsor bring them to the crossroads of American apparel buying. For Cotton Inc., the program serves as a linchpin in its ongoing efforts to increase cotton’s share of the women’s apparel market.
“The program is a good selling tool, but one with a dual purpose,” said Ira Livingston, senior vice president of marketing implementation for Cotton Inc. “They get exposure to the many retailers who come to the show, and Cotton Inc. gets identified with leading-edge designers.”
Cotton Inc. begins the search for Innovators a year in advance, shopping bridge sportswear collections around the world before inviting candidates to submit samples.
In Las Vegas, each designer is given a parcel of 80 to 90 square feet in Cotton Inc.’s huge 1,000-square-foot booth. It’s enough space for each to hang 50 garments without crowding. For the designers, the Innovators is like so much manna in the desert.
“I’m so excited,” said Kanai, of Kanai & Onyx. “Last year, we wanted to participate, but we didn’t have enough cotton in the collection. Now, most of the collection is cotton, and I think we increased our sales because of that.”
Cotton Inc. also offers the Innovators other benefits, such as free advertising and access to its research facility in Raleigh, N.C. Some of the designers are already well-acquainted with Cotton Inc.’s resources, such as the Cottonworks library of fabrics.