The specter of tariffs and geopolitics has mixed with shifting sourcing patterns and the retail landscape in the U.S. market to cause concern among many in the apparel industry. And though it hasn’t limited innovation and creativity, organizers behind the Première Vision New York trade show this week said it’s the uncertainty has still had its impact.
“While there is a lot of innovation, the market is struggling,” Première Vision international exhibitions director Guglielmo Olearo, said. “The U.S. market is not what it was five years ago. Globally, we see a lot of instability. Geopolitics has a huge impact today on the economies of the world.”
The trade show presented a comprehensive array of seminars, services and displays amid the European-centric, but globally represented fabric exhibitors, though it couldn’t entirely escape the present challenging environment the textile and apparel industry is facing.
“When we hear what is coming out of the United States on trade, we don’t know if imported goods from China or Europe are going to be taxed and its difficult for companies to plan,” Olearo continued. “For us, too, because we are always trying to adapt our show to provide different content and different events depending on what is happening in the world. But with all the instability, it’s difficult to plan where to focus our efforts.”
There’s a paradox that exists for the industry now: the U.S. economy is strong, but the Trump administration has caused chaos with the imposition of tariffs that have been countered by China, the European Union and Canada, and the threat of more.
“So the fashion industry in the U.S. is struggling,” Olearo said. This includes retailers trying to shift their business models in accordance with the e-commerce boom and changing consumer priorities, but also fighting with travel, electronics, home and entertainment for consumer dollars.
“The fashion market is shrinking,” Olearo said. “There’s also the feeling of consuming less, including fashion.”
As such, exhibitors are facing “huge pressure on price,” according to Olearo, despite the currency rate between the euro and dollar being quite favorable for European companies selling fabrics to the U.S. The pressure comes as the result of a hesitance in planning due to the unstable retail situation.
As far as sourcing raw materials, if China’s share falls, Olearo said, “Europe could be a fantastic solution, if Europe also doesn’t see trade with the U.S. cut over tariffs.”
The scenario wouldn’t bode well for businesses as the alternatives to China won’t be robust enough.
“It’s also a dream to imagine that production could be done in the United States, and we support the CFDA program for Made in USA, but it’s a very small scale,” Olearo said. “It’s good for young designers and mid- to high-end brands, but it cannot replace all the imports from China.”
That said, however, PVNY still established a special section for the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to nurture, elevate and preserve garment production in New York City. The CFDA Manufacturer Showcase at the show featured eight companies, including, Acme Design + Studio, Atelier Amelia, Dye-namix, Funtastic Furs, La La Land, New York Embroidery Studio, Tom’s Sons International Pleating and Werkstatt.
Raylene Marasco, president of Dye-namix, which offers digital and screen printing, custom dyeing and color development among its production services at its TriBeca facility, said being part of the program and PVNY exhibition has had a positive impact.
“It gives us exposure to young designers through the CFDA and at PV,” Marasco said. “We working with luxury brands, small companies and even some larger companies like Li & Fung and Coach.”
Tina Schenk, who owns pattern making and product development firm Werkstatt, was excited about the city’s plan to build a production center in the Midtown Garment District. She said it would be a “great enticement” to bring manufacturing back to the area. Exhibiting at the CFDA space at PVNY for the first time, she said the program has helped her “get to the next level.”
Olearo and PV show manager Gilles Lasbordes, stressed that PVNY has focused on delivering a more comprehensive presentation. They’ve taken to technology by creating an app that can be downloaded to guide visitors around the show, as they would be at an art museum. More trend presentations and talks were also introduced, along with “Smart Talk” seminars and displays.
Designers Cienne, Bethany Williams, Sylvia Heisel and Studio 189 displayed an outfit on the Smart Square, a dedicated area for responsible creation. Chantal Malingrey, director of marketing and development for Première Vision, and Giusy Bettoni, sustainability consultant for Smart Creation, a multi-platform dedicated to the integration of ecological values in the fashion industry, are behind the project and a series of talks dedicated to supply chain sustainability and responsibility.
“Sustainability is so important for all the brands and is so important for Premiere Vision,” Olearo said. “The Smart Creation presentations offers examples and educational materials about sustainable materials. We also explain how sustainable can also be creative. Sustainable fashion is in our DNA. Some of the fabrics coming out of the sustainable movement are amazing, they’re beautiful, but the point is that beside the outfits, we want people to understand what goes into making these materials and their impact on the industry and the environment.”
Moving ahead with new technologies and the evolution of the trade show, Lasbordes said PV will launch a new digital online marketplace—starting with weavers—at Première Vision Paris in September. It will contain a catalog of resources are materials in the sector to augment the hands-on trade show experience.
“We’re trying to introduce new tools to help the industry,” Lasbordes said. “We will bring it to the New York show in January.”