23 Sept 2019
Sustainable and High-Tech Textiles Set to Head 2020 US Fashion Scene
Sustainability is increasingly important to US textile buyers, according to many exhibitors at this year's New York Premier Vision trade show, although demand also remains robust for high-performance, sports clothing-oriented textiles.
In the textile world, as in several other business sectors, sustainability has become a growing concern, with many consumers only too happy to vote with their wallets when it comes to supporting companies that share their notion of environmental responsibility. Accordingly, then, it was no huge surprise that many exhibitors at this year's Premier Vision New York event reported that buyers and consumers were taking a particular interest in their green credentials.
Overall, the majority of exhibitors saw Europeans as perhaps slightly more environmentally aware than their American counterparts, with US buyers placing a greater emphasis on textile performance in line with the 'athleisure' sports / casual clothing trend that is still huge across much of North America. In addition, bold, large format prints were perceived as very much on trend for buyers with spring / summer 2020 in mind, a season when coral is expected to be the dominant colour.
Among the many exhibitors expecting sustainable style to be next year's most ubiquitous motif was Lemar, a Portuguese fabric manufacturer. Unequivocal in judging it to be the key component in 2020 purchase decisions, Sales Representative Rita Bacelar said: "Nowadays, everybody is asking for recycled fabrics – that's definitely the overriding criterion.
"For our part, we offer two branded recycled products – New Life, an Italian yarn brand made from land-collected plastic bottles, and Sequel, a Spanish fibre made from plastic bottles reclaimed from the Mediterranean."
Another company clearly believing that what was good for the planet would also inevitably be good for sales was Italy's Texmoda Tessuti. Acknowledging this, Sales and Marketing Manager Giacomo Mattei said: "Anything that can be considered sustainable is selling well – so, recycled cotton, cupro or organic linen, organic cotton, this kind of thing is very much the trend now. Even material that just looks recycled is also very popular. However, while consumers like the added value that sustainable fabrics have, they are not often willing to pay more."
As well as forest-friendly fibres, two other big tips for success in spring / summer 2020 are large format prints and animal patterns. Keen to capitalise on the demand for both or either of these was Ertugrul Arıkonmaz, Owner of Confetti Tekstil, a Turkish print specialist. Addressing the response he'd had at the event to date, he said: "At this show, buyers have been looking for big designs and larger patterns. There is also a real interest in animal prints here, which are hugely popular in Europe right now. As to colour, anything in coral is quickly being snapped up."
Lemar's Bacelar, too, was finding that prints were very much in demand, as well as the company's signature stripes. Outlining her take on the current state of the market, she said: "Here they're asking for a lot of prints. We're very well known for our stripes, because they're all woven, rather than printed. We can also customise any stripe in line with a client's colour and design preferences. We are finding that, every year, everybody looks for new stripes."
In terms of distinctly US preferences, it would seem that local customers favour more distinctive and showy items than their European cousins. Keen to testify to this, Alexia Smadja, International Sales Director for Malhia Kent, a high-end French fabric-weaver, said: "It depends on the customer, of course, but Americans are quite fancy compared with Europeans – they are looking for striking colours and shiny material."
For Ilay, an Istanbul-headquartered textile manufacturer, being able to offer its US customers something out of the ordinary was very much its USP. Outlining the potential of its particular niche, Sales Representative Cemil Parlakay said: "We have found that many US buyers crave certain things they just can't source from the Far East. With that in mind, when we are preparing a forthcoming collection, we try to identify just where demand is not being met.
"Our specialism, though, is flock printing, including printing on velvet. In fact, we are the world's leading supplier of such items right now."
As well as big patterns and certain niche products, there is also a growing demand in the US for high-performance textiles, partly on account of the abiding North American preference for casual sports clothing. With his own company having considerable experience in this sector, Tessuti's Mattei said: "Our US customers are very wedded to their performance fabrics, while in Europe it's quite different – more formal, maybe, but they are certainly far more style-conscious than their US counterparts.
"There are also notable differences in fibre preferences, especially when it comes to spring / summer collections. In Europe, for instance, linen is very popular, while here there is far less demand."
One manufacturer that had more invested than most in the US' continuing love affair with high-performance fabrics was Colorado-based Graphene One, the company behind Kyorene, a graphene-enhanced textile product. Providing a brief introduction to its unique properties, Sales Director Matt Reid said: "We're a graphene maker and we're a fibre maker. At our China-based production facilities, we take raw graphite and exfoliate, creating graphene. We then molecularly bond that with various synthetic polymers.
"By adding the graphene – really just a single-atom-thick layer of carbon – the resulting material has a number of inherent performance advantages. For one thing, it has bacteria control which contains odour, while it also has thermal regulation properties – meaning it has both a heating and cooling aspect to it and also delivers fairly extreme UV resistance."
Despite such high-performance attributes, Kyorene is apparently as easy to work with as any other polymer, with Reid saying: "If you're making a material out of it – knitting, weaving or spinning say – it will act just like any other base. If you're already familiar with working with nylon, you won't have to change what you do in order to work with graphene nylon – it's very much plug and play.
"The price is, naturally, higher than untreated material, but not prohibitively so. For example, a 70-denier nylon with graphene in it, the FOB price out of our plant in China is going to be somewhere around $5 or $6 per pound. Is that more expensive than standard nylon? Yeah, but nylon can vary hugely in terms of cost. It can be $2 or $4 a pound, so we're really not that far adrift."
Premier Vision 2019 took place at New York's Pier 94 exhibition hall.
James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, New York