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Fashion Trade Shows

Seattle International Textile Expo

This past August, we told you about the Northwest Fabric and Trim Show and what it offers to the textile sourcing community.  Well recently we learned the the show has rebranded itself as Seattle International Textile Expo (SITE) and is re-introducing itself this March with great vendors and lots of opportunity.

Seattle International Textile Expo

In an effort to learn about where this show has been, where it’s going, and what it has to offer to the textile and fashion communities, we sat down with producer Steven Matsumoto.

StUF: Do you think SITE is a show that can/should attract national attention?  If so , for what reason?  What does it have to offer that some of the others don’t?

SM: While SITE is a regional show because of our close proximity to British Columbia, which does not have its own sourcing show, I believe we are worthy of national attention for attracting both exhibitors and buyers from B.C. to Seattle.  Unlike most textile sourcing events we try to differentiate ourselves by attracting exhibitors that not only serve the major design houses and fabric retailers, but will also work with smaller manufacturers and designers by offering low minimums.  Some of our exhibitors have minimums as low as $50.

StUF: Who are some of the exhibitors we can expect to see at SITE?

SM: We have a long list of textile manufacturers, distributors, and converters attending our Spring 2012 event that can be found right here.  “New Exhibitors” are defined as someone that has never shown, or not been to the show in over two years.

StUF: What was the reason behind the new direction/branding of the show? What makes it better now?

SM: We rebranded the show because the prior brand of Northwest Fabric and Notions Show had earned a reputation as just being a quilt show.  However when we evaluated the buyers that were actually coming to the show, the retail quilting shops were actually in the minority.  Most of our attendees identified themselves as either manufacturers of sewn goods, or designers. Many potential buyers also had thought the show had gone out of business after it moved south of Seattle to the city of Renton.

Potential exhibitors also told us repeatedly they thought it was just for quilters which is why they didn’t participate.  A re-brand was necessary to attract suppliers back to the region, bring new energy to the event, and represent the British Columbia market.  We’ve also followed the example of other trade shows and added educational seminars.  We actually have registrations for our event from as far away as India and Egypt.

StUF:What are the goals of SITE?  How does it hope/plan to make an impact on the fashion and textile industries?

SM: Our mission is to serve the entire textile trade in the region.  We do not want to pigeon hole ourselves as just for fabric retailers, or designers, or sewn goods manufacturers.  We also want to serve the upholsterers, interior designers, and give organizations like Boeing, Nordstrom Product Group, Eddie Bauer, REI and Tommy Bahama an event they can attend in their back yard and save on travel expenses.  If they use textiles we want SITE to serve them.

Long term we would also like to produce similar events in other underserved markets looking for low minimum suppliers.  Several of our exhibitors have mentioned other regional shows that used to be common place, but have either disappeared due to the economy or poor management.  We’ve already been approached by organizations in Detroit, Denver, Phoenix and Washington D.C. about doing road shows in their areas.  If we’re to rebuild our great Nation’s apparel and textile trade we need to make it easier for start-ups and small businesses to have access to the raw materials they need.  That’s our goal…

StUF: Thanks Steven, we’re excited to hear that. We couldn’t agree more. 

Show Details:
March 11, 2012 12:00 p.m./5:00 p.m.
March 12, 2012 9:00 a.m./5:00 p.m.

Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue
1415 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

Fashion Industry Resources

Columbia University Grad Students Explore the State of the Garment District

Through By a Thread Project, two Columbia University graduate students, Dewi Cooke and Tahiat Maboob, spent 5 months exploring the state of New York City’s Garment District.  They ask:

What would New York be without a Garment District?

By A Thread Trailer from By A Thread NYC on Vimeo.

Amid finals week and a quickly approaching graduation date, the two women behind this project took a minute to answer a few questions about their work:

StUF: Please tell us a bit about each of you and how you came about this project.

BAT: Tahiat studied fashion design at FIT and practically lived in the Garment District for five years. During her studies and while working in the area, she developed an interest in the businesses and people still working in the District and what New York was losing in the face of overseas garment manufacturing competition. When she came to the J-school, she was also interested to discover that there were people who did not realize New York even had a Garment District.

Dewi had some experience covering social and workplace issues for her home paper in Melbourne, Australia, including the increasing loss of manufacturing jobs. She’d written about the cultural history of garment making and was interested in what happens to industries and workers when decades of knowledge start to disappear.

Both of us are in New York to study digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

StUF: What is the goal of By a Thread Project?

BAT: We wanted to provide a comprehensive look at the Garment District that didn’t only rely on telling the stories of its past. The specter of rezoning had been hanging over the District for a few years and we wanted to explore what the Garment District still meant for those who relied on it for their livelihoods, as well as offer a balanced view on what the future might (and should) hold, taking in the opinions of building owners and business people as well as those tied to the district through generations.

We also wanted to show that it was still very much a ‘living district’ and through the stories of Fatima Monkush and Nyla Hashmi, the designers of Queens-based womenswear label Eva Khurshid, we wanted to show how many specialized operators are involved in putting a single collection together.

StUF: What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned along the way?

BAT: It surprised us that there were not clear-cut divisions on the issue of what should happen to the district. Certainly, we encountered many people with strong views. But that did not mean they were averse to negotiating. Irrespective of whether they had been successful or not, people from fashion, real estate, manufacturing and the City, had tried several times to sit down and work out a solution that would satisfy all sides. It’s a shame that, as yet, they haven’t been able to agree on one.

It wasn’t a surprise, per se, but it also frustrated us that we weren’t able to talk with NYCEDC [New York City Economic Development Corporation] despite how deeply involved the agency’s been in these conversations.

StUF: What do you think is the future of the garment district?

BAT: The million dollar question. The consensus of everyone we spoke to was that it is unlikely to return to its glory days, when it provided for up to 20 percent of jobs in the city and much of the clothing sold in the United States. But there is a very real community that still exists there and emerging designers across the city rely on it to get a toehold into the industry – and that’s something most people agreed was worth investing in.

StUF: What are the next steps for By a Thread Project?

BAT: Mostly we would just like people to take the time to watch/read/absorb what we put together over five months and we’d love for it to be published on a bigger platform so that more people can see it.

By a Thread Project

We {StartUp FASHION} do hope that you, readers, will take the time to read what these two young women have put together.  Remember- you are the next generation of fashion designers and influencers.

Fashion Business Advice

The Power of a Cluster

clus·ter (klstr)
1. A group of the same or similar elements gathered or occurring closely together; a bunch.

A Cluster as it applies to Fashion?

A community of artisans all with common or complimentary skills, working together to create a collection of clothing with some meaning behind it.  The antithesis of fast fashion production.

Flickr Photostream; The Lawleys

As you probably know by now, we here at StartUp FASHION have a love and appreciation for the craft behind fashion. Yes, we talk about it a lot.   It’s not that we want to overwhelm you with an over saturated topic, it’s just that we truly believe that this is the direction in which fashion is headed; an inward focus on the hands behind the craft.

And those hands, make up the clusters that through skill and artisanship, remind us of the heritage that goes into textile and garment creation.

Why do we love fashion?

Let’s think about this. The answer is different for everyone of course, but we’re willing to bet that the majority of fashion lovers are who they are because they have a connection to, admiration of, or affection for the the way a garment looks, how a fabric feels, the color story, the drape, the silhouette…it’s an art form and should always be regarded as one.

The problem is, all too often, as success starts to approach, designers tend to get lost.  They often forget why they are doing what they do and who is helping them along the way, i.e. the pattern makers, the cutters, the seamstresses, the hands. The cluster.  Craft gets lost and mass market, fast fashion rules start to wiggle their way in to a brand that once focused on creating clothing the old fashioned way.

Now, we’re not delusional.  We understand that creating a sustainable and profitable business is the only way to truly achieve success.  Otherwise you’re just making pretty clothes and hoping someone will buy them. That’s not going to work. We get that.  But we also get that the fashion industry of yesterday is not the fashion industry of tomorrow.  From unstable raw materials to quickly increasing labor costs, labels both large and small, are learning that they can no longer whole heartedly depend on the full package or overseas approach.

While this may seem scary, we don’t think it is.  What we do think is that this a way for brands to return to history of their craft and start utilizing and highlighting the community of skilled workers who help bring a sketch to reality.

All of you, entering into this highly competitive field of fashion design, have the opportunity to create your labels in a way that showcases the skills that go into making high quality and aesthetically beautiful clothing. Rather than making your goal be to get to the “Target Capsule Collection” stage, why not focus on designing and creating well made, high quality collections that embrace the craft behind what you do?

Please keep in mind that we’re not necessarily talking about weavers in India or seamstresses in South America or tailors in Italy.   A cluster can simply be working with a pattern maker, cutter, and factory in New York or Seattle or North Carolina!  It’s about the community.  It’s about appreciating and compensating and highlighting the skilled workers. It’s about the heritage.

Some brands have tried to introduce the concept in their work.  In September of 2010, Prada took notice of the consumer interest in artisanship with its “Made In” campaign.  While we applaud the marketing savvy behind this initiative, we wonder why Prada could not continue to adopt these practices in their label creation. What a fantastic example a well known and respected brand could have set.

Prada Made In Collection

So, in conclusion, we just want to express {again} how important we think it is to create a business model around producing clothing that highlights the art of fashion and the community behind the craft.  At these early stages of creating your business you are in the perfect position to take a long hard look at what you are doing and why you are doing it.  There is so much opportunity, try not to ignore it.

Fashion Trade Shows

WWD MAGIC Keynote: People & Planet; Sustainability Out of the Box

Sustainability and ethical practices within the fashion industry is an initiative about which I care a lot.  I don’t see why such practices can’t be intrinsically threaded through a brand, at its core, even if said brand does not wish to market these traits.  I realize that some brands fear that they will be labeled “granola” and come across as hippie if they implement a responsible business model.  I happen to disagree.  I think, if done properly, a designer can remain true to his/her aesthetic while still achieving a mission they can be proud of.

Marci Zaroff, a globally recognized environmental activist, and founder of the brand FASE, had a lot to say on the topic. From where the fashion and textile industries currently stand on sustainable design to the importance of creating a stylishly responsible collection, her motto of Looking Good, Feeling Good, Doing Good, came through in her speech at WWD MAGIC last week.

Another speaker at People & Planet was Richard Sanford the founder of Operation Warm, one of the largest non-profits donating new coats to impoverished children. The program was started by Richard over a decade ago because he realized that children in America are freezing. He purchased 58 coats from a local department store and worked with the area rotary club to distribute the coats to children in need.Now having just given a coat to its one millionth child, the non-profit is making quite a difference in a lot of lives.

Operation Warmth

Currently, Operation Warm has added a green initiative to its already impressive work. The organization is currently in the process of making children’s coats out of recycled plastic bottles.  They want to make their work even more sustainable through finding full package suppliers within this hemisphere.  Not an easy task, with most all-inclusive manufacturing work being done in China.

The next speaker, Joseph Blumberg, spoke about his work with Codevi Group; an organization that has worked to create a sustainable transformation of the people in Haiti. Codevi has brought manufacturing and trade to Haiti, allowing for its people to work and make a decent living while manufacturing the labels we, as consumers, know and love. Brands like DKNY, Levi’s, and Banana Republic have all utilized the manufacturing facilities that have been set up in Haiti.

Joseph Blumberg and Maria Bello
Joseph Blumberg and Maria Bello discussing their work in Haiti

Blumberg truly believes that by making a conscious decision, brands can impact people and planet while remaining economically viable. Don’t look at is as spending, look at it as investing.

Finally, the keynote rapped up with a talk by Maria Bello, well known actress and activist for Haiti, who admitted to “not even liking fashion all that much”.  Her purpose in being part of the panel, was to share the work she has been doing and the accomplishments that have been made with people who have the power to make a difference.  Holding various positions within the fashion industry, the audience has the power to make real change; the ability to give opportunity.

Fashion Industry Resources

Closet Tour’s Garment District Video.Fashion Made In New York.

As creative minds entering into the fashion world, you are perched on the edge,  ready to take flight. Your ultimate goal may be to create a conglomerate, mass producing your products over seas or it may be to create a smaller scale, meaningful label that really embraces slow fashion. Either way you will need to start somewhere. In most cases you will be starting in New York City; a place that was once bustling with skillful craftspeople.

These days, the service sector of the garment district has shrunken, significantly, but it hasn’t disappeared. In the coming month, I will be touring some these amazing places where you, as designers, can utilize their services to bring your illustrations and ideas into fruition.

Right now, I am so darn focused on preparing for #WWDMAGIC, wanting to make sure that I write up some fantastic content for my readers,  that I can’t quite think about touring the garment district. But by the end of the month, I will have some great posts on that, promise.

In the meantime, check out this video by Jenni Avins of Closet Tour. It’s a great intro to the possibilities and resources that remain in the Manhattan Garment District.  I’m looking forward to building upon it.

CLOSETTOUR Webisode 3: Making It from Jenni Avins on Vimeo.