Colombia may be known for its quality textiles and fabric, but now companies in the country are focused on advancing their capabilities in performance gear and athleticwear to meet the uptick in demand from the market.
At Colombiatex de las Americas, Latin America’s leading textile trade show in Medellin, Colombia last week, Lafayette, a Bogota-based vertically integrated textile company showcased its product offerings to the nearly 10,000 buyers in attendance Jan. 27-29.
The more than 70-year-old company has an entirely integrated textile process from yarn manufacturing to weaving, knitting, printing and finishing, allowing for greater flexibility in research, development and innovation —all key to satisfying today’s consumer demand for more from textiles.
Lafayette Sports, the company’s high tech textile solutions division, specializes in developing and manufacturing advanced performance fabrics for athleticwear in flat and knitted weave.
And Andres Sierra, marketing director for Lafayette Sports, said innovation is key for the company. “We have to start creating demand with new types of fabrics,” he said. “We have to start thinking like Steve Jobs and invent a thing that everyone needs.”
Lafayette developed 14 technologies, branded Laftech, designed to help athletes improve their performance and created based on ongoing research and testing, including Sun, Eco, Dry, Thermo, Dryplus, Repel, Seal, Odor Protect, Stretch, Aqua, Ripstop, Color, Sweat and Café.
Because the fibers are woven so tightly, garments with Laftech’s Sun have up to UPF 50 protection from rays. Products incorporating Eco technology are made of recycled polyester from post-consumer waste like plastic bottles, and Dry allows garments to dry quickly keeping the wearer cool and comfortable.
Thermo fabric acts as an insulator, keeping the body at its ideal temperature, Dryplus allows perspiration to be absorbed and transported to the outside of the fabric, the Repel finish prevents absorption of liquids and Seal is impermeable to liquids.
Odor protect controls bacteria growth to avoid unpleasant scents, and Stretch, an elastic fiber content with four-way elongation and recovery allows for increased comfort and agility. The Aqua finish keeps fabrics strong and color-rich when exposed to salt water or chlorine, durable Ripstop can withstand tearing during activities like cliff scaling, Color allows vibrancy to last longer, and the Laftech Sweat technology developed colors that prevent fabric discoloration upon contact with sweat.
One of its newer developments, called Café, uses the skin of the coffee bean, which is generally discarded, to make a fiber that naturally provides UPF and odor protection as well as wicks moisture. The company is currently doing Café and polyester blends. The hand feel is soft and rich, but fabrics with the fiber can cost as much as double that of regular fabric.
Sustainability is key at Lafayette as the company recycles 85 percent of the water it uses in dyeing through its water treatment facility. Compliance is also part of the firm’s ethos and the company works to ensure the health and well-being of its employees offering things like an on-site kindergarten and in-house doctor at its facilities.
Here’s a breakdown for doing business with Lafayette:
- Minimum dye lot for solids: 550 yards
- Minimum dye lot for prints/embossing: 1,650 yards that can be split into three different colorways of 550 yards each
- There are no minimums for stock fabrics
- Labdips are turned around 10 days after receiving a Pantone code
- Production lead time is 30 calendar days
Sierra further touted the benefits of doing business in Colombia, saying, “We have duty free, good facilities, good fabric and excellent cut and sew, so we can start knitting full package.”
English is also widely spoken across the country, he said, eliminating some of the language barrier breakdowns that can exist with manufacturing partners in the East. Colombia is also in the same time zone as the U.S. East Coast, allowing for easier in-time communication, and just a three-hour flight from Miami, visiting facilities frequently to keep an eye on production and quality is simple and more cost effective.
For Lafayette Sports, lightweight, breathable and eco-friendly performance fabrics are in the pipeline for the coming year, Sierra said, and innovation will continue in order to keep the company at the forefront of high tech textiles.