KNITWEAR MANUFACTURERS SEE A RERUN OF ’95 AHEAD

Byline: Elizabeth Gladfelter

NEW YORK — The trends that were strong for 1995 will keep rolling right into 1996, according to knitwear manufacturers here.
Manufacturers are again preparing for volume increases. Among the looks that carried the category this year, and are expected to help propel business next year are twinsets and head-to-toe knit dressing. Texture will also be a major influence for next year, even surpassing color in importance, said several manufacturers.
At the same time, vendors said they will continue exploring various sourcing ideas to keep prices in line, despite the rising costs of materials. For some, that means sourcing abroad, while others try to build value with domestically made apparel.
For New York Based — primarily a sweater maker — international sourcing is a way of life. It chooses its production sites with duty taxes in mind, said Joanna Bell, merchandiser for the company.
“The duty on synthetic novel yarns, such as acrylic or rayon imported from Hong Kong, can be as high as 35 percent, whereas those imported from Europe are lower: Cotton is 21 percent and wools are 17 percent,” said Bell.
Nonetheless, New York Based says it will try to swallow the cost increases as long as possible before raising prices.
“The price point is always determined by the consumer’s needs, rather than by the total cost of production,” said Bell.
One trend Bell sees emerging that promises a prosperous 1996 is attention to details: for example, finishing touches such as embroidered marled yarn on a cropped zip-front cardigan.
Marjorie Cohen, vice president of Helen Hsu, also said luxurious detail has infiltrated the knitwear market. She noted an increasing interest in the handmade look, with final touches such as fur, abstract designs and yarns such as mohair.
At 525 Made in the USA, executives anticipate a 20 percent volume increase for 1996, said Marianne Blackwood, vice president. The company’s offerings of synthetic and natural fiber blends — a tight milano wool and acrylic yarn, for example — is one such mix they feel will boost volume for the upcoming year.
Boucle, which developed as an important yarn this year, is expected to continue to be popular.
“Anything boucle still goes,” said Blackwood. “Acrylic chenille, and even two-toned boucle sweaters with black-and-brown color combinations are taking off.”
Most novel will be the company’s experimentation with yarn mixing, particularly chenilles.
“We will take chenille to the next level by mixing it with other yarns, which is very novel. Chenille is not dead,” said Blackwood.
Filament mixes, stripes and patterns will be novelties in their collection.
“Solids are getting tired,” said Blackwood. “Patterns make it seem as though the consumer is getting more value for her money. Variegated and hockey stripes are two very popular choices.”
Two-piece dressing and other ensemble looks are becoming as important in knitwear as in other sportswear categories. The three most popular colors this year have been black, brown and garnet red, said Cohen.
“Wearing all knitwear in one color, which hasn’t been quite as common in previous seasons, is more popular,” she said, adding that it’s partly attributable to knitwear’s convenience and ease for travel.
Jack Weinstock, chairman and chief executive officer of August Silk Knits, noted the increase in knit dressing, both as sportswear and outerwear.
“We are getting ready for growth, anywhere from 10 to 15 percent,” said Weinstock. “Growth in knitwear will come through, with more of an emphasis on fashion this year.
“Business today is approximately 90 percent basic commodity and 10 percent fashion,” he added. “This ratio will change — basic commodity will go down to 70 percent and 30 percent will be fashion.”
August Silk Knits will do what it can to prevent fluctuation in prices. But for now, said Weinstock, “it is something we are watching, and have been advised to watch for.”
Brad Saltzman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Adrienne Vittadini, said, “The challenge that design has is to create novelty knitwear. Stitch details, from quilting to prints and plaid, keeps the design contemporary in its approach.”
For fall, surface knit novelties in terms of mixing knits will bring knit to the next level, which Saltzman feels is the key to keeping knitwear modern, yet spirited.
Saltzman expected an increase in volume of 12 to 15 percent over last year for the company’s core business.

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