The third installment in this five-part series tackles the challenges faced by the apparel hub.
Despite a 19 percent improvement in export value last year, garment makers in Jiangsu province remain cautious as the increase is mainly attributed to higher prices. The area shipped about 6.3 billion pieces in 2011, generating $22.4 million. Volume rose more than 6 percent.
The markup in quotes comes amid industry challenges such as heightened material and labor spending. In particular, cotton fiber costs continue to rise, albeit not as radically as in 2010. Nonetheless, this is affecting downstream products from yarn to apparel. Further, many exporters have been pushed to augment wages by 20 to 30 percent annually.
Another factor is the yuan’s appreciation. Last April 2012, the People’s Bank of China announced that the US dollar-yuan exchange rate will now range from 0.5 to 1 percent. To avoid losses, suppliers are pressured to add a 1 percent cushionto prices instead of the previous 0.5 percent. Analysts, however, project that the change may strengthen risk resistance.
Compounding the situation is the decrease in demand from traditional markets such as the EU, the US and Japan. Ongoing financial woes in the first two areas are major factors. As for the East Asia country, the March 2011 earthquake created a shift in buying behavior, with consumers now prioritizing energy efficiency. Resultantly, customers are more concerned about practicality rather than trendiness.
To offset the drop in orders, several companies are targeting the emerging ASEAN market. Transactions from the region, however, remain small compared with those from conventional destinations. Further, the shipments often consist of lower-priced releases.
Makers likewise face growing competition from less expensive manufacturing hubs in Asia.
Products & prices
More Jiangsu suppliers of fall and winter garments are turning to environment-friendly materials. Regenerated fabrics such as modal, rayon and viscose are common. Repreve, a type of recycled fiber, is also gaining traction. Organic cotton, silk and soybean protein fiber are adopted as well.In terms of colorants, makers are employing reactive dyes and water-based ink, which are more ecologically safe alternatives. These are usually procured from BASF, Clariant and Kiian.
Jiangsu’s apparel selection for the colder months includes outerwear, clothing with down, and wedding and evening dresses.
The latest men’s jacketsare reversible, slim-fit designs that fall above or at the hip. Single or double stand-up collars, multiple pockets and detachable hoods are common. The garments may be yarn-dyed or printed entirely with stripes, plaids or geometric patterns. Some have embroidered patches and epaulets.
Women’s counterparts reach the waist or a little over the hip. The products are tapered or slightly loose, and adopt a round, stand-up or no collar. Several are double-breasted. A number of releases incorporate puffed or trimmed shoulders, and a pleated bottom half. Ruffles, lace or applique adorn the placket. Flower brooches provide another embellishment option.
Low-end jackets, which are $10 to $18, are made of nylon, polyester, cotton or their blends. Up to 5 percent spandex may be mixed in. Lined garments use T/C, or 190 to 210 tex polyester in a poplin or taffeta construction. Ribbed cuffs, and coil zipper or snap-button closures are utilized. There are one or two pockets.
Quoted at $19 to $25, midrange designs employ cotton, polyester, T/C, viscose, acetate or rayon polar fleece or jacquard. Among the interior fabric choices are 190 to 210 tex nylon and 210 tex polyester. Reversible styles with a woven and a knitted side are available. One- or two-way plastic or metal zippers, and metal buttons are incorporated. Computer-embroidered motifs are typical.
High-end pieces are between $26 and $32. The shell may be pure cotton, polyester, wool, or wool blended with nylon, polyester or cotton in a microfiber or jacquard construction. Functional textiles from South Korea and Japan are also used. Releases are lined with more than 210 tex polyester. Branded metal zippers, novelty-shaped buttons and drawstring are adopted.
As for coats, double-breasted styles are the best-sellers. Longer designs often have a single slit at the back. Women’s models usually accentuate the waist via A-line constructions, self-fabric or synthetic leather belts, or buttoned tabs at the back. Simple and feminine trimmings, including lace, beading, piping, and handmade rosettes and ruffles, are utilized. Designs for males have minimal decoration.
Men’s low-end coats are priced at $25 to $30, while variants for women are $20 to $27. The shell is made of pure polyester or blended fabric, while the interior is polyester. Unlined variants are offered. Plastic buttons are used.
Midrange products for males are between $31 and $55, and those for females are $28 to $50. Exterior fabric that contains 40 to 90 percent wool is typical. Polyester is adopted for the inner material. Synthetic fur may be placed along the collar and hood for women’s styles.
Releases that exceed $50 are considered high-end. They utilize 100 percent wool or 90:10 to 96:4 wool-cashmere. Polyester, viscose and rayon are the lining options.
Some coats for females incorporate fox or raccoon dog fur on the collar or hem. Others have novelty floral-shaped or 3D buttons. Handmade rosette, ruffle, lace and bead trimmings may be employed.
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