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Op-Ed: 10 Years in the Making: Lenzing Innovation at Texworld USA

This edition of Texworld USA, taking place July 12-14, marks 10 years of the textile and apparel sourcing show in New York City.

Texworld USA is the largest dedicated textile trade show in America with major attendees including U.S. apparel companies like Hanes, J.Crew, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Perry Ellis, PVH, Target and more. In our industry we tend to always look forward to the next season and the next show, but we can also learn a great deal by taking a look back.

For instance, the past 10 years has brought: 20 editions of Texworld USA shows from 2006 through 2016, more than 60,000 attendees, more than 300 seminars for exhibitors and attendees, more than 500 exhibitor booths in the Lenzing Innovation Pavilion, hundreds of meetings, and millions of yards of fabrics sold around the world.

The market factors which led to the start of Texworld USA start much earlier than 2006, however.

Let’s look back at 2000 when President Bill Clinton was in his final year in the White House and he convinced Congress to pass the China Trade Bill. ”We know that trade alone will not bring freedom to China or peace to the world,” Clinton had said at the time. ”We will have more positive influence with an outstretched hand than with a clenched fist.”

As China and all of Asia opened for export, trade mills were requesting support to make introductions to the U.S. apparel market. They knew the endless business opportunities with brands and retailers.

At the time, the Internet was not robust with social media and blogs like it is today. Large brands like Liz Claiborne and Jones New York (who are no longer in business today) had their own offices in Asia and were easy to reach. But how could the textile mills reach the rest of the brands selling in the U.S. and the emerging business of “private label” for specialty chain stores?

In response TENCEL, then owned by Courtaulds (it was purchased by Lenzing AG in 2004) and the company I worked for, started a small show in January 2002 call “Innovation Asia” with the purpose of showcasing mills using TENCEL. It was a boutique show in a restaurant that is now the West Elm store on 18th Street in Chelsea.

Innovation Asia started with 16 mills and 459 attendees came to the first show. By 2006 it had grown to 25 mills and nearly doubled to 800 attendees over the course of more than four years. Bursting at the seams, we had no more space for the mills and we realized the market was changing faster than we could support it as a fiber company.

To move forward, Lenzing, a leader in wood base cellulosic fiber with extensive downstream connections, needed a partner who understood trade shows and the needs of the textile market.

At the time Messe Frankfurt, the world’s largest trade fair organizer and the organizer of Texworld, was looking to start a textile show in New York City, to complement the already existing Texworld in Paris.

In 2006, Lenzing AG worked with Messe Frankfurt to move the Innovation Asia show and start Texworld USA. Innovation Asia was rebranded as the Lenzing Innovation Pavilion for a collection of Lenzing mills from around the world.

With Lenzing’s strong market contacts and pulse on the industry, the partners agreed that all seminars for Texworld USA would be organized by Lenzing. Trend and sustainability topics were the highlights for the first show and now those seminar subjects have expanded to include fiber education, sourcing and emerging businesses—information is key to making the appropriate sourcing decisions.

With the basis of collaboration and making NYC the textile and apparel destination, Messe Frankfurt, Lenzing, Olah Inc., MRkt and several other textile shows joined together in 2015 with the support of the City of New York and NYC & Company, the tourism board, to form NYC Textile Week.

It is not a competition of sourcing and apparel exhibitions, but a synergy of shows which support the supply chain and the buyers.

The Lenzing Innovation Pavilion remains an integral part of Texworld USA even 10 years later with a 90 percent exhibitor retention rate. The leading mills from not only Asia but from the U.S. are part of the pavilion. Mozartex and Handseltex are original exhibitors from 2002 and have built and maintained a solid business with U.S. brands and retailers.

So what has changed in the apparel and textile industry in the past 10 years?

Mass average fabric prices are lower and the supply chain is subject to price constraints. The first question tends to be about price without regard for aesthetics. Buyers are seeking innovation but not willing to pay for it. This is not a sustainable way for business to continue.

Over the past 10 years the textile industry lost the majority of American manufacturing to overseas sourcing, though we are starting to see a resurgence of sourcing in Americas but the fabrics and product classifications are different now. The activewear marketing has increase beyond simple jersey. Basic needle products from knits and the denim industry continue to be strong in the Americas.

Every year buyers ask more questions about what they are buying. Consumers are smarter about social and environmental issues with access to information on the Internet. Sustainability has progressed in the past decade from sourcing only organic cotton to a portfolio of preferred fibers. Buyers now require third-party certifications and have marketing programs like “water- less” and “conscious collection” to raise consumer awareness.

I have attended all 20 Texworld USA shows in the past decade and the nine Innovation Asia shows since 2002. I always look forward to the trade shows as it is a time when the market convenes, exchanges ideas and discusses our challenges to source the best value textiles and products.

Even in the day of emails, Skype, and WeChat, we need the time to meet face to face and show textiles. I anticipate a faster evolution of textiles and sourcing in the next decade with the endless advances in technology, but what will not change is the need to work together because we can have a more positive influence with an outstretched hand than with a clenched fist.

 

By Tricia Carey, director of business development for apparel and denim at Lenzing

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