Textiles Intelligence is a specialist publishing company, providing research-based business information on the international fibre, textile and apparel industry. The company was formed in 1992 as a spin-off from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Textiles Intelligence reports are read by senior executives in the industry who need to support their strategic planning decisions – relating to international markets, sourcing, product development and much more. International trade organisations also rely on Textiles Intelligence reports to provide an overview of the key issues which affect, and will affect the future of, the global textile supply chain.
Belinda Carp identifies the key factors affecting the global textile industry in 2016, from the introduction of 3D printing to the increasing popularity of athleisure apparel.
Q1. What are the biggest trends in the textiles industry in 2016? What factors are driving these trends and what else can we expect to see this year?
Biggest trends – the slowdown of economic growth in China which is affecting global demand for, and the prices of, fibres, textiles and clothing; falling shares of Chinese textiles and clothing in EU and US imports; the emergence of new sourcing locations as China becomes less competitive; changes in the competitiveness of different sourcing locations; “reshoring”; innovations in technology; sustainability; transparency along the supply chain; and the implementation of schemes to reduce the hazardous chemicals used in apparel.
Driving factors – the falls in shares of Chinese textiles and clothing in EU and US imports are due largely to rising costs in China, motivating buyers to look to other sources; changes in the competitiveness of different sourcing locations are being driven by exchange rate movements, rises in minimum wage levels and changes in preferential access to the US and EU markets; the need for companies to be seen implementing CSR/sustainability and cost saving initiatives; by-products of such initiatives are increased efficiency (eg energy) which results in cost savings; and reduction in waste (eg processes along supply chain, such as reduction in number of prototypes made).
The issues around the reduction of hazardous chemicals in apparel have been driven (and continue to be) by Greenpeace. The increasing popularity of athleisure apparel is being driven by consumer demand for garments which are suitable for wearing during multiple activities such as commuting, working and gym training. Comfort has become an important factor in the design of workwear, as it has been found that workers are more likely to wear personal protective clothing if it is comfortable to wear.
Q2. What have been the most impressive developments and innovations in the global apparel industry over the past five years? How are these innovations benefiting apparel production?
In addition to the trends and drivers mentioned in Q1, some of the most impressive developments and innovations include the introduction of digital printing and 3D printing. Digital printing is beneficial as it consumes less water compared with conventional textile printing processes. Importantly, digital printing and 3D printing processes produce very small amounts of waste and are therefore environmentally sustainable. Also, they can allow manufacturers to produce customised products in a cost effective manner.
Another important development is that of new fibres which intrinsically offer benefits and reduce the number of chemical processes required in their manufacture. Examples of such fibres include a fibre which is made from a biopolymer derived from the oil of castor beans, and synthetic spider silk. Also, several high quality fibres are now being produced using materials derived from recycled waste – including waste cotton fabric and waste plastic bottles.
Q3. What have been the biggest challenges the global textile and apparel market has faced over the past five years? How do market participants respond to these challenges?
Biggest challenges - economic pressures, as a result of global recession; rising minimum wage levels; and spotlight from Greenpeace etc on the environmental issues; also working conditions in low-cost economies, highlighted by the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh.
Response – identifying and investing in new sourcing and manufacturing locations to avoid countries where minimum wage levels are rising rapidly; new sources searching innovation in technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs; transparency across supply chain – and initiatives which allow consumers to trace the source of garments from cotton field to retailer.
Q4.What are the most impressive advancements in the wearable technology market? How is the technology impacting the performance apparel market?
Most impressive advancements – too many to mention, in PPE and medical sector, as well as in the sports and fitness field. For example, applications in military clothing which enable the wearer to be tracked and monitored, and applications in medical applications which enable patients to be monitored at home so that they don’t have to stay in hospital post op.
Impacting on the performance apparel market – the ability to transmit direct from the wearer to a computer elsewhere has opened up massive scope to designers. The functionality intended for medical and military applications are being incorporated into sportswear.
Q5. What other industry do you find the most interesting outside of the ones you cover? Have you ever considered covering this industry?
PASS! Not considered any other industries. We’d need to change our name!
As we can see from Belinda’s answers, performance fibres and fabrics are being used increasingly in day-to-day apparel as a result of the popularity of athleisure apparel. Even workwear is being designed so that it is as comfortable as day-to-day apparel, while also providing a high level of protection.
She also touches on some of the latest advancements in wearable technology, which we discussed in detail in Monday’s blog, and how the slowdown of economic growth in China is affecting global demand for textiles.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank Belinda for her time and for providing us with such in-depth responses to our questions.
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About the Interviewee:
Belinda Carp has worked at Textiles Intelligence since 1997, and is responsible for the company’s sales, marketing and customer service department. Her introduction to the textile and apparel industry was in a small company in the early 1980s which designed and manufactured an innovative range of horse clothing, uniforms for the UK mounted police, and all-weather wear for equestrian, fishing and other outdoor pursuits.