The global sourcing world is spinning faster and coming back closer to home.
The rapid pace of change is seen in fresh approaches to fiber, fabric and yarn marketing and manufacturing, spurred by technological advances and economic and political shifts.
Many of the new strategies and priorities were on display and topics of discussions at the recent New York Textile Week, where executives converged on trade fairs Texworld USA, Premiere Vision, Milano Unica and Spin Expo.
Key issues included:
* Made in America’s new reality
* The lure of the U.S. market
* The importance of performance fibers and fabrics
The Made in America textile and apparel revival that began as an interesting topic of conversation a few years ago has become an industrial movement. Companies said they were experiencing strong growth and increased business from brands and retailers seeking the quick-turn, quality and flexibility they offer.
“I wasn’t sure I ever would say this, but Made in America now has a legitimate chance to re-establish itself as a viable sourcing base,” said Jim Andriola, sales manager for Texollini Inc.
Asher Fabric Concepts, a Los Angeles-based knitter for the contemporary, activewear and yoga markets, has seen its business grow to the point where it has opened a New York showroom for the first time.
Jolie Fierro, vice president of sales at Asher, said the firm has received healthy business from active brands and “a lot of start-ups in New York” attracted to its flexibility and speed of production.
Andriola agreed that Texollini has also seen action from new firms coming into the local market.
“I have three companies that I’m working with — one in New York and one each in Boston and Philadelphia,” he said. “They are smart people and have a business plan and are creative.”
Andy Long, vice president of sales and marketing at Tuscarora Yarns in Mount Pleasant, N.C., said, “We’re working with companies that aren’t treating this as a test anymore, but are interested in pursuing programs and want what we bring to the market, which is quality yarns, competitive pricing and fast turns on production.”
David Sasso, Buhler Quality Yarns Corp.’s vice president of international sales, said the key factor driving the revival of U.S. manufacturing is “speed — the ‘I want it now’ retail and consumer attitude.”
Also driving the Buhler’s yarn business is the ath-leisure movement and the “desire for comfort in what they wear.”
No Made in America revival would be complete without New York joining in. Discussing the topic at a Texworld panel, Erin Kent, programs manager at the Council of Fashion Designers of America, explained her management of its Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a $3 million public-private investment vehicle created to nurture, elevate and preserve
Kent noted that 13 grants have been awarded totaling $1.2 million so far.
Eric Johnson, director of the Fashion & Arts Teams Center for Economic Transformation at NYC Economic Development Corp., said in February the EDC expanded its Made in NY program to the fashion industry, with $15 million in public and private funds set aside for existing programs such as FMI, the CFDA Incubator and programs that help emerging designers get flexible financing.
“Fashion manufacturing is the lifeblood blood of the industry,” that employs 180,000 overall. “It’s a vital part of the industry and to not address it would be doing the industry and New York as fashion capital a disservice.”
Michelle Feinberg, owner of NY Embroidery Studio and a two-time winner of the FMI grants, said she has used the funds to purchase new machinery to better compete and create new product for the designers in New York.
Johnson said it’s obvious that apparel manufacturing in New York, which once employed 100,000 people, will never come back to what it was, but “it’s about having that vital critical mass so that any designer that is looking to produce product in New York is able to do it.”
The relative strength of the U.S. economy had European and Asian companies looking to establish or increase their business in the States.
Guglielmo Olearo, international shows manager at Première Vision, said, “The weakness of the euro, and the fact that there is now an opportunity for local designers here to buy fabric not just from France and Italy, but from Spain and Turkey, is extremely positive.”
Pier Luigi Loro Piana, deputy chairman of Loro Piana, said the euro-dollar exchange rate will impact imports and exports in the coming months, and stressed the importance of a U.S.-European Union free trade deal.
“It will give more advantages to both economies in the near and long term,” he said, especially as tariffs are lowered or eliminated on fashion products. “The American market is so important in the overall business world. There will be quite an important exchange of products and idea if a free trade agreement is negotiated.”
He noted that Loro Piana, showing at Milano Unica’s first New York edition, is trying to increase its market share in the U.S. by focusing more on secondary regions.
“America is such a big market,” Loro Piana said. “We have concentrated more on certain states and there is plenty of room for more. There are many Americans that don’t know enough about Loro Piana and haven’t enjoyed our product.”
There was much talk throughout the fairs of the importance of value-added fiber and fabric properties, as brands and retailers seek to differentiate themselves.
At Spin Expo, presentations of knitwear from Santoni Knitting Machine Co. featured merchandise from the mostly Asian yarn exhibitors with properties that included windproof, water-repellant and thermal-regulating.
Speaking at Texworld’s “Adding Value — The Power of Premium Products” seminar, Buxton Midyette, Supima’s vice president of marketing and promotions, said, “So often, premium fibers are the secret to success for a lot of brands and what makes their garments special.”
Supima, which represents growers of an elite variety of pima cotton grown in California and the Southwest, has 350 licenses throughout the supply chain. While garments made with Supima cost more than those made with regular cotton, Midyette said its properties of extra-softness, strength and color absorption draw consumers willing to pay more for it.
Tricia Carey, director of business development for denim at Lenzing, said the $2 billion company has the advantages of its fibers being derived from natural products — wood pulp from trees — but having it man-made, allowing it to control the process in ways such as making the fiber thinner and adding materials to effect its properties.
Michelle Lee, director, the Americas for the Woolmark Co., said wool is a natural fiber with strong eco credentials — it’s renewable and biodegradable — adding that it also has benefits such as shape retention and thermal regulation, and recent innovations have led to washable wool.