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Lace Suppliers Talk Trends, Challenges and Strategies in the Sector

While the lace fabric industry might be the classic niche market and somewhat isolated from macroeconomic factors and even apparel industry issues, it’s certainly not immunized from external forces.

Lace manufacturers, exhibiting at Premiere Vision New York, said they are still impacted to a degree by fashion trends, and shifts in retail and consumer behavior. They’re also focused, as the rest of the industry is, on flexible, timely delivery, with an eye toward sustainable production practices.

“As a lace company, we are less exposed to the ups and downs of business trends,” Francois Damide, president of Solstiss USA, said. “Since our main business is a supplier of formalwear, people are going to have wedding and special occasions no matter the outside conditions. But that doesn’t mean that the lace business isn’t effected by market conditions.”

Consumers buying more direct-to-market, for one, has led the lace sector to have more in-stock availability and shipping capabilities, as had the changes in traditional store channels and the overall economic conditions. This can mean dealing with price pressures or the loss of distribution channels.

As for trends, there are two directions Solstiss is seeing. The first is what Damide called “reworked classic design,” represented by organza lace with floral and geometric designs, and more traditional, heavier laces drawn from Solstiss’ extensive archives.

The second key direction has a modern twist, with 3D-yarns Damide described as having a “hologram” effect, plus abstract motifs with an array of embellishments and a group of muted pastels that hark back to ’60s and ’70s styling.

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Jocelyne Meurant-Viret, areas sales manager for French lace firm Sophie Hallette, said delicate, lightweight lace with sparkle effects and floral designs have been driving the business.

But antique lace with patterns inspired by 18th century styles are also getting attention, done in fresh subdued colors like muted navy, khaki and light gray. Since Sophie Hallette has its own dyeing facility in France, the company can create unique palettes, which is does using only environmentally friendly dyes.

Novelty looks are also important, such a nautical motifs, raised dot and floral overlay laces, abstracts and lightly glittered patterns.

Lace was drawn into the ready-to-wear market roughly 10 years ago when Prada started to use it as trim in its collection, Meurant-Viret noted. The use for daywear then subsided.

“But in the last couple of years in has bounced back for use in daywear and office wear,” she said. “We’re seeing lace being used more again as a part of a collection.”

Rebecca Bahmani, a sales associate for Klauber Brothers Inc., said the traditional lace market has expanded beyond special occasion dresses and lingerie into areas such as daytime apparel, where it’s used as trim.

Klauber, based in New York, manufactures its laces in Warwick, R.I., as well as abroad. The company’s Leaver lace mill in Rhode Island is state-of-the-art and the global production and distribution allows the firm to serve a diversified customer base with flexibility in shipping and pricing.

While Klauber doesn’t treat its business as seasonal, it does regularly update its collection with fresh looks. Particularly, Bahmani said, novelty laces have been strong, often mixed with mesh.