Supply Chain
Sourcing Solutions

A Values-Driven Vision

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Having endured delays and disruption constantly over the past two years, ranging from rising material costs to slowdowns in production along with a roster of other issues, textile businesses are increasingly looking to gain control of their supply chains. And unlike years past, when staying the course sourcing goods meant “follow the needle,” i.e., go where labor is cheap and sewing plentiful, nowadays price is not necessarily the lead driver when navigating successful sourcing.

According to textile execs, trust and partnership are key factors in supply chain decision-making. The trend now is to have fewer, but deeper relationships with supply chain partners. This approach, say industry pros, builds stronger bonds between parties that are less likely to fray when things break down due to unforeseen forces, which has lately become something of the norm.

While price continues to play a significant role, and likely always will, companies are rethinking their sourcing vision to be more values-driven. Reliability of high-quality product is now often associated with firms investing in sustainable practices and social responsibility, which often results in more efficient, as well as less wasteful, manufacturing.

Some also believe the sourcing landscape is ripe for a regional reboot, with growing momentum around supporting localized supply chains. Nearshoring in the U.S. is part of this conversation, but greater emphasis is directed at areas farther afield.

Outdoor Industry Influence

Textile execs report that areas where factories have invested in leveling up environmental protocols are increasingly attractive, as these vendors have not only kept pace with current compliances, but are positioned to stay ahead of the curve with new regulations due in 2025 and 2030. Partnering with eco-minded, forward thinking suppliers is proving to be beneficial, textile execs add.  

“Factories aligned with outdoor industry values will gain strength because these firms are putting money into sustainability and environmental compliance. These aspects make companies more attractive when making sourcing decisions,” states Chris Parkes, president, Concept III who mentions partners DryTex and Kingwhale as prime examples. DryTex is continuing to work better than most, within Chinese restrictions, because of having to raise the bar to meet outdoor industry standards. The same thing applies to Kingwhale, based in Taiwan. Being bluesign approved and up-to-date with eco standards, in addition to financing efficient dyeing machines and installing solar energy to the extent that DryTex and Kingwhale have, are all positives. “DryTex and Kingwhale tick all boxes of things that the outdoor industry has influenced, and are flourishing because of it,” Parkes comments.

Taking this a step further, Parkes and others agree that Taiwan textile companies in general have prospered as they’ve aligned with the outdoor community values and are viewed favorably because of it.  

“Factories aligned with outdoor industry values will gain strength because these firms are putting money into sustainability and environmental compliance. These aspects make companies more attractive when making sourcing decisions.” – Chris Parkes President, Concept III

Textile industry veteran Peter Lucier confirms that the outdoor industry was instrumental in ushering in eco-compliance such as bluesign. “The world is going this way. I think that those mills will be a step ahead as brands look for new suppliers. They are established as eco-certified, and using less energy, fewer chemicals, have a smaller carbon footprint and are environmentally and socially aware,” explains Lucier, founder of Reliable Textile Solutions, representing WidePlus International, Pro-Stretch Ltd, bluesign technologies ltd and MMI Textiles.  WidePlus is based in Taiwan, offers a range of synthetic wovens, laminates and coated fabric, has been bluesign approved since 2012 and is GRS 4.0 and Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified; Pro-Stretch specializes in stretch trim options and MMI provides a range of fabrics and trim for the US market.

“There is no question that brands in recent years are pairing down their vendor list. And forming more significant relationships with these select vendors,” states Lucier, adding that the trust factor is important, but price is still important, too.

Lucier has been in textiles for 40 years and says he has never seen a situation like today. “Covid exposed cracks, making things difficult for everyone in the supply chain. Brands want to work with partners that know how to get the job done.”

Chart Source: IFM Survey, December 2021.
Sustainability Factors In

Mike Simko, Hyosung’s global marketing director, highlights sustainability as a factor that has changed the supply chain conversation. “It opens a new world for suppliers to innovate and present these fiber solutions to brands and retailers,” Simko remarks, explaining that textile suppliers are now helping brands and retailers with sourcing to find eco solutions.

“I spent the last year talking with execs who wanted validation and were seeking solutions when spandex and cotton prices spiked,” he says. “Relationships now are about helping to innovate, provide data, source and provide attributes to communicate to consumers.”

Simko continues, “We take a holistic approach to sales and marketing and its role in the supply chain partnerships.”

Based on the past two years, it’s not too surprising that Simko is seeing more “disruption planning” and “dual-sourcing” strategies. There’s more talk with the mill base about “what if extremes” and how to plan. According to Simko, currently these are lightweight discussions, but on the table.

“I spent the last year talking with execs who wanted validation and were seeking solutions when spandex and cotton prices spiked. Relationships now are about helping to innovate, provide data, source and provide attributes to communicate to consumers.” – Mike Simko Global Marketing Director, Hyosung

He, like others in the textile community, believe today’s supply chain issues were not caused by Covid, but accelerated. Regarding localized supply chains, for example, Simko shares that businesses have been moving out of China into Vietnam for years and nearshoring has been talked about for a long time.

Hyosung has 10 facilities in different regions around the globe, and just built a fifth plant in China. Each facility is tailored to the strength of the region — for Turkey that’s cotton, for Vietnam its swim, for example. While the process is fundamentally the same, the equipment is suited to each region’s needs.

Regional Re-Boot?

Execs agree that localized sourcing can afford a higher degree of control over one’s supply chain, and for this reason, regionalism is increasingly top of mind. This trend is already gaining traction in Europe and other areas globally, and continues to be a talking point domestically.

“Regionalism is back. It’s no longer one way that works for all. The world has been in a global mood for two years, but shifting to regional.” – Orietta Pelizzari Srategic Brand/Retail Specialist

The recent Première Vision Paris trade event included a presentation during which attendees (virtual and in person)  were invited to consider a new supply map for 2022. “The health crisis, rising raw material prices and supply problems are all issues forcing retail brands to rethink their supply strategies. We are witnessing a new momentum in favor of local sourcing,” stated Gildas Minvielle, director of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) Economic Observatory that offers market research on changes and evolutions in the textile, fashion and luxury markets.

For example, results of a recent IFM survey asking retail brands how Covid influenced supply strategies, showed 62 percent of respondents had increased their proximity of sourcing, and 47 percent of survey takers said they shifted sourcing to other manufacturing countries.

Going deeper, in terms of eco-responsibility, when asked what priority action was taken in 2021, 42 percent of brands participating responded, “Partial reshoring of manufacturing to France or Europe,” which is up from 18 percent in 2020.  In addition, 27 percent of brands noted having reinforced sourcing in countries that respect social rights and environmental impacts, a bump increase from 23 percent in 2020.  

Regionalism extends beyond the EU. In a “Smart Voices” webinar hosted by Giusy Bettoni, CEO of C.L.A.S.S., in a discussion on “What’s next? 2022 Trends and Directions in 2022,”

Global fashion advisor Orietta Pelizzari, a strategic brand/retail specialist, stated, “Regionalism is back. It’s no longer one way that works for all. The world has been in a global mood for two years, but shifting to regional.”

She noted how Korea, parts of the Americans, Japan and China are becoming more distinct.  “There are different habits between these different regions. The pandemic has given back regional identity.” In relation to this, Pelizzari highlighted the importance of values aligning within a supply chain. “Tracing a product origin should be accompanied by tracing the values of the source.”

“The health crisis, rising raw material prices and supply problems are all issues forcing retail brands to rethink their supply strategies. We are witnessing a new momentum in favor of local sourcing.” – Gildas Minvielle, Director of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) Economic Observatory

The pandemic has focused attention on USA-made and the viability of strengthened support and investment in a domestic supply chain. “I think the pandemic, raw materials shortages, backed-up ports, trucking issues and staffing issues will contribute to permanent change in the textile business in the USA,” said Karen Buscemi, president and CEO of Detroit Sewn, who was quoted in a recent SEAMS newsletter that queried members industry status. “I just hope that the government will see this and help textiles and manufacturing infrastructure with favorable tax rates and other incentives that keep Americans employed and the USA more self-sufficient.”

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