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Textile Producers Back US Over Europe For Guaranteed Payments

Despite a few niggles, the majority of textile manufacturers attending Premiere Vision New York had far greater faith in US companies than European businesses when it came to deals being properly honoured and payments being made.

Photo: Making a material difference: Testing out textiles from around the world at Premiere Vision New York.
Making a material difference: Testing out textiles from around the world at Premiere Vision New York.
Photo: Making a material difference: Testing out textiles from around the world at Premiere Vision New York.
Making a material difference: Testing out textiles from around the world at Premiere Vision New York.

At this year's Premiere Vision New York textile expo, it was clear that many of the international exhibitors had made a considerable effort to tailor their offerings to US tastes, with the women's clothing notably more showy and the men's more conservative than the ranges they forefronted at European trade shows. Overall, though, business confidence seemed a little mixed, with some at the show seeing the US market as characterised by sluggish trade and downward price pressures. Despite this, many still saw it as preferable to the currently fast-paced and cutthroat European textile sector.

Given the numerous international exhibitors teeming the aisles of the show, it was almost inevitable that the particular peculiarities of US preferences should prove to be a common topic of conversation. Overall, the accepted wisdom seemed to be that US women favour the more distinctive fabrics, while the country's menfolk opt for a less ostentatious look.

Taking a slightly different view of the peccadilloes of the US market, Seda Sevketoglu, a Customer Sales Representative for Yilmazipek Tekstil, a Turkish textile manufacturer, said: "Over here, they like novelty items rather than standard fabrics. They are always asking for quite different things compared with people in other countries. American women like to stand out, I think."

Similarly taking note of the distinctive tastes of US women, Jay Kim, a Team Manager for Alpha Fabric, a Seoul-based textiles manufacturer, said: "While we have customers across the world, China and the US are by far our biggest markets. Over here, we have developed a speciality in women's party and eveningwear and it is clear that it is the brighter and shinier fabrics that are the most popular."

Turning his attention to the US male, Jacopo Guasti, founder of Lanificio Guasti, an Italian producer of high-end woollen products, said: "Here, the men tend to prefer the plainer fabrics, rather than the multi-coloured jacquards. In Europe, the guys are maybe a little more fancy than in the US."

Matters of style, however, were not the only things seen as dividing the US from many of the other markets, with Guasti saying: "American buyers also tend to prefer quite different fabric compositions and weights. Bonded fabrics, for instance, are far more in demand here than they are in Europe."

Echoing his sentiment, Joao Abreu, General Manager of Crispim Abreu, a Portuguese knitwear company, said: "In the US, there is a clear preference for the thicker textiles, even in the warmer southern states. They definitely prefer heavier weights than they do in Europe."

Perhaps more surprisingly, many of the overseas exhibitors also viewed the American textiles sector as slower moving than its transatlantic counterpart, both in terms of embracing changes to seasonal fashions and with regard to the overall pace of business.

Highlighting this, Bogachan Doganay, Creative Research and Development Director for Ozel Tekstil, an Istanbul-based wool specialist, said: "Generally, America is one season behind Europe in fashion terms. If something is popular in Europe in one particular season, it won't be until the following season that it catches on in the US.

"The buyers also tend to be a lot calmer and have more of an eye on long-term business, something that is very much welcomed by producers, as everything has to be conducted at breakneck speed for our European customers. In terms of both working practices and payment reliability, it's far easier to deal with US clients than their European cousins."

Cana Alkan, Marketing Manager for Yekpa, a Turkish company focusing on the fancier end of the female fashion fabric market, also saw the European textile sector as having become overly frenetic. Highlighting this, she said: "Europe is, no doubt, the world's fastest-moving textiles market. In the US, things tend to be a bit more leisurely, with the typical decision period notably longer than it is in Europe. Many American buyers have also developed good working relationships with eastern manufacturers, allowing them to strike comparatively cheap deals."

As another clear point of difference, the issue of sustainable and ethical sourcing seems to have taken on far greater significance in the US than in Europe. Underlining this, Abreu said: "Sustainability is taken seriously by virtually all of the US brands, while comparatively few European companies have given it equal priority.

"It has become important to show consumers where fabrics and garments are produced. The everyday US consumer is far more conscious of this issue than they were just a couple of years back. In Europe, while consumers have taken the issue on board, many of the larger retailers have yet to address it."

Photo: US men prefer a less ostentatious style…
US men prefer a less ostentatious style…
Photo: US men prefer a less ostentatious style…
US men prefer a less ostentatious style…
Photo: …while ladies like to look on the lighter side.
…while ladies like to look on the lighter side.
Photo: …while ladies like to look on the lighter side.
…while ladies like to look on the lighter side.

In terms of trends, as with the overall level of business, it was something of a mixed bag, although square-pattern plaids, tartans and checks were reportedly doing well for a number of exhibitors. Seeing this as down to the influences of the overseas markets, Doganay said: "Checks, especially in flannel, are currently the thing to be seen in Europe and we are expecting that to be replicated here over the course of the coming season."

Seeing geometry as also having a role to play in the coming season, Guasti said: "Tartan designs are currently in demand, as is anything with a largely square layout. People, though, seem to want a softer look, rather than anything too fancy."

At the fancier end of the market, however, metallic effects were a common feature on a surprisingly large proportion of the exhibition stands. Acknowledging this, Kim said: "Metallic is clearly going to be one of the key motifs of the new season. We sensed this was the way the market was going, so all of our brocades are metallic this year."

Yekpa also saw itself as ahead of the curve with regard to metallics, with Alkan saying: "Metallics were on the way in last season and have been carried forward into many of the new collections. It has been a similar story with 3D patterns."

Offering a slightly different take on the coming pattern trends for the Autumn/Winter 2018 season, Priti Solanki, Sales and Marketing Director for Whiston and Wright, a London-based fashion design studio, said: "What we're seeing is a range of very decorative, ethnic and floral prints, complete with a variety of geometrics and graphics.

"At this particular show, patchworks and kimono prints have clearly made an impact – basically anything that's simple, clean and two colour. For our part, we don't tend to go dark with any florals destined for the New York market. They tend to like their florals bright in this city."

Archana Chandgothia, an Art Director with Running Stitch, a New York-based design studio, also saw patchworks as the coming thing, saying: "We are seeing a lot of patchwork and a lot of checks and florals. Rustic colours are also going to be big."

Despite the popularity of metallic and patchworks, the general feeling at the show was that market conditions in the US remain decidedly mixed. While some exhibitors were dismayed by downward sliding prices, shaky brands and slow sales, others – particularly the European companies – saw opportunities emerging as the weakened euro and resurgent dollar made their wares more competitively priced in the US.

Offering his own assessment of the conflicting signs emerging from the US market, Abreu said: "We first exhibited at this show three years ago and it initially proved difficult to access the US market. More recently, though, we have had some good results and things are looking up for us.

"Given the euro-to-dollar exchange rate, there is clearly an opportunity here for European companies. We have a lot of know-how in Portugal, so I am optimistic that we can grow our US business.

"Less reassuringly, though, we have seen the market start to completely change here. A number of the big retailers have failed, with the level of bankruptcies is surprisingly high. A number of new brands, however, have emerged to replace them, with the majority of them focusing on online sales."

Taking a generally more bleak view of the current state of affairs, Kim said: "The fabric market is largely on the way down, while the economic situation is nowhere near as good as it used to be. While we are working hard, we can't really afford to invest in new products."

Doganay, however, had very sound reasons as to why he was still backing the US market, saying: "I have far more confidence in America than I do in Europe. Here, whatever the prevailing conditions, they manage to make payments. At the end of the day, that's what we're looking for."

Photo: Premiere Vision New York: Where Eastern textile manufacturing meets Western tastes.
Premiere Vision New York: Where Eastern textile manufacturing meets Western tastes.
Photo: Premiere Vision New York: Where Eastern textile manufacturing meets Western tastes.
Premiere Vision New York: Where Eastern textile manufacturing meets Western tastes.

One of the constituent shows of New York's Textile Week, the 2017 edition of Premiere Vision New York was held at the Pier 94 expo hall from 18-19 July. The event featured 322 exhibitors and attracted more than 3,880 visitors.

James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, New York

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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