SPINEXPO New York, the exposition for spinners and knitwear, presented its Autumn/Winter 2015-16 edition July 15 — 17 at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Now in its sixth year, the New York show serves as a preview to the larger September Shanghai edition.
Initiated as a truly international show at a time when Asian suppliers were not included in the European fairs, the New York preview allows non-European exhibitors an opportunity to meet with knitwear stylists and sourcing managers from American brands like Banana Republic, Kohl’s, Lands’ End, Under Armour, and Urban Outfitters.
Today these spinners and knitters, many of them vertically integrated, have incorporated European technology, quality, and design into their operations, and are able to offer truly exceptional products. “The Chinese mills have matured in understanding. They focus on differentiation, and will now sell per kilo as well as in quantity,” explained SPINEXPO’s director Karine Van Tassel.
The 85 exhibitors at SPINEXPO included leading high-end dyers, spinners and 25 knitters of cashmere, merino wool, and other precious fibers, such as Ningxia Zhongyin and its Todd & Duncan brand, UPW (Guangdong United Progress Wooltex), SÃ¼dwolle Group, Hebei Wilson, Hebei Hongye Cashmere, Zhejiang Xinao Textile, Jiangsu Lugang Science & Technology Company, Jiangsu Xinfang Science & Technology Group, Ningbo Zhongxin Wool Textile Group, and Ningbo Consinee/Top Line.
Some of these companies control the product from their own farms through top-making, dyeing, and knitting; others extend their vertical reach through knitting, garment design, and brand development. For example, Scottish spinner Todd & Duncan, now owned by their cashmere supplier Ningxia Zhongyin, retails its knitwear in its own upscale Manhattan boutiques.
SPINEXPO’s trend forum, developed by the UK’s Sophie Steller Studio in association with the spinners and knitters, is a major draw in both New York and Shanghai. The season’s theme of Sensing the Motion explored “living life on the move” according to Steller, creative director for the show. Knitted garments, footwear, and accessories were “visually tactile,” featuring mÃ©langes and nep yarns, brushed and felted surfaces, chunky hand-knits, and 18-gg jerseys that resemble circular knits.
Active wear and denim also inspired a number of trends. Luxe knitted “sweatpants” were teamed with quilted or embossed hoodies and knitted trainers in the trend forum. Functional yarns like THERMOLITE and COOLMAX were incorporated into fashion knitwear at PT Jaba Garmindo, Indonesia’s largest knitter; and were offered in cotton blend yarns at Esquel Specialty Spinning, a division of giant vertical manufacturer Esquel Group.
A capsule trend called Denim Couture, utilizing embellishments, foil, and printing, was developed to integrate knitwear with denim and inspire the industry to move beyond jeans, according to Steller. Denim-look heather yarns were spun from top-dyed cotton at Huafu Top Dyed MÃ©lange Yarn Company; created with non-indigo reactive dyes and a unique spinning technique at Esquel; and offered in multi-ply marls by cashmere spinner Todd & Duncan.
While cashmere shows no signs of slowing down, some spinners explored blends in order to meet buyer demands for lower prices. Yak, which at the moment is more moderately priced, was offered in blends with a cashmere touch at Topline, Novetex, and UPW. The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) boycott of angora has left spinners scrambling for alternatives, driving up the prices of alpaca and mohair by 30 to 50 percent.
Despite price pressure, the spinners continued to push the boundaries with precious fibers and ever-finer spinning techniques. Biella by SÃ¼wolle has developed a 100/2 Nm TEC yarn called Pearl in 15.5 µm merino; while Consinee’s 2/26 Nm cashmere collection includes neon shades and a version with Donegal neps in 12 colors. Top Line’s King yarn is 58 percent super kid mohair, and at the Armonia division of Jiangsu Lugang, a yarn called Light Fluff comprised of kid mohair and superfine alpaca was a best seller.
Capturing the trend for chunky, hand-knit looks were bulky but light-weight lily yarns from Winning Textile, and wool-rich 16/2 Nm Apollo yarns from Consinee with a milled, vintage, menswear quality.
Knitters contrasted the season’s super-soft, brushed and hairy surfaces with sparkling Angelina fibers from Meadowbrook Inventions, and with Lurex metallics. Both companies have developed soft, dyeable versions that work well with luxury yarns. There were eye-catching matte/shine yarns at Armonia, Winning Textile, and Top Line, among others.
Exhibitors and visitors alike did not seem overly concerned about PETA’s recent release of videos portraying abusive shearing practices, and the organization’s call for a boycott of wool products. “There is a lot of awareness of ecology and animal care; but at the end of the day consumers want the price to be as low as possible,” remarked Van Tassel.
At SÃ¼dwolle Group, which sources its merino wool fibre from its own Australian station and other certified sources, managing director of sales Hans von Schuh commented, “Human beings can be stupid, but this doesn’t mean the whole industry should be questioned.” Max Ng, senior manager of sales and marketing for Novetex, gave assurances that all their sourcing is accredited, with sourcing teams visiting the farms during shearing season.
Stephen Trigg, creative director for UPW, who led a seminar on responsible sourcing at the show, commented “Problems arise when external forces promulgate information outside of the industry norm, which affects the products we sell. Indeed, if we each have exemplary sourcing procedures then authentication is a marketing opportunity.”
Fashion’s growing fascination with knitwear, from hand-knit sweaters to active wear knits to footwear and accessories, bodes well for SPINEXPO and its exhibitors. With the 24th Shanghai session scheduled for September 2 — 4, plans are already in work for next year’s New York edition, with the organizers in search of a larger venue.