LOS ANGELES — Facing a lackluster denim industry that demands speed to market, fabric mills tried to ramp up sales by building on the popularity of indigo, selvage and ath-leisure at the Kingpins denim textile show.
At the Cooper Design Space, 35 exhibitors from countries such as Pakistan, Spain, Japan and China met with brands from the sportswear and denim world, including Band of Outsiders, Uniqlo, Winston & Hart and The Stronghold. Due to slumping sales in the denim market, particularly in the premium category, some vendors reported mediocre business for their fall 2015 wares at the two-day event, which ended July 30. Still, several companies noted that their pricier fabrics fared better as the overall economy improved.
Take Amhot International, a first-time exhibitor from Osaka, Japan, makes its fabrics in China and Japan. Though cheaper than the Japanese-made textiles, the materials from China appeared more basic and saw their popularity decline. In contrast, designers leaned toward the yarn-dyed cotton, linen and wool blends that are made in Japan and sold for $5 to $10 a yard. The indigo and vegetable-dyed cotton that resembled traditional Japanese kimono fabric also were popular at $20 to $25 a yard.
“It’s kind of a little easier moment for us, compared to two to three years ago,” said Jun Minami, manager at Amhot. “More customers can afford the Japanese price.”
The momentum for ath-leisure designs was strong, resulting in a plethora of superstretchy and very light fabrics. China’s Unique Denim Ltd. proffered tissue-thin Tencel fabric weighing 4.8 ounces for between $2.50 and $3.50 a yard.
Inspired by yoga pants, H.W. Textiles from Hong Kong introduced a new line called Kuga, which included 10 different styles, like prepared-for-dyeing cloths. Made of cotton grown in the U.S., the Kuga line cost $3.50 to $6 a yard.
“The consumer’s buying preference has changed,” said Lawrence Li, a sales manager for H.W. Textiles. “They don’t want five-pocket jeans. They want soft fabric and comfort.”
Still, Tadd Zarubica, who launched a young contemporary label called Winston & Hart this fall with Peter Koral, was hopeful that the tide will turn. He predicted a resurgence next fall of five-pocket jeans over the pull-on pants that have gained traction as part of the ath-leisure trend among shoppers.
“She’ll be looking for something a little more constructed,” he said. With pull-on pants, he said, “that just doesn’t feel dressy when you go to a club.”
Capitalizing on ath-leisure, Pakistan’s Siddiqsons Ltd. made its debut at the West Coast edition of Kingpins with fabrics that integrated stretch and performance characteristics, such as wicking.
“The biggest challenge for the L.A. market is it’s a quick-turn market,” said Rick Schneider, vice president of Siddiqsons. While some of the brands in Los Angeles can handle large volume, they prefer to order 5,000 yards instead of 1 million yards of fabric at a time, he said. “There are very good textile companies that have inventory in Los Angeles,” Schneider added, noting that Siddiqsons requires 40 days to produce fabric upon receipt of an order.
Even sourcing offices face a time crunch. Working primarily with European brands such as Diesel and Replay, India’s Fifth Avenue helps designers build and produce a collection. For instance, the starting price for indigo-dyed T-shirts is $6.50 each for a minimum order of 6,000 pieces. Yet the biggest challenge it faces is “the uncertainty of the market,” said Wilson Avalos, a representative for Fifth Avenue, who participated at Kingpins for the first time. “Everybody is waiting until the last minute to make a buy.”
A fast turnaround is also a concern for Artistic Milliners, which takes 45 to 70 days to produce fabric in its LEED-certified sustainable mill in Pakistan.
“West Coast brands want things right away,” said Sergio Turbay, vice president of sales and customer care at Artistic Milliners. Among the company’s popular styles at Kingpins was a superstretch selvage costing $5 to $5.50 a yard.
Blue Farm Textile also presented selvage in three shades of blue along with tan and black. Moreover, it attracted buyers with an array of textured textiles, such as a herringbone pattern on a cotton-polyester knit and a fine dobby in dark blue cotton, which are produced in Taiwan and China.
For designers like Michael Paradise from Los Angeles-based The Stronghold, the show yielded a bonanza of selvage fabrics. At Rainbow Textiles Japan, he approved of selvage corduroy as well as selvage twill woven like military-grade chino. Made in China, the selvage twill cost $5.65 a yard, while a yard of corduroy cost $9 for a regular dye and $12 for indigo dye.
“Everything I do is selvage,” said Paradise. “The price they’re doing out of China is a nice price.”