Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — In an effort to draw more attention to its efforts on the fashion front, Burlington Performance Wear has adopted a new fabric-development strategy that will have it bringing out new groups of fabrics 10 times a year.
Called X-Ite, the program will focus on bringing out small collections of innovative textiles throughout the year, instead of offering two massive groups in the spring and fall, as the company did in the past.
“The old system was to throw hundreds of fabrics out on the table and see what fits,” said Larry Himes, president of the Performance Wear division of Burlington Industries. “Now, we can focus on trends, like stretch or comfort.”
In an interview at the company’s Manhattan showroom last week, Himes said that while Burlington has always put a strong focus on developing new products, he came to feel that customers were having a hard time finding the interesting new items in a sea of basics. While the division will continue to produce the basic synthetic-fiber and wool fabrics that are the backbone of its business, the new program will allow it to promote fashion items more heavily.
“It’s much more understandable,” said Himes. “It provides great focus.”
Every month except for December and July, the Greensboro, N.C.-based company will introduce one to three collections of about four to six fabrics each, for a total of five to 20 new fabrics a month, explained Lou D’Lando, executive vice president of marketing and sales at the division.
A year ago, when Burlington merged its Tailored Fashions wool and Klopman synthetics operations into the Performance division, it decided to focus on seven market segments: women’s apparel, higher-end collections, men’s wear, activewear, barrier products (high-tech fabrics for industrial and medical wear) and Raeford uniforms.
The collections will have to provide broad enough appeal to play across most of those segments, noted Joel Futterman, executive vice president of product development and fiber sourcing.
Futterman also noted that since they combined the synthetic and wool businesses, the volume of new products the unit is producing has soared. Adopting the monthly collections model will also make it easier to manage the overall product flow, he said.
“We’ve been working for quite a while, even before the merger, to make sure we focus the product development effort,” he said.
Targeting multiple end uses with the same product also makes timing issues tricky, the executives admitted.
“In mid-March, our traditional customers are looking at spring, while our junior customers are just beginning to do fall,” D’Lando said. “Our product packages have to be designed for those dates.”
But it is acceleration of the fashion cycle that prompted the change in the first place, he added. With fashion-forward retailers bringing in new merchandise every month in most cases, this is a way to bring apparel makers new goods for each delivery. He added that the company hopes the move will attract the attention of more fashion-driven fabric buyers.
“From a customer standpoint, what this is going to offer us is an opportunity to increase our business with the customers we’re already doing business with, and to introduce ourselves to customers we’re not doing business with,” D’Lando said.
Burlington will also produce more sophisticated marketing materials to support the collections.
The first X-Ite group will include three collections.
“Emersion” emphasizes microfibers and fabrics with a suede-like hand.
“T2Touch” is a nylon-rich group inspired by activewear for a dry, clean hand, but a dressy-enough look for the workplace.
“The Lycra Collection” focuses on blends of spandex with polyester, rayon, flax and wool.
Burlington last year created its Performance Wear division at the same time as it combined its denim and casual-cotton fabrics into Burlington Casual Wear.
The move came after the company dramatically downsized its manufacturing operations, cutting its work force by about a third and exiting the knit-fabrics business.

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