Everyone knows how important relationships are in the fashion industry; they help carve the way to better product development, give access to superior material options, and open up new supply chains that can make or break a brand. At Apparelmark cultivating these relationships is the bread and butter of our business – and this is what we have learned about the best locations for some of the most popular product categories.
Active and Golf Performance
Few places in the world can do active sports apparel like the Asia based manufacturers; Taiwan specifically is the absolute best at performance knits (leggings, bras, etc). With competitive pricing, low minimums and unmatched quality, Taiwan remains the top choice for most active brands. For technical woven, we also recommend Japan or Korea for the premium or luxury sector of this market segment.
Trends in Active:
• Texture in the form of embossing or all-over-print to give an elevated performance look.
• Technical seamless knitwear inspired by golf or tennis.
Seamless, Swim, and Intimates
Seamless knitting is growing in popularity due to the increased adoption of the active living lifestyle and the relatively inexpensive cost involved in its production process. Sri Lanka is leading innovation in the category; however, it does command higher MOQ (product minimums) to qualify for a project. Otherwise, China has always been a proven source of quality made seamless wear.
For swimwear, Italy has a monopoly on the most luxurious fabrics in the world but has fallen behind other global competitors in their sewing and construction quality, so our recommendation is to look to Vietnam as one of the leading producers of seamless swimwear in the world.
Trends in Seamless:
• Seamless is popular in every category due to its perfect blend of fashion and sport.
• The popular vertical rib texture is moving toward fully fashioned looks inspired by sweaters.
• Cut-outs or crop styles on the up-trend.
Trends in Swimwear:
• Modesty and simplicity are trending.
• Long skirt sets, one-pieces, and swim t-shirts with sleeves (UV+).
With highly complex development projects like outwear, we suggest sampling with a low MOQ friendly manufacturer in China and then scale your production with a country like Myanmar for bulk production. With this unique supply chain combination, we found that we can offer low minimums while maintaining high-quality developments.
Due to the superb sourcing power of the Chinese open market, the opportunities to source custom hardware, bonded tapes, waterproof zippers, and shock cord systems are all possible and make for almost limitless outwear design possibilities.
Trends in Outerwear:
• Hiking and mountaineering inspire the jacket trends with full ski-jacket calibre technology in utilitarian minimal shapes that lend themselves to a mountain or city lifestyle.
• Puffy insulated jackets are channel-less and minimal with thin goose-down layers for transitional warmth.
• Utility jackets for ladies are cropped in length and oversized.
Natural Fibers and Loungewear
For cotton programs, the options are wide open with China, India, Turkey, Portugal, Thailand, and the USA all being great production options due to the relatively low management process involved. Portugal especially has been highly sought after by our clients of late as it offers access to some fantastic fabric options, but because of this rise in popularity with high fashion brands many Portuguese factories are booked making it very difficult for a new brand to get in.
As a result, we would recommend Turkey as the next great alternative. With its rich history of textiles and apparel creation, Turkey is a fantastic fit for your production needs. It’s too soon to say how long supply chains in Turkey will be impacted by the earthquakes. Though most production facilities are intact many people have lost everything. Cotton production and preparation are expected to be impacted. Several fashion organizations have sent donations to help those affected. If you want to help we recommend a donation to the Red Cross.
Another option to be considered is India as they are the number one producer of cotton worldwide and focus on sustainable cotton. USA vendors have a large setup of pre-coloured fabrics ready to go for small-scale projects.
Trends in Cotton:
• As polar fleece is downtrending, cotton fleece is back on the rise.
• Sweat suits are coming back with embroidered details and surface interest.
• Heritage or Varsity inspired graphics are on point.
• Wool or sweater inspiration is influencing the category resulting in a dressed-up sweat set.
Denim, Shirting, and Windbreakers
We have noticed a sharp incline towards high fashion production, specifically requesting production outside of China. When it comes to highly sustainable, high-fashion manufacturing we suggest working with specialty suppliers in Japan or Korea. The quality is great, the expertise is there, and Japanese denim remains to be the best in the world.
• Denim is trending in everything but jeans. Bomber jackets, shirt jackets, jogger pants, vests, coats, and dresses.
• Finishes are either Japanese dark raw denim or super light and washed.
• Wide-leg jeans are the fit but are better in a chino fabric with cargo pockets, or as a wide-leg dress pant.
Tech Wovens, Uniforms, and Suiting
For technical woven products, we suggest working with China for lower minimums or Vietnam if you can meet the higher minimum placement quotas. Like Portugal, Vietnam is a popular production location so higher minimums are required. Cambodia is also an option outside of China with lower minimum options, but neither location has the expertise of China. For suiting specifically Turkey is excellent, price competitive and highly specialized in wool suiting.
• Performance utility pants in ripstop or jacquard textures with belt buckle closures.
• Stretch hiking pant fabric with large functional pockets (the functional pant is key).
• For jackets, diamond quilting and innovation with fabrication (non-shine).
For high fashion fabrics and production, we suggest Japan, Korea, and Portugal. There are some suppliers that provide full package options (fabric and manufacturing) and are specialized in superb manufacturing quality for a higher price tag. For an economical option, sourcing fabric from Japan or Korea (fine cotton, silks, tencels, blends) and producing in China or Vietnam would be a good strategy for new brands or non-luxury segments. For novelty fabrics such as leather, cord, or woollens, the only place to get them is in Europe – Italy, France, or the UK.
Trends in Shirting:
• The classic white shirt is a key style to offer but in an updated way, like shirt dresses with collars and shirting fabric in skirts or pants.
• For men’s, shirts are done in pique knits for full stretch and mobility, with engineered collars.
Trends in Luxury:
• Leather is downtrending, and cord is trending up.
• Fashion classics such as woollens and Tencel, are used in sport-driven shapes for an understated luxury look.
Knitted Sweaters and Fleece
For fashion knitwear, we recommend China, or Romania out of the European options. While China has always been relied on for a variety of manufacturing requests from cashmere blends to modal, to synthetics; the newcomer Romania has proven to be a reliable source for heavier, more luxurious knits which requires a specific technique to be executed correctly. For superfine knits of wool or silk, Italy is still top of the top.
Trends in Knitwear:
• Knitwear is the fastest growing category across all segments.
• Form fitted shapes with innovative rib details, cutouts, “mesh venting”, and sweater-inspired details lead the trends.
• Contouring dresses, bodysuits, and sport-inspired sweaters are also styles to consider.
For accessories (bags, belts, hats, shoes, socks) we have many different partners specializing in a multitude of product offerings from leather goods to technical bags to hat specific suppliers. China has proven to be a top player in the field of everyday accessories, while the luxury sector continues to gravitate towards goods made in Europe.
• The Nylon bag trend is not slowing down, with its hybrid luxury/technical look it works well in streamlined backpacks, belt bags, and transformable totes bags.
• The sport style “running pack” is a key shape to go after as weekend getaways and hiking grow in popularity.
• For trims, chunky metal zippers, belt-inspired straps and suede or leather details take it up a notch.
If We Could Only Pick One
If you had to ask us what are the hottest trends that we are seeing we would say that we are loving seamless right now! It’s affordable and right on trend, perfect for a startup brand in the active space and can be a new direction for established brands. We also have developed a keen appreciation for the Chinese marketplace, despite the ongoing issues with their supply chain and the geopolitical situation. We have found that China makes it very difficult to compete against with its long-standing history of textiles, experienced sewers, strict production schedules, and willingness to work with unproven brands. We are always advocates for the truth behind the stigma and are always available to offer a willing hand in your next project. We invite you to browse through some of the apparel categories we recommend to see if our connections can help you elevate your brand to the next level!