With near-sourcing becoming a bit of a buzzword as companies increasingly opt for the cost and time savings manufacturing nearby can afford, it was only fitting that the International Apparel Sourcing Show, taking place at the Javitz Convention Center in New York July 22-24, feature a Guatemala Pavilion for the first time.
The Pavilion features 10 Guatemalan companies–all members of Vestex, Guatemala’s apparel and textile association–from apparel manufacturers to elastics and trim producers. Vestex represents 150 apparel companies in the country, 39 textile mills and 250 trims and services firms.
Lucia de Sander, marketing and promotions coordinator for Vestex, said the organization had walked the show twice in the past, saw its potential for business and decided to participate.
“With all the near sourcing talk and things starting to shift from China,” she said. “I think it was a good time to be here at the show.”
Guatemala’s apparel industry has recently been on the rise, with exports of textiles and apparel surpassing traditional items like coffee and sugar. The country’s apparel and textile industry is valued at $1.51 billion and accounted for 14 percent of total exports in 2013, according to the Ministry of Economy. The United States is Guatemala’s main market for textiles with roughly 80 percent of exports going there, and the other 14 percent destined for Central America.
According to de Sander, Guatemala has gained its know-how and techniques from Korean manufacturers–known for high-quality and innovative product–as 75 percent of the apparel manufacturers in the country are Korean affiliated, whether owned or operated.
Guatemala’s major apparel export is knitwear, which accounts for 70-75 percent of its business, followed by wovens. As part of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), Guatemala supplies Central America with an abundance of raw materials for apparel exports to the United States.
The country’s apparel producers range in size, but cover all aspects of the supply chain, de Sander said. The labor is skilled, the volumes are flexible and the technology is up to date.
With synthetics and the interest in performance athletic wear on the rise, de Sander said textile mills in Guatemala have been investing in machinery and learning new techniques to supply the demand for synthetics.
Bryan Quan, director of Signotex, a fabric supplier in Guatemala said his company is also keeping up with trends in technology in terms of pattern making and cutting in order to keep internal costs low and pass cost savings on to customers. Signotex uses Gerber pattern making machines and equipment by Audaces that creates a pattern from an image of a garment.
Quan showcased polo shirts made from fabric slub polyester yarn in yarn dye and jersey fabric with tri-blend slub yarn. “It’s not just simple jersey, but jersey with infinite possibilities,” he said, emphasizing that Guatemalan garments and fabrics are often more specialized than goods from other areas.
Zone Athletic Wear, featured in the Pavilion, is a line of active wear Quan is developing with prices comparable to similar product in China, something he is able to offer as he is producing the fabric.
“Guatemala has 52 mills with a lot of experience, a lot of volume and a lot of variety,” Quan said.
Naturally, nearness is one of Guatemala’s major selling points for U.S. brands and manufacturers and de Sander said being able to catch a direct flight from New York and be in the country within five to six hours can mean a big difference for brands. They are able to visit the factories making their goods, ensure things are running smoothly and to standard, and get back home quickly.
Although just the first day of the show, de Sander said the Pavilion has so far been busy. “People are asking about the companies that are here and I think it’s going to be a good show,” she said. “What can go wrong with sourcing closer?”