Despite the mixed sentiments about the health of the US market (some say the market is strong and expect it to remain this way. Others sense an impending recession…), the mood at SPINEXPO New York (July 16-18) was very upbeat.
“It’s been a tough year, said John Yau, Director of R&D at UPW (Hong Kong). “Smaller brands have been more hesitant to purchase the same amounts as they have in the past years – larger designers, companies have been pretty steady and keeping business going,” he told Inside Fashion.
“Business has been very good for us this past year,” said Robert Lee, Director of International Sales at Loyal Light (China). “The movement of the market towards an emphasis on sustainability has played right into our business model and allowed for us to expand our business up to 30% - we are focused on fancy yarns, so this new market trend has allowed for us to sell our yarns in a more efficient way,” he explained.
“In Europe sustainability was the main emphasis with customers looking for products made of sustainable materials ranging anywhere from 5% all the way to 100%. However, in the US, it seems as though when it comes to fancy yarn, the emphasis is still on hand-feel while sustainability is slowly emerging,” said Mr. Lee.
Sustainability has evolved from being an ‘added value’ element to a must-have aspect of yarn collections.
Seeking New Ways to Boost Sustainability
“Business has been quite good, especially in the China domestic and European markets where there has been a big push for sustainability throughout the market,” said Jenny Sze, Manager, Yarn Sales at Esquel (Hong Kong). “This falls into our core focus and where we’ve been pushing for some time,” she added.
UPW is striving for sustainability in every angle. Right now, animal welfare is the key focus – with large collection of sustainable furs for winter. Real fur and polyester is unsustainable – instead UPW is using polyester blends to create a waxy sheen to represent real fur without causing as much harm to the environment.
The net result is that most new products that spinners were showing included some percent of organic cotton or recycled polyester.
Limited Supply, Growing Demand
UPW is now facing the challenge of a limited supply of materials that meet their sustainability criteria. UPW’s biggest challenge is that they can only buy what’s on the market — recycled polyester and nylon has a fairly limited supply – in essence, sheer amount of fiber required is difficult to acquire (classic supply and demand problem). The company’s hope is that more sustainable raw material keeps coming to the market (seems likely).
“Recycled polyester filament is currently not available in bulk – but fortunately, Tencel wanted to partner with us right away because UPW’s products/designs/influence was different than typical yarns on the market, more unique than others,” said Mr. Yau.
Another challenge for spinners was making products that are sustainable, but still have all of the properties of traditional non-sustainable yarns.
“There is a request for sustainable products that still have the same hand-feel and look/sheen as previous yarns/materials – the goal is to remain sustainable while providing buyers with what they are accustomed to working with,” said Ms. Sze.
The previous ubiquitous request for a super soft hand feel and performance is now giving way to a demand for more creative products.
“Now buyers are looking for newness and for special pieces - not just hand feel. Creating niche products and collections is the way forward - especially for mid-tier brands,” said Mr. Yau.
Identifying niche markets, as developing the right products for them, is newest strategy. It’s not easy (big manufacturers want big orders), but for those who can get it right, the potential for much better margins makes it worth the investment.
From materials development to garment manufacturing, those who can figure out to work with small orders will be sitting pretty.
A Thumbs Up for Spinexpo
Buyers agreed that SPINEXPO is just the right size so that buyers can comfortably work it. The location, in trendy Greenpoint, Brooklyn, gives it a fun, fashionable vibe. And the friendly, welcoming atmosphere makes both large and small buyers feel at home.
“I like this fair a lot … there’s something about it - the collections are really high quality, which is important of course, but I also like that the fair is very relaxed and it’s sort of compact, so I can easily work the entire floor,” said a mens knitwear buyer for a US brand, who asked that we don’t use his name.
“SPINEXPO gives us a good opportunity to connect with both big brands and developing brands in the US,” said Wilson Cheung, Director at Man Lee Manufactory Ltd (Hong Kong). “It’s not that easy to meet these companies on our own.”
Vendors liked the synergy amongst SPINEXPO’s global line up - starting in Paris, moving onto New York, and wrapping up the season in Shanghai.
At the Paris fair vendors said they got a good indication of trend directions and what the European market wanted. In New York, they could gauge the demand in the US. Then Shanghai will provide a look into the China market, and a perspective on business for the coming year.
“It’s difficult to say how the coming season will unfold. We anticipate SPINEXPO Shanghai will give us a good indicator of this and how 2020 will go as well,” said Mr. Lee.