NEW YORK — A wave of economic uncertainty mixed with an evolving manufacturing landscape at this month’s round of fabric and sourcing shows here.
Executives were unified that textile innovation has never been more vital, along with the need to establish a production strategy that balances quality, competitiveness, quick response and sustainability.
There was deep concern over geopolitical matters, from repeated terrorist incidents that have eroded business confidence to antitrade sentiments in the U.S. presidential campaign in both political parties, as well as the potential of isolationist policies from Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Guglielmo Olearo, director of international shows at Première Vision, said, “The world environment is getting worse, which is adding more uncertainty in the market. The retailer is looking for alternative business models, the brands are trying to revamp their appeal, and everybody feels the unease. People don’t feel hopeful.”
Interviewed at PV New York at Pier 94, he said “there can be an opportunity for those that are willing to take risks, care about the quality of their products, and create interest and trust in their products.”
At Texworld USA at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, exhibitors and speakers at topical seminars focused on ways to advance manufacturing approaches and product development.
Discussing the revival of Made in New York, Carolee Fink, executive vice president and chief development officer at the New York City Economic Development Corp., said its “Made in New York” initiative is a “suite of programs that help manufacturers, designers, students, the whole spectrum of people that are in the industry.”
If manufacturing isn’t viable in New York, she noted, it will lose its young talent, which takes away from the city’s competitiveness and from design innovation in the city.
“So we see supporting the manufacturing sector as a critical part of supporting the entire fashion ecosystem,” Fink said. “We have programs that give manufacturers grants to buy new equipment and upgrade their technology. We have loan programs that help designers with gap financing where they can finance out their purchase orders.”
The program also does marketing, spending $1 million on advertising last year, and a website at madeinnewyork.nyc with lists of manufacturers and designers.
“We develop our programs in close collaboration with industry partners to help identify how government can help grow the sector,” Fink said. “We’re always thinking about new ways we can support all the businesses in the sector.”
She cited the program’s Fashion Production Fund and Design Entrepreneurs that can assist in finding cost-effective ways to make goods in the city, from Midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens.
Fink and Mimi Prober, who runs her own fashion firm and is co-head of education at Brooklyn incubator and production hub Manufacture New York, emphasized the quality control and quick delivery of local manufacturing as reasons to produce in the city or the U.S.
Prober said her philosophy is “geared toward sustainability and zero waste and taking handcrafted textiles and bringing it into a new and modern light.”
“I’m also launching a ready-to-wear collection next month that’s very much Made in NYC, from the farm to the garment,” she said. “We have so many resources here, from the farms upstate to the manufacturing facilities, development, artisans, makers — we have such an amazing New York community that it’s a shame not to produce locally and to support that. I really believe that you get a better product when you work hand-in-hand with people.”
Tina Schenk, owner of Werkstatt, said when she started her pattern development studio in 2008 in the garment center, she saw a need for high-end creative pattern development in New York. She stressed that local production “allows for collaboration and also cuts down on development time — it’s a good soil for us to thrive together.”
David Roshan, president of Laguna Fabrics in Los Angeles, said since opening its own knitting plant last year, which is “running 24/6,” the contemporary knitwear company is better able to meet “quick deliveries.”
“We sell a lot of better brands and specialty stores and that’s important for them to be able to react to trends,” Roshan said. “People also want to be closer to the market more than ever.”
Offering a broader perspective on global sourcing, Megan Donadio, senior manager of the Retail and Consumer Group at Kurt Salmon, said at a PV seminar, “The current state of manufacturing is at a crossroads in the U.S. today.”
Donadio said the strategy for U.S. companies should be about a balanced approach to sourcing. The “evolving supply chain,” she said, involves a consumer-driven product mix and buying pattern that requires “faster deliveries, where speed is essential.”
“Many companies are increasing their near-shoring and local sourcing capabilities,” Donadio added.
Sandrine Bernard, executive vice president at Solstiss USA, said she had seen more buyers and designers from New York and the West Coast this edition, but less from places like Latin America. She attributed this to economic situations and tight travel budgets, while at the same time there has been a pickup in local sourcing.
In a trend presentation, Sabine Le Chatelier, deputy fashion director at PV, forecast that graphic motifs and metallic and iridescent fabrics will be important, along with a luxurious upgrade to “sweatshirt, casual fabrics.”
Slubbed and twisted yarns, tweeds and velvets answer a call for “imperfection,” she said, while on the technical side, synthetics that create an artificial shine or silky effect seem right, along with light quilted materials taken from outerwear for sportswear and multimotif knits and prints that have some “fantasy and playfulness.”
Textile innovation was the subject of a panel discussion at Texworld, with several key aspects were explored.
Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing Fibers, said one of the newest developments in the market has been fiber and fabric blends to achieve varied performance and fashion characteristics. At Lenzing, Tencel is being blended with cashmere and wool for a better hand, warmth and strength, as well as a more luxurious fabric.
“At Lenzing, technology is driven by market needs, working with firms like Invista,” Carey said.
David Sasso, vice president of sales at Buhler Quality Yarns, which has 13,000 spindles in the U.S. and produces 8 million pounds of yarn annually using Tencel, modal and Supima cotton, said, “The consumer wants comfort and performance. For Buhler, that means creating yarns that are bulkier or lighter, or tighter or looser, to create the desired performance effects, without any chemistry.”
Jean Hegedes, global segment director for denim and wovens at Invista, said, “We recently introduced Thermolite Pro, which absorbs infrared light, heating up the fabric of the jeans 4 degrees, and is meant for winter jeans.
“Innovation is almost all consumer-product driven and in denim we know that fit is the number-one purchase motivator,” Hegedes said. “Comfort is a very close second. The key in arriving at a cooling or warming fabric is reengineering the fiber, along with fabric construction.”
At Korean Preview New York at the Metropolitan Pavilion, fabrics with special characteristics were at the forefront.
“After the free-trade agreement in 2009, exports have accelerated,” said Bryan Cho, deputy director of the marketing team at the Korean Trade-Investment Agency, which helps put on the show. “Creative innovation and sustainability are main themes of the show. Sustainability is a requirement to enter the European market and it’s important to the U.S., as well.”
Those elements and materials aimed at an active lifestyle were on show at SpinExpo at the Brooklyn Convention Center.
A display called Spin Active showed off how various mills spun yarns and knits into activewear and ath-leisure looks with contemporary styling. This included a presentation by textile machine Specialist Santoni featuring seamless and circular knitting. The Spin Active zone featured “biomimicry,” which takes inspiration from the form and function of biological species to create performance wear.
Roberta Ruschmann, a sales executive at Meadowbrook Inventions, said its Angelina Fibers create special optical and technical effects and can be blended with most other fibers. Meadowbrook is introducing recycled fibers for 2018. Angelina Fibers are composed of more than 90 percent post-industrial waste, contain no formaldehyde and are free of metals, Ruschmann added.