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Substance over style.

That might not be the typical approach for companies exhibiting and attending major fabric and sourcing trade shows where fashion trends usually rule, but these are not normal times.

Industry issues and methods of operation are taking the limelight at this month’s Première Vision, Texworld USA and Milano Unica exhibitions in New York, as executives plan their long-term global production and raw material purchasing amid geopolitical turmoil, a shifting retail scene and fresh inroads on manufacturing and product development.

A key issue factor for Première Vision New York and Milano Unica New York is the attractiveness of the U.S. market and the favorable exchange rate between the dollar and the euro that makes European fabrics more affordable.

The mill vendors at these shows are also chasing the better-than-theirs U.S. economy, even with consumer spending somewhat stunted.

“We see a huge interest from the exhibitors from the upstream of the fashion value chain in the U.S. market and currency is key factor,” said Guglielmo Olearo, international exhibits director at Première Vision.

“American brands are buying more from Europe, but consumption is not so strong, so it’s very competitive,” Olearo continued. “We think 2016 will be a year of uncertainty — the geopolitical situation is difficult, there are tensions everywhere. There’s a Cold War between Turkey and Russia, which could have a big impact for the fashion industry. In our industry, the investor will be more focused on mature markets like Western Europe and the U.S. instead of developing market like the BRICs.”

Ercole Botto Poala, president of Milano Unica, said an important lesson learned from Unica’s first New York edition in July was that there are new customers in the U.S. market with which Italian firms had not previously done business.

“We offer a lot of creativity and value to the U.S. market, especially with the exchange rate, which is more competitive now,” Botto Poala said.

Milano Unica returns to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center’s River Pavilion Jan. 24 to 26.

Olearo noted that PV, which is moving to the larger Pier 94 from Pier 92 this season for its show on Jan. 19 and 20, is adding what he called “two universes” that exemplify the importance of how goods are manufactured.

Devoted areas for Manufacturing and Leather, joining ones for Fabrics, Design and Accessories, will feature a combined 55 exhibitors. New companies in the manufacturing area will hail from Morocco, Turkey, Portugal, Spain and France, focused on cut-and-sew factories for the mid to high-end market, while the leather zone will have tanneries from those same countries and exotic leathers from Brazil.

Overall, PV will feature 353 exhibitors compared to 296 last January.

Also reflecting the importance of local manufacturing and the importance of the U.S. market is a Made in New York area supported by the City of New York and the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

In connection, Bob Bland, chief executive officer of Manufacture New York, will discuss “Urban Manufacturing for the 21st Century: Global Problems, Local Solutions” at the show.

Taking a more diversified approach to sourcing seems vital given changes in China’s manufacturing machine, and labor and logistical woes in other Asian countries, even though the region is still a major factor in manufacturing.

Texworld USA, set for the Javits Center Jan. 24 to 26, will feature 331 exhibitors representing 15 countries, including the U.S., China, Peru, Portugal, the U.K., Colombia, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan and India. Dedicated country pavilions include Taiwan and Turkey. At the colocated International Apparel Sourcing Show, a Guatemala Pavilion with five new exhibitors will bow.

The flagship Lenzing Pavilion includes 18 mills displaying an array of wovens and knits from Asia and the U.S. that use Lenzing’s Tencel, modal and viscose fibers.

Among those is Buhler Quality Yarns Corp., based in Jefferson, Ga. Buhler’s vice president of sales, David Sasso, said, “The big picture with brands and retailers today is speed. You have to have balanced sourcing and be able to control your inventory. The ones that are doing well are offering value and speed, with the ability to replenish as fast as you can.”

Sasso said there is significant interest and activity in moving business back to the Western Hemisphere — Central America and the U.S. — from Asia based on the speed factor.

“Speed can be proximity, but it call also be how you execute — how the entire supply chain communicates,” he said.

This includes prepositioning yarns and fabrics to be able to turn quickly on orders.

“The ones that can execute and are able to put product on the shelf and things that sell faster even though it can cost more can achieve better margins,” Sasso said. “Those are the little guys that are eating away at the big box stores’ margins,” including luxury-goods players and e-commerce enterprises.

“They are offering products that have better value at a competitive price,” he said.

Unica’s Botto Poala also joins the chorus of those that feel serving the customer has never been more important.

“Logistics, efficiency of delivery — today you cannot make any mistakes — delivery time is shorter every season,” Botto Poala added.

Texworld, which has several U.S. yarn and fabric companies represented, will also have a panel discussion as part of the Lenzing Seminar Series on “Made in NYC” in which Bland will join Erin Kent, programs manager at the CFDA, and Tina Schenk, owner and founder of Werkstatt to discuss resources that can assist companies make their lines in the city.

That’s not to say that creativity goes by the wayside. A seminar on “Innovation in Today’s Fiber Landscape” will include Sasso; Terry Lawler, marketing manager at Eastman Chemical, and Tricia Carey, Lenzing’s director of business development for apparel and denim. They’ll talk about the need to improve performance characteristics and sustainability standards.

Sasso said Buhler, which specializes in natural color modal and Tencel cellulosic yarns, is looking to grow its array by investing in research and equipment, as well as ways to become more “quick and nimble.”

Buhler is developing the ability to make more blended yarns, augmenting its Supima line with long-staple cotton.

“We’re also looking at some automated spinning systems to have more flexibility and lower costs,” he said. “We know the big orders and programs are getting less and less.”

In addition, Buhler is aiming to develop more yarns with different effects and properties through chemistry and collaboration to make them more performance-oriented to participate in the ath-leisure movement. It’s also looking at ways to simulate shirting fabrics in knits and to integrate digital printing into its products.

Sustainability is also a focus of two Texworld talks.

At “Designed with Sustainability in Mind,” Issac Nichelson, chief sustainability marketing officer at Recover Tex; Jerker Ligthart, senior chemical engineer at Chemsec, and Lewis Perkins, interim president at Cradle to Cradle, will discuss how to integrate sustainability into a collection, from conception to finished garment to a second life.

In “Latest on Standards and Sustainability,” Sandra Marquardt, North America representative for the Global Organic Textile Standard; Lenzing’s Carey, and Nikki Hodgson, corporate responsibility coordinator for the Outdoor Industry Association, drill down on how to select materials that have a preferred environmental status and can be sourced responsibly and certified to a standard.

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