DENIM DISH

Byline: Scott Malone / Joshua Greene

Greenwood Shutters Plants
Denim producer Greenwood Mills plans to shut two of its plants in February at a cost of about 715 jobs. The company said the continuing flood of low-priced imported fabrics into the U.S. market made the closings inevitable.
The plants are a denim-weaving facility in Liberty, S.C., and a gray-fabrics plant in Greenwood, S.C. They are to be closed around Feb. 15.
In a statement, Greenwood president Ted Colcolough said the closings were prompted “by a combination of poor economic conditions in our nation, the devaluation of Asian currency and the enormous influx of textile fabrics and garments imported from foreign countries.”
The U.S. textile industry, which limped through the economic boom times of the late Nineties, has been particularly hard hit by the oncoming of recession in the U.S. Over the past year, the industry has lost more than 60,000 jobs, as companies have shuttered plants that were unprofitable and in some cases simply closed their doors.
Over the past month, some of the U.S.’s most prominent mills have filed for bankruptcy, including Burlington Industries Inc., which is one of Greenwood’s largest rivals in the denim sector.
Privately owned Greenwood will continue to produce specialty fabrics for the apparel and military markets at its other plants in South Carolina, and to make jeans and other apparel at its Single Source full-package garment production unit in Mexico. Greenwood started making apparel in 1996 and executives at the company have said that business is a profitable one. Most other U.S. textile mills who have tried their hands at garment production have found it a hard jump to make from the more mechanized fabric business and few have been able to profitably produce garments.
Colcolough said he held out hope for the ailing textile industry.
“We are very hopeful that economic conditions will improve throughout our country and that the current administration will realize the importance of the industry to the welfare of the American people,” he said.

The Soft Sul
The year-old Brazilian brand Sul Denim is trying to make inroads in the U.S. market.
The brand was launched last year by the Rio de Janeiro-based company, The Vintage Group, which also holds the license to make Diesel jeans in that country. Owner Robert Carilli said he decided to bring the brand to the U.S. because of the current strong consumer demand for jeanswear.
“We saw that this second coming in the jeans market was happening and we wanted to get in on it,” he said.
The collection includes about six styles of women’s jeans, mostly low-rise, tight-cut silhouettes, wholesaling from $42 to $80. There is also an assortment of skirts and knitted tops. One distinctive feature of some of the jeans is a lining of cotton fleece, which Carilli said is both comfortable and helps the jeans to cling to the body in a way that denim typically doesn’t.
While the brand has had very limited distribution at retail in the U.S. this fall — it shipped small collections in October and December — Carilli said he is hoping to roll the line out to a broader group of specialty and department stores for spring selling.
“We have a lot of emphasis on the brand,” he said. “We’re not interested in doing a lot of volume.”
He said he expects the line to do between $12 million and $15 million in sales next year.
The Sul jeans are all produced at the company’s factory in Rio. Carilli contended that having constant access to his own plant helps to improve the jeans’ fit.
“Fit is something that is very difficult to establish,” he said. “You have to go back and forth to the factory 15 or 16 times, trying again and again after it’s washed. If your production is far away, it’s impossible to have a good fit.”
The company also hopes to open a few stores in the U.S. next year. Carilli said he’s currently looking for sites around the South Beach area of Miami, where he has his U.S. headquarters. After finding a location there, he hopes to open units in New York’s East Village and on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
He also plans to open showrooms in New York and Los Angeles over the next few months.

Change for Cambio
Cambio America Ltd., a privately owned distributor of jeans made by the German company Change Sportswear GmbH, is expanding its offering of fashion denim in the U.S. market.
For spring, Cambio will offer a total of 12 fashion styles, ranging from lace-ups to ribbon-trimmed jeans, denim skirts and super-low-rise jeans in new fabrics such as cross-hatch and distressed denim. Dark stonewashed and bleached jeans with “buffies” — German slang for whiskers — also will be available. Cambio will continue its basic fits, like its best-selling antique-wash bootleg.
“We were originally only four styles in our collection denim, and we will offer 12 styles for spring and 18 styles for fall,” said Ellen Careaga, president of the New York-based company. “We have a very strong base in women 30 to 50, but we want to reach that woman who is looking for more fashion in the denim she’s buying. To do that, we thought we needed low-rise.”
Cambio owner Robert Heitz, who started the Stateside business in 1995, has increased annual sales from $2 million to $20 million. Careaga said the company projects a 20 percent increase next year, if the economy picks up.
While denim currently makes up 60 percent of Cambio sales, Careaga said she plans to focus more on nondenim pants next year.
Cambio is available at more than 1,000 specialty stores and at Nordstrom nationwide. Wholesale prices for denim range from $69 to $145.
Change Sportswear GmbH is the largest bottoms manufacturer in Europe, shipping 10 million units annually under the Cambio and MAC labels.

Levi’s Chugs Into L.A.
Levi’s Vintage Clothing is teaming up with the Los Angeles boutique KBond, to host a party for Precious Cargo, a group art installation about the invention of the railroad and the free spirit of rail travel. The event will take place this Saturday at KBond.
Curated by Aaron Rose, owner of the Alleged gallery, the installation brings together the work of 25 artists, who each painted a model train car. The train will chug around KBond’s retail space on an elevated Plexiglas train track.
In addition, one wall of the store will be devoted to a historical timeline of the railroad, featuring Dorothea Lange photographs, text and replicas of Levi’s worn during the time period.
The installation will run Dec. 15 through Jan. 27 at KBond, 7257 Beverly Boulevard.

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