Sustainability Dominates Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA
NEW YORK—Sustainability and ethical production were key themes at Texworld USA, held alongside Apparel Sourcing USA, at the Javits Center.
The shows, which took place Jan. 21–23, hosted 330 exhibitors from 18 countries and welcomed 4,100 attendees.
“We’ve developed an incredible educational platform on sustainable topics,” said Jennifer Bacon, Texworld USA’s show director. The show had standing-room-only attendance at the textile talks and seminars presented at the show. These included “The Social Impact of Sustainability,” “Reducing Water Consumption in Textiles,” “Achieving Sustainability Through Fibers and Materials With Textile Exchange” and “What’s Next In the World of Textiles for Recycled and Upcycled Materials?”
Austrian fiber producer Lenzing was on hand promoting its environmental responsibility with products such as Tencel Lyocell fibers, derived from sustainable wood sources, using a closed-loop production process that transforms wood pulp into cellulosic fibers. Among Lenzing’s newer developments is Refibra, which turns cotton fabric scraps recycled from garment makers into pulp.
Portuguese manufacturer Scoop, whose core business is technical wear, was displaying striking original designs made from leftover materials from its warehouse. “We hired a group of designers to come and look at our 93 miles of stock and come up with a collection called ‘I Used to Be, Now I Am,’” said Chief Executive Mafalda Pinto. “We’re not trading the collection. We are just showcasing that upcycling can be fun and creative.” Scoop has also created a line of upcycled loungewear for client Tommy Hilfiger.
With uncertainty surrounding more possible U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, Yan Yan, director of the Office for Social Responsibility of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, said China is in the midst of a remodel. “We are facing the challenges of environmental protection, of increasing costs and how to make our production more people oriented,” she noted. “We have taken sustainability as our industry strategy. Over the past five years, our laws [have become] more strict for water, for chemicals, for pollution. Now it is time for us to reshape the industry in a more sustainable way.”
Offering options to China was the Sri Lanka pavilion, which highlighted sustainable-apparel manufacturers. And Mauritius, after several years away, made its return to Texworld USA with a dedicated country pavilion. Joyce Lo, marketing manager for the Mauritius-based Karina International, which specializes in childrenswear, said her company is still looking for its first U.S. customer. “We are here to make ourselves known to the U.S. market,” Lo said.
The Korea Federation of Textile Industries organized 34 Korean textile companies to attend the show to meet new and current buyers, including Gap, Old Navy and JCPenney. “Our main competitor is China, and their main strength is quantity, but their quality is also increasing,” said KOFOTI’s Deok-Cheon Chu.
A few U.S. businesses were on hand at the shows’ Local Loft space, including AGH/Trimlab, the largest YKK zipper distributor in the Western hemisphere, as well as the last remaining zipper-assembly unit in New York City. “This is the second year we’ve been at the show,” said company representative Thomas Lacari. “We’ve picked up a lot of startup companies.”
Likewise, Chung Yu of Brooklyn-based, family-owned manufacturer MCM Enterprise, said that 10 years ago his company had no need to attend trade shows. Now he is finding more of his customers among smaller startups. “I don’t work as much with the bigger clients anymore,” Yu said. “They’re higher risk, and they don’t put investment into their product.”
One such startup resource is the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator, featured in the shows’ Resource Row. The Accelerator has a production facility to give emerging designers access to manufacturing services, houses young businesses and sets them up with mentors, while the tech department develops ways to integrate technology into fabric, such as knitting conductive threads and LED lights into materials.
Other Resource Row booths included Queen of Raw, an online marketplace where factories, brands and retailers can post their unused fabric to sell, and Helpsy, a for-profit clothing-collection company based in the Northeast with 700 clothing-collection containers in New York City alone.
“We have a strong environmental mission to keep clothes out of the trash. Last year we collected 25 million pounds of clothes,” said owner Rachel Kibbe. “We also want to work with the fashion industry directly. Instead of shredding or incinerating, there are ways those clothes can be redistributed into other markets and resold.”