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Mauritian Denim Manufacturers Look to Build U.S. Business

Most recent trade discussions have focused on the Trans Pacific Partnership, however, there are other free trade agreements already in effect. Hoping to promote another opportunity, export promotion agency Enterprise Mauritius brought 11 textile companies to New York City this summer for Première Vision.

Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), approved in 2000 and in effect until 2025, exports from Mauritius are duty and quota-free to the United States. In Mauritius, textiles are the second largest export, and the country has grown into a vertically integrated supplier of design-led garments.

Palmar Limitée has a strong presence in the Mauritian denim market. The semi-vertical company works from cut-and-sew through washing and collaborates with Firemount as a fabric supplier, but also obtains fabrics from Turkey and other international locations. The company has a monthly production capacity of 130,000 garments and works with a moderate to premium price range.

Guillaume Heller, marketing director at Palmar Limitée, explained that in addition to Mauritius’ product being duty-free, Mauritius can also offer a low rate on transportation and air freight and the benefit of a politically stable country.

Heller said that the issue at the premium labels, which are more designer-oriented, is that it’s important for the designers to be able to visit. If Western brands are not already sourcing in Africa, it can be quite expensive for them to plan a trip there. Then, at the moderate level, brands are chasing prices, and Mauritius isn’t able to compete with countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan in terms of price.

Another company looking to grow its business in the U.S. is Firemount, a vertically integrated denim manufacturer, which has been working in the U.S. and Europe at the mid-premium tier for about 20 years.

The company offers a wide variety of denims, including stretch, rigid, selvedge, purple cast, sateens and 3×1. In the U.S., Firemount is already working with Calvin Klein, Chaps, Lucky Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and Rocawear. The company has set up a new showroom in New York and is looking to further expand its U.S. business.