Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — Moderate sportswear firms, faced with mounting pressures to deliver fashion at a price, are becoming more aggressive about their hunt to source production overseas.
While the Far East, including Korea, China and Taiwan, has been the most popular region, firms also are looking at such locales as Turkey, Russia and Hungary. Mexico, with the assistance of the North American Free Trade Agreement, is also getting a growing piece of business from moderate resources.
Take, for example, Young Stuff Apparel Group Inc., a private label knitwear firm here, which two years ago sourced all of its garments domestically. Now, the firm sources 35 percent of its offerings overseas, with plans to increase that figure to 55 percent within the next year. While it depends mostly on Mexico, other areas include Turkey, Taiwan and Hungary.
The firm also imports Taiwanese fabrics into Mexico, where it cuts and sews them.
“We just needed to be competitive on a quality and price level,” said Ken Miller, president, who has also hired 10 additional sourcing experts over the last six months for a total of 15. They are based in Mexico and New York.
He continued: “The price pressures and needlework pressures are driving us overseas.”
He noted that for his company knit tops can’t go beyond the wholesale range of $5 to $8.
Miller noted that with its sourcing programs, the firm has been able to add another 10 percent to its business. The firm expects to wind up with $70 million in wholesale volume by the end of the year. The company is doing private label programs with Sears, Roebuck & Co., Kmart, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney’s and ShopKo, he said.
“The moderate zone has become increasingly competitive, and in this highly deflationary period, we are feeling more pressure to produce more fashion at lower price points,” said Marc Abramson, vice president of sales at Requirements, which is now sourcing 50 percent of its fashions overseas, up from only 15 percent two years ago.
Over the past two-year period, the firm added five new people to its sourcing team for a total of six.
Requirements currently sources its novelty woven garments out of China and its flannel designs in Canada, but is now investigating South America and Russia as well as other regions in the Far East.
Abramson added, “There isn’t much novelty coming from the domestic mills; they’ve been stagnating, though I see some resurgence in the knit area.”
He noted that a boiled wool cardigan and vest set program, sourced from China, has checked nicely at retail for fall selling.
At First Options, a division of Tracy Evans, 25 percent of its garments are sourced overseas, compared to 10 percent only a year ago.
Two years ago, the company hired a quality assurance inspector in Guatemala, where it sews much of its garments.
The firm currently sources items of printed crepons and stretch yarn-dyes out of China and polyester prints and chiffons out of Korea.
“There is a lot of pressure these days to come out with more fashion and still not raise your prices,” said Darren Cohen, vice president and co-partner of Tracy Evans, which also produces a junior label under the company name.
Cohen noted that the firm can’t go beyond a wholesale price of $29.99 for skirts and $39.99 for jackets.
He added he was forced to look overseas because he could not find domestically such novelty fabrics as patterned wools and patterned stretch fabrics.
Two years ago, Ellen Figg Inc., also based in New York, sourced about 10 to 15 percent of its production overseas; now, that figure is up to 80 percent. The company sources primarily in the Far East, Turkey and a little in Mexico, according to Martin Coleman, chief executive officer.
Novelty polyester items, a key business for the company, are sourced in Turkey, Korea and Mexico.
Nefertiti Collections Inc., which makes African-inspired printed fashions, had sourced in India and China, but is now expanding its network to include Bali, Thailand and Malaysia.
“Our search has gotten more global,” said Lucerne Labidou, designer. The company has tapped India for cottons and rayons, while it looks to China for its burn-out velvets and crushed pannes. In Bali, the company has been sourcing special prints.

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