Consumers today want three things from the products they pay for: speed, quality and value. Brands, as a result, need three things in order to accommodate them: near-to-market sourcing options, high-level factories and low costs models to keep prices down.
Colombia is one market looking to be that locale for brands.
The northern South American country offers lead times as short as 30 days, vertically integrated factories and duty free trade with the United States. Colombia also has 10 other trade agreements including with the European Union, Canada and Mexico that provide duty breaks.
It’s the country’s 100-year history in textiles and its expertise in needlework that have made it a go-to for polos and high quality garments as the country—and its often vertically integrated facilities—allow for greater quality control over the production process.
Here are three Colombian mills making quality apparel and textiles in the turnaround times that speed to market demands.
Lafayette is Latin America’s leader in high-tech performance fabrics in both woven and knit. The company produces its own advanced polyester and has developed a range of technologies to improve the fiber’s performance.
The 73-year-old, vertically integrated company does everything from yarn manufacturing to weaving, knitting, printing and finishing. An on-site yarn laboratory verifies yarn properties, the chemical lab allows Lafayette to control chemicals in its textile process, and its finishing lab meets ASTM and AATCC standards. Eco-friendliness is key to the company, too, so it maintains a water treatment process and can reuse 50 percent of its water in other processes.
Andres Sierra, marketing director for Lafayette Sports, a division of the Bogota-based company, said, “We are constantly creating new trends to meet and promote market demands, and we are constantly implementing new technologies to meet the athlete’s needs.”
The company has developed fabrics like Laftech, a technical polyester designed to do more—like optimize temperature control, comfort, water repellency and odor protection, among other performance qualities—ideal for use in performance apparel or uniforms.
Demand for performance apparel remains high and, according to Sierra, companies are now seeking low deniers, lighter fabrics, bi-color and heather fabrics, fabrics that are highly functional with antimicrobial and moisture wicking properties, compression fabrics and printed fabrics, most of which the company will showcase at Sourcing at MAGIC this month (Booth #61804-61805).
With fast fashion still a big buzzword, Lafayette is capitalizing on its speed to market to capture customers. The company can turn lab dips in as little as 10 days, with production time running just 30 days.
“We are focused on giving our customers top quality fabrics in very short leads,” Sierra said.
ACT Denim is a full package denim facility known for its quality design and expert denim handling. The company does everything from design and development to cutting, sewing and washing, to finished product and packaging.
The Cali-based company does small runs, quick turns with lead times down to 30 days and has plans to open a warehouse in the U.S. to better be able to serve the customer.
Juan Camilo Salazar, commercial director for Grupo Platino, which will represent ACT at MAGIC this month, said, “In Colombia we are used to working under pressure, time-wise and on a budget. Obviously we will never meet the same price points as Asia, but we are up to the challenge of giving higher quality and fashionable goods.”
ACT has its own jeanswear trademark, SAK Denim, for men and women age 20-35 who seek “innovative designs, excellent fits and avant-garde finished with affordable prices.”
The company isn’t short on sharing trends either. The company presents the latest trends not only in style and silhouette, but the newest in colors and even laundry developments.
Recent trends have pointed to a need for more styles in denim fabric and not only mid-and heavyweight goods. Customers want new fabric options in denim pants, skirts, shorts and shirts.
“Denim is a whole universe in itself,” Salazar said, “And the consumer is really asking for more and more variety.”
This year, ACT will be working to develop fast fashion goods in lightweight denim with lyocell and modal threads. At Sourcing at MAGIC (Booth #61810), ACT will showcase the latest technology in denim finishing, the laser embellishment machines.
“ACT Denim just received from Jeanologia Spain, their newest equipment that, with our experience, will give the clients better standardization and lead time,” Salazar said. “Plus it’s eco-friendly since the water normally used in laundry processes will be reduced in great percentage.”
Texcauca S.A. has been producing polo shirts since the mid-90s, and the vertically integrated factory based in Medellin, makes them in solids, stripes, with print and embroidery, and for sports and uniforms.
Brands looking to make small runs shouldn’t have a problem as the company will take an order for 250 pieces per color. Lead times at Texcauca are short too, solid polos can be turned in four weeks, stripes in six.
Piece-dyed fabrics are made with combed yarns either 100 percent cotton or a blend with polyester and knitted in-house. Collars and cuffs are also made on site with fabric and yarn dyed in the same batch for perfect color matching. The company’s dyeing process meets local and international environmental standards and all non-organic solid waste is recycled.
“In polos, the market is fairly static,” Rodrigo Trujillo, a manager at Texcauca, said, but, “printed polos are the new tendency, we offer many printed designs.”
The company, which will have its entire collection on display at Sourcing at MAGIC (Booth #61807), has plans to expand its manufacturing plant by 25 percent this year.
Colombia will have 18 companies represented at the upcoming MAGIC show in Las Vegas Feb. 16-18. Seven will showcase their offerings at Sourcing at MAGIC and 11 brands will be on display across the different shows including FN Platform, Curve and Project Las Vegas. Categories featured will include: activewear and performance fabrics, polo shirts, men’s formal and casual shirts, jeans and denim garments, shapewear and knits, and small leather goods.
For tours of the Colombian companies and information on how to do business with them, click here.