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Knitting / Apparel

The Fashion Of Fiber

Fiber companies use fashion presentations as effective marekting tools to update mills and consumers on coming trends.

Virginia S. Borland, New York Correspondent

M ore fiber companies are turning their attention to fashion as a way of reaching large numbers of people through every link of the supply chain. The message to their direct and indirect customers is, "We are here to help you style and sell your line." Although the results of this back-door selling cannot be seen on the bottom line, fashion is a useful means of marketing and communication among mills, converters, garment manufacturers and retailers.

Sample garments, color forecasts, development fabrics and general trend ideas provide valuable information on planning and styling lines.  Sometimes direct customers are shown how new fabrics can be made using specific fibers and yarns to provide added benefits such as stretch. Indirect customers are pointed in the direction of mills that are weaving or knitting next season's trendy fabrics.

New York City-based Cotton Incorporated's Apparel Trend Forecast for Spring/Summer 2006 shows garments purchased around the world. Scissors are available for attendees who would like a swatch, and construction details can be made available. One new innovation of note is 100-percent cotton stretch bottomweight fabrics. The stretch is achieved in both the weaving process and in finishing. The more the fabrics are washed, the better they look, feel and perform.

Colors for Spring/Summer 2006, shown by Kathryn Novakovic, director, fashion marketing, range from pale neutrals and soft pastels to vivid citrus and tropical hues. There are six color groups. Each color is identified by a Pantone number. Soft, slightly pearlized shades of creamy jasmine, thistle, lavender and willow green in the Secretive group are shown with soft honeysuckle yellow, taupe and sage browns. They are suggested for lightweight fabrics.There are vibrant shades of aqua, lime and lacquer red in the Playful range, along with fudge brown, a silver gray called Monkey Bars, and Egg Shell. Basket weaves and hopsacks are some of the fabric suggestions. Tranquil shades are soft and tinted neutrals. The lightest is an off-white called Petal; the brightest is Cedarwood, a burnt orange shade; and the deepest is a mauve-brown hue called Dusk. Novakovic likes these colors in luxury blends. Alluring shades include currant red and hibiscus pink. At the bottom are light and medium shades of teal. Gold nectar and Tree Frog green center the group. Fluid fabrics with a lot of drape are mentioned. Introspective shades are dark purple, gray and royal blue along with white and pale yellow. They are suited for shirtings and denims. Colors in the Fresh group are bright citrus shades with deep indigo and white. Knitted fabrics are pointed out.

Novakovic highlights cotton/silk shantung, satin weaves, polished shirtings, tweeded denim and ribbon embellishments in a group called Acquired Taste. In a trend called Virtual Nature, there are reversible bottomweights, cotton/linen basket weaves, chambray woven with space-dyed yarns, lightweight denim with dark blotches to make it look heavy, and dobby weaves. Prints in this story include palm tree conversationals and exotic tropical foliage designs.There are polka dots and over-printed jacquards in a range called Recreation. Knitted stripes, oxford shirtings and windowpane checks are other suggestions. Fabrics in the Ebb and Flow group are light, fluid and sheer. For intimate apparel, they are embellished with romantic lace. Cotton/silk yarn-dyed stripes and floral prints are in this range. Lost and Found features fabrics with a washed-out look, gauze, tie-dyes, pearlized surfaces, metallic touches and square patterns. Functional fabrics are of note.

Cotton Incorporated's Spring/Summer 2006 forecast includes vibrant prints in floral motifs.

Honeywell

Tristine Berry, merchandise manager, Honeywell Specialty Materials, Charlotte, said the company's range of high-filament microfiber nylons is specialty- rather than commodity-driven. In apparel, most of its nylon ends up in tricot fabrics for intimate apparel and activewear. "We pull our products through the supply chain," Berry said, "acting as a communications link from mill to brand and retailer."

Berry tracks trends, and reports upcoming color and fabric directions to direct and indirect customers. She works on a one-on-one basis, presenting feasible ideas to each. "It goes both ways," she said. "If I show a sheer, sexy satin to Victoria's Secret and they want it, I can get them in touch with mills that can make it."

"Sheers in fine-denier nylon are the biggest trend," Berry said. Most of them contain a spandex fiber. They form to the body; they are seductive. One item selling well is the camisole. It is versatile and can be worn as underwear or outerwear. It is intimate apparel made to be seen. It can be layered and embellished," she added. Chantilly lace and eyelash fringes are some of the embellishments Berry mentioned.

"Right now, there is a color explosion," she said. Pearlized, bright shades look new. Very bright colors may be used as accents for intimate apparel. Berry sees a Middle Eastern influence emerging for prints and patterns. She added that application treatments will continue, with embroideries, sequins, beading, laces and fringes. Laser cut-outs for a peek-a-boo effect and felting are other treatments mentioned.

Seersuckers and fabrics with crushed surfaces, satins and subtle shine are fabrics she thinks will move into intimates. Stripes will continue.

"No one needs another basic," Berry said. Fabrics must look great, feel great and perform.

The knit concept shown here is one of more than 100 grouped under four themes featured in INVISTA's Spring/Summer 2006 Knitwear Innovation collection.

INVISTA

Mill workshops and knitwear innovations at INVISTA Apparel, Wilmington, Del., feature development fabrics and apparel suggestions created at the company's textile center in England. All fabrics are knitted or woven using commercial yarns from global resources; all contain Invista fibers.

At a recent knitwear presentation that debuted ideas for Spring 2006, Jean Hegedus, global knitwear marketing manager, said the focus of the season's collection is on added value. "All of the concepts illustrate new ways of providing consumers with something extra in their knitwear garments," she said. "For example, recent consumer research shows the key unmet need in both women's and men's knitwear is shape retention. As a result, many of our concepts incorporate technologies such as low-power Lycra® to bring needed recovery to knitwear garments (See Spotlight On Stretch, TW, this issue)."

Designed by Invista's global knitwear consultant, Sheila-Mary Carruthers, the spring collection of more than 100 knitwear concepts is grouped under four themes. The Hidden Assets group contains natural fibers and Lycra. Many yarns are Teflon®-treated. There are coarse-gauge tuck stitches with surface interest in cotton/Lycra, check and stripe combinations in viscose/nylon/Lycra, and decorative rib effects and geometric structures in cashmere/Lycra and merino wool/Lycra. Yarns in this group come from Luigi Botto S.p.A., Marzotto S.p.A.'s Lanerossi brand, Filatura di Grignasco S.p.A., and Raumer S.p.A., all based in Italy; and England-based Wykes.

Fashletics is a fusion of sport and fashion. Performance fabrics in this group are stain- and abrasion-resistant with moisture-management properties. They are knitted in yarns containing Supplex®, Cordura®, Coolmax® and Lycra from Lora Festa S.p.A., Italy; Addchance Dyeing & Finishing Co. Ltd., China; Toung Loong Textile Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Taiwan; and Texwell Italian S.r.l., Italy; among others. There are wool yarns plated with low-power Lycra, tucked and pleated stitches, ribs, cellular effects and mesh.

Fabrics in the Double Deal range are two-sided, often with different characteristics on each side. Indigo-dyed denim is washed on one side and Teflon-treated on the other to retain its deep color. Another fabric is knitted with Cordura on the face for abrasion resistance and Thermolite® on the reverse for warmth. Yarns are from Toung Loong, and the fabric is knitted on a 12-gauge Stoll machine. Fleece Plus is a trans-seasonal statement featuring brushed and chenille yarns. There are open structures and drop-stitch details. Lofty, weightless fabrics are soft to the touch. There are alpaca/wool/Lycra blends from Grignasco and Tactel®/ Lycra pile from Taiwan-based AA Global Ltd.

Lenzing Fibers

Fabric and color projections for Tencel® and Modal® are given twice a year at Lenzing's New York City office. Designers, manufacturers and retailers are invited to review the vast collection of fabrics in Lenzing's fabric library following each presentation. Fabrics are displayed by trend and by mill, and come from global resources.

At the most recent event, trend forecaster Roseann Forde highlighted upcoming styles. Her presentation, called Imagination, focused on versatility and performance in both menswear and womenswear. One group of shirt- and dressweight woven fabrics ranged from diaphanous voile, gauze, handkerchief linen and batiste to colorful yarn-dyed stripes, sateens and waffle weaves. This range includes a lot of white.

A new approach to corporate casual turns up in a group called Pure and Hybrid Tailorings. There are pinstripes, doublefaced wovens, twills with special sheen, nail heads, striated effects and plain weaves. The Rustics and Refinements range features linen blended with Tencel and Modal, and the look of linen in pure Tencel. Most of the fabrics drape well, resist wrinkles and have some stretch. Weights range from shirt to suit; there are nubbed surfaces and herringbone weaves. Colors Forde points out are clay neutrals, greens, yellows and corals.

EZ and Not-So EZ pieces are part of a summer sportswear story. There are sheer jerseys layered with ribbed and pointelle knits to coordinate with bottomweight poplins, twills and sateens. Graphic prints are pointed out for young men. Vibrant shades of teal and turquoise add color to the group.

"Denim continues to be America's favorite fabric," Forde said, "and Tencel-blended denims, due to their inherent softness, lend added comfort and versatility."

She also shows patterned denims, weave effects, embroidered looks and denims with slubs and sheen.

"Activewear and ready-to-wear crossovers get stronger," Forde added, showing the latest group. Fabrics include rugby stripes, piqutitches, thermal knits and mesh. "All of these fabrics contain Tencel, and all have antimicrobial, moisture-management and quick-drying properties," she said.

Masters Of Linen

Trend forecaster Ornella Bignami of Elementi Moda, Milan, prepares color and fabric directions for Masters of Linen, which has offices in New York City and Paris. On the Spring/Summer 2006 shade card, there are 24 colors divided into three groups. Seductive Instinct is described as radiant colors bathed in soft flaxen light. Off-white and tinted hues are combined with burnt orange and warm, red-cast browns. There are transparent and sheer fabrics in this group. Laser-cut laces; crochets and inlaid effects provide contrast. There are crumpled and pleated treatments, crepes and chines.The eight colors in the Intuitive Options range are bright with a sun-baked look. There are geranium and cardinal reds, lemon yellow, cantaloupe, mint and teal greens, Schiaparelli pink and pansy purple. Some of the fabrics have artisanal and ethnic roots. There are chunky weaves, crushed surfaces, pigment dyes and decorative application treatments.

Colors in the Flexible Logic group feature blues and grays with bright violet and pale yellow. Fabrics are opaque or semi-transparent. Many have a masculine look. There are blurred and inlaid stripes, thick embroidered and applique patterns, and starched or mercerized surfaces, often shown with lace or gauze.

Nilit

Focus areas of Israel-based Nilit Ltd.'s fashion trend presentations for its family of Sensil® nylons are bodywear, intimates, activewear, legwear and seamless apparel for men and women. Design consultant Ilana Joselowitz develops seasonal color, fabric and silhouette forecasts for the firm. Much of what she shows is made using Santoni seamless equipment. The variety of patterns and differing amounts of compression achieved in one garment are an added value. Joselowitz showed one group for Spring/Summer 2006 called Heirloom that is an elegant and nostalgic look at the past. Colors are faded and powdery. Printed sequins, scroll-patterned jacquards, matte/shine and opaque/ transparent combinations, and different textures and weights of yarn in one seamless garment were some ideas presented. 

The Wonderland group is young and eclectic. 

There is an explosion of color, with dot patterns, patchworks, crochet work and handmade looks among the fabrics shown. Underwear in this group has an outerwear feeling, often with legwear to match. Many fabrics have bold patterns or are styled with panels of color. There are heat-transfer prints and zigzag patterns reminiscent of early Missoni. "Today's youth wants to be looked at," Joselowitz said.

Diagonal stripes, metallics, graffiti patterns, panels of mesh or fishnet, tie-dyes, two-tone colorations and layered looks turn up in activewear and sleepwear in a group called Urban Action. In a group called Leisure Living, at-home and weekend wear have been styled with nautical touches in blue and white. There are pointelle designs, lattice patterns, cable stitches and ruching. Some garments contain antibacterial yarns.

The Sporting Spirit group has been designed for multifunctional activities. "Cycling and yoga are two activities where there is major growth," Joselowitz said. Performance is key. Seamless bodywear has been styled for function using Sensil BodyFresh antibacterial yarns. Different tensions used in knitting give different levels of compression. Moisture-transport fabrics, shock-absorber bras and designs to prevent chafing are other features. Powernet, rib stitches mixed with plain, and piquanels are some of the style features.


Survival Is The Name Of The Fashion Game

The Fashion Group International Inc., New York City, recently hosted a panel discussion entitled Surviving and Thriving In A Post-Quota World: Assessing the China Factor. Invited panelists discussed manufacturing and sourcing in China, apparel product development issues, and what the apparel market can expect from the US industry. Bob Zane, senior vice president, sourcing, manufacturing, production and logistics, Liz Claiborne Inc., moderated. Program panelists included Tim James, president, Pow Wow Inc., manufacturer of private label apparel; Steve Lamar, senior vice president, government relations, American Apparel & Footwear Association; Richard Roberts, president, Cynthia Steffe; and Henry Tan, CEO, Luen Thai Holdings Ltd. (Hong Kong and China).

Questioned about the effects of a quota-free economy and whether certain quotas will be reinstated, Lamar said specific products will remain under quota until 2008 and possibly beyond. He said it is too early to tell what the results of the quota elimination with China will be. Noting that textiles is one of the hardest-hit items, he added there may be other safeguards and remedies, such as anti-dumping measures.

Roberts said Cynthia Steffe, a small producer of high-fashion apparel, makes 50 percent of its clothing in New York City. "If we get fabric in on Friday, we can deliver merchandise to stores on Monday. Our customers love us," he said. "Creativity is our key component. They do not have the design and merchandising skills we need in China." Europe is a major resource for the company's fabrics.  

Bob Zane, Liz Claiborne Inc.,moderated the panel discussion.

Roberts said there are very few factories in China that will accept short runs. He is always looking for places that can make beautiful clothes that he can't get made in the United States. Beaded gowns are an example. He noted it is difficult to find a place where hundreds of beads can be sewn onto a dress.   James said all Pow Wow production has moved overseas. "Better products at cheaper prices help everyone," he said, "and a quota-free world will force the United States to be more innovative. Innovation is what will keep mills and manufacturers alive in this country."  According to Zane, between 50 and 80 percent of apparel sold in the United States is made in China. There are 80 factories in China that make Liz Claiborne merchandise, as well as locations in 40 other countries. 

Where a garment is produced depends upon quotas and availability. Zane said quotas increase the cost of a garment by 15 percent about $600 annually per family of four.  Tan said that as far as apparel manufacturing is concerned, China is the most efficient country in the world, and not always the cheapest.  "We are product-driven," he said. "We have been able to cut down the lead time by making logistics simpler." He explained that everything is close by or under one roof at production facilities in China. Most of the elements of the supply chain - from fabric cutting and sewing to grading, packing and shipping - are all at hand; and there is no shortage of labor.  Although quality is on the rise and China is looking at ISO standards, Tan admitted China lacks creativity and design talent. "Luxury is a long way off in China," he said, adding that "in a global environment, the United States does have the edge in denim."

The jury is still out on the effects of the elimination of quotas. Richards noted that since January, there has been a glut of merchandise entering the country from China, to the point that retailers no longer have an appetite. "There will be a weeding-out process," he predicted. "There is no basement for price."

May 2005




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