HONG KONG — China’s growing prowess in global textile production was the talk of the trading floor at this month’s Interstoff Asia show.

Exhibitors and buyers discussing their capabilities and sourcing plans inevitably included China in their strategies, whether it was doing more business there or finding ways to compete with the countries’ combination of low wages and expertise.

Anil Sharma, senior manager for exports at India’s Raymond Ltd., whose company was one of the 300 exhibitors from 16 countries at the three-day event that wrapped up Oct. 8, said he expects the looming end of apparel and textile quotas among the 148 World Trade Organization “will be good for us.”

Raymond, which produces 20 million to 30 million meters of fabric a year in its denim division, is opening a jeans unit in Bangalore, India, to attract business from China. It’s expected to open in January and produce 10,000 garments a day.

“No one wants to put all their eggs in one basket in terms of infrastructure, feasibility and manpower,” Sharma said.

The firm offered denim made from ring-spun yarns, which allows for a smoother hand. The fabric also goes through a moisturizing procedure to take out the starch.

Ben Yi, a general manager of Samsung’s Textile Team Trading Group of South Korea, said he doesn’t think the end of the quota regime will be that dramatic because “there are so many limitations already.”

Still, he acknowledged that China’s market share is likely to grow dramatically after the quotas are lifted.

South Korean manufacturers were out in force, with 28 joining together in a Rediscover Korea pavilion with 28 booths.

That nation’s industry has changed rapidly over the past eight years, shifting its focus to fashionable and high-tech products from more basic goods. The switch has been a matter of survival, said John Chung, who heads marketing for South Korea’s International Textile Fair Preview in Daegu.

The textile business is downsizing in South Korea as the market shifts to China.

“We can’t compete in terms of price,” Chung said.

So the industry set out to follow what Chung dubs the Japan model: creating high-tech, high-value functional textiles to take South Korea out of direct competition with China.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For South Korea’s Visionland, the main focus is to attract more U.S. clients for its woven cotton with mixed quality for women’s shirts and pants, said manager Jackey Hwang.

The 10-year-old company, which has participated in Interstoff Asia for more than five years, is a supplier to Hennes & Mauritz, Zara, Mango, the German department store C&A and NY & Co. The company has annual revenues of $30 million.

Many of the vendors and buyers at Interstoff Asia focused on new fabric technologies as a way to set themselves apart from their competitors. The show concentrated on fall 2005 and winter 2006 fabrics.

Buyers are seeking functionality, said Johnnie Yuen, sales manager for Hong Kong-based Central Fabrics, which mostly deals with denim and has an annual revenue of about $23 million. Central Fabrics offered denim with 2 percent lastol, the Dow XLA stretch olefin fiber. The lastol allows the fabric to be bleached and heat set, said Catherine Wong, a Central Fabrics sales executive.

The company’s other new development is a twill with 68 percent cotton and 32 percent Teijin’s Calculo polyester filament, which the firm said helps the fabric to breathe and absorb moisture. It also collaborates with fiber suppliers Dow, Invista and Tencel in fabric development.

Japanese and U.S. companies are Central Fabrics’ biggest customers. The Hong Kong company also is looking at working more with Chinese brands through the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, which waives import duties for Hong Kong-made products sent to China.

Lyocell maker company Tencel, which in May was acquired by Lenzing, a maker of lyocell and rayon, was showing ways that its lyocell and rayon fibers could be used in moisture-management fabrics and in jersey fabrics for sportswear.

A new product featured lyocell with a polyester filament inside, which helps provide wrinkle resistance, said Echo Mok, the firm’s Asian marketing manager.

Cha-Lom, a Thai manufacturer of garments for children and teens, was looking for knits and fashion wovens, said managing director Kamthorn Kamthornthip.

Genevieve Y.S. Lam, managing director of Hong Kong’s Hillier Fashion, said she was interested in fashion fabrics such as chenille, fur and yarn-dyed checks.

“We want some new texture, new finishing,” she said.

Hillier Fashion produces about 500,000 women’s garments a year in Shenzhen, China, and counts Ann Taylor among its customers.

Guido Kreijkamp, a product developer from Holland’s Rev’It, was looking for technical fabrics for motorcycle garments, such as those containing Cordura nylon.

He said the strength of the euro against the U.S. dollar has motivated him to do more sourcing in China. Since that country’s exchange rate is pegged to the U.S. dollar, the euro has also gained strength against China’s yuan. He said he now manufactures 150,000 garments a year in China.

Becky Cannon, president of I Play, based in Asheville, N.C., said she manufactures a lot of her children’s wear in China. She was on the lookout for fabrics with measurable sun-protection properties, as well as quick-dry textiles for bibs and swimwear.


The Fiber Price Sheet

On the last Tuesday of each month, WWD publishes the current, month-ago and year-ago fiber prices.Prices listed reflect the cost of one pound of fiber.

Fiber Price on 10/25/2004 Price on 9/27/2004 Price on 10/28/2003
Cotton 53.50 cents 48.81 cents 64.07 cents
Wool $2.49 $2.46 $3.65
Polyester staple 63 cents 60 cents 56 cents
Polyester filament 63 cents 60 cents 56 cents
September synthetic PPI 107.1 106.6 106.5

The current cotton price is the September average on fiber being delivered to Southeastern region mills, according to Agricultural Marketing Services/USDA. The wool price is based on the average price for the week ended Oct. 22 of 11 thicknesses of fiber, ranging from 15 to 30 microns, according to The Woolmark Co. Information on polyester pricing is provided by the consulting firm DeWitt & Co. The synthetic-fiber producer price index, or PPI, is compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reflects the overall change in all synthetic-fiber prices. It is not a price in dollars but a measurement in how prices have changed since 1982, which had a PPI of 100.