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What Western Buyers Are Still Sourcing in China

It’s common in the textile sector to hear talk of costs rising in China, but that fact doesn’t seem to be deterring international buyers at all.

At the opening of Intertextile Shanghai Wednesday, buyers from all over the West came looking for the cost savings they know they can rely on, and the expanded offerings from Chinese manufacturers they can now expect.

Andrea Bertollini, a buyer for a major Italian fashion brand, attended the show to source fashion outerwear fabrics for womenswear, and said rising costs in China is of little concern.

“It’s not a problem for the European market. In our business we have time and can spend something more,” Bertollini said. “The price is better and the quality now is not bad.”

What China has over its neighboring countries, like Vietnam and Thailand, Bertollini said, is its fabric offering.

“For fabrics, China is still China. It’s still the best country to buy from,” he said.

The sentiment is one Aleks Kuijpers of WorkingMenBlues agrees with.

“The advantage of China is that you can find it all, from raw materials to finished garments,” Kuijpers said.

At this show, WorkingMenBlues will be looking for Chinese manufacturers specializing in smaller quantities, in-house development and material innovations that are at the forefront of the market. The focus will also be on going back to the core—the quality of materials and products—and those materials and products will have to come from companies practicing greater transparency and focusing on more eco-friendly use of materials.

“For smaller quantity and higher-end demands we are producing in Europe, mainly also because fabric MOQs from Italy are much lower, for example. However, in case we could find a partner in China that is able to meet this requirement (small quantity + higher-end confection), we would be open to move back some of these EU productions to China. Mainly, and also because for materials, China is still leading in terms of the number of options available.”

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Simone Kott, fabric manager for BOSS Green, the sportier side of Hugo Boss, came to Intertextile looking for outerwear fabrics, and namely with performance traits like breathability and laminated fabric options. What’s above all for the coming season, however, is materials with less impact on the environment.

“For us it’s most important to have the sustainable fabrics,” Kott said. “We have to be innovative in that way and our consumers have to think about it.”

Denim topped the agenda for Juliana Restrepo, a buyer for Colombia’s Denim Lovers, who said she came to the show looking for new innovations in denim performance fabric, like thermal technology, cooling traits and stretch—all of which she sees as key trends in denim for the coming season.

For Restrepo, the quality coming out of the Chinese market is good, but above all else, she said, “They have cheaper prices.”

In other cases, however, rising costs have been more of a concern.

For Rene Dademasch, a buyer for German wholesaler Der Stoff Handel, the biggest problem in the business in the last year has been currency fluctuations among the renminbi, the U.S. dollar and the euro, which have affected pricing. The issue has forced the company to buy more from Turkey for orders that would have otherwise been placed in China.

“For us it’s very difficult to sell with this situation because all fabrics are based on dollar cost,” Dademasch said. “I hope that will improve because we are buying here for many years.”