Byline: M.McN.

AVENTURA, Fla. — The price of cotton may be rising but so is the fiber’s share in knitted apparel.
In 1994, cotton’s share of the total knit apparel market on a fabric weight basis hit 56.1 percent, up from 54.4 percent in 1993, according to statistics regularly gathered by NPD, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based consumer research group, for Cotton Incorporated, the research and promotional organization for the 30,000 U.S. cotton growers.
In addition, 100 percent cotton apparel grew to comprise 33 percent of the knit market, up from 30.9 percent in 1993.
“Cotton has come a long way in the past seven years,” said Ira Livingston, Cotton Inc.’s vice president of U.S. marketing, interviewed Sunday at the annual meeting of the Knitted Textile Association here.
Livingston pointed to 1987, when cotton’s share of the market was at 38.5 percent. Since that time, cotton’s share of the knit market has steadily grown, hitting 41.2 percent in 1988. That was followed by 43.6 percent in 1989, 48 percent in 1990, 50.7 percent in 1991 and 52.4 percent in 1992.
“People keep talking about the price of cotton rising, and it is, but the demand for it is there, too,” Livingston said.
While the market for 100 percent cotton knits expanded last year, so did cotton-rich blends — blends in which cotton is the majority of the fiber — which comprised 13.3 percent of the knit market, up from 12.5 percent in 1993.
The gains in 100 percent cotton and cotton-rich knits have come at the expense of: 50-50 blends, which fell to 18.1 percent from 18.9 percent; blends of less than a 50 percent cotton content, dropping to 7.6 percent from 8.7 percent, and knits made solely from man-made fibers, easing to 20.6 percent from 21.6 percent.
Knits made from 100 percent natural fibers, such as wool, silk and linen, were flat at 7.4 percent, NPD said.
“Right now it’s a demand-driven market for cotton,” Livingston said. “We’re going to continue our efforts to maintain the share we have in many areas, and to work on those we don’t. There are still some areas we need to address.”
One such category is women’s fashion apparel.
Livingston said Cotton Inc.’s efforts, such as its sponsorship of a runway show featuring young designers during 7th on Sixth in New York and its participation in last month’s WWD/MAGIC International Show in Las Vegas, are part of the organization’s increased women’s wear push.
As for the distribution of cotton apparel, 52 percent of cotton sold on a fabric weight basis in apparel in 1994 was in knits and 48 percent was in wovens. While it was about the same in 1993, the story was different in 1987, when only 42 percent of cotton apparel was knitted and 58 percent was woven.