MAGIC Trip Report: Kathleen pt.2

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Feb 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm / News and Events, Reviews, Sourcing, Textiles and Inputs / Trackback

Continuing from part one, I found WRAP in Infopod #2. WRAP stands for Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production. It’s described as “an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the certification of lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world”. The way it works is a contractor signs up and WRAP will send an auditor (an accredited affiliate, WRAP doesn’t conduct audits themselves) to study the organization according to acceptance standards. Once accepted, the contractor is entered into a sourcing database and is required to pay a $895 annual fee as well as agreeing to annual monitoring. WRAP also provides sourcing services to access the database for $1,000 a year but I notice you can search the site directly for nothing. Be advised there are three levels of compliance awarded; I don’t know that the website indicates a contractor’s compliance level.

In the same vein as the organization above is Bureau Veritas, another standards organization (they’re also a certified monitor for WRAP). Bureau Veritas seems to focus more on quality assurance and contractor compliance according to your specified standards. BV does a lot of product testing (fibers, garment etc) according to either ASTM standard specifications or whatever terms you define. Unfortunately, their site makes short shrift of available services; their information packet was much more educational. I was hoping to copy and paste the information in but as I said, the blurbs on their site aren’t going to convince anyone of the need of their services. Too bad, although definitely geared for big players, they offer a comprehensive range of impressive and very valuable product certification services. Their information packet (and CD Rom) should be available on their site.


Another organization I found was Labor Law Inc, their tagline reads the “Employer Defense Corporation” which -sounding so contentious- leads me to hope you never need their services. They’re operating in California but no mention is made of whether they’re licensed to practice in other states. Perhaps they’d refer you. Their site says

Labor Law Employer Defense Corporation provides labor law consulting and legal services exclusively for EMPLOYERS in the United States and South America, including Mexico. Labor Law Employer Defense Corporation provides an array of services which will proactively address all issues relating to employment law as it applies to your workplace.Avoid Lawsuits, Prevent employee disaccords, and Establish a fair and comfortable working environment.

Among the product sourcing booths -most were Asian firms and the choices were overwhelming- I found #21258, a supplier of organic Kapok fabric. Their minimums are stratospheric (30,000 yards) but I wanted to mention this because this is a very sustainable fiber and I wish it were more accessible. The lady I spoke with is named Nancy (). She explains that their US enterprise is very new but she is very eager to develop relationships with distributors here (and actually, happy to talk to any of you regarding your needs) so that they can more easily serve the designer market for organic fabrics. If you know anyone who is interested in this product, point them accordingly. I have every confidence that Kapok will become another sustainable alternative even though it is largely unknown at this time. With demand and a distribution network, I have no doubt we can get those minimums down.

Perhaps I should explain what Kapok is; it’s a tree born fiber. It looks like cotton but doesn’t require anywhere near the processing. Formerly it had only been used as filler for pillows and such but that is a poor use considering its benefits. Speaking of, Kapok is the lightest fiber in the world; 80% hollow with high thermal properties (60%-80% higher than polyester) which is why it is ideal as filler in down jackets and technical outerwear. It also makes great fabrics, including blankets. The hand is very soft. It reminds me of cashmere. It takes dye readily and can be woven in any configuration. I’m surprised a company like Patagonia isn’t using it. I’ll probably write more about it later but I have a learning curve to climb.

Then I went to US sourcing consortium with TC2 and the really big mills. There, they pretty much ignore you, or maybe it was just me. I didn’t collect any sourcing stuff because you just know it’s only accessible to the really big players. Sigh.

Off to the side, next to them though, I hit pay dirt. I found the Textile Technology Center and did the whole fiber geek-out thing with Michael Hubbard (National Council of Textile Organizations) and John Anderson, director of the Textile Technology Center at Gaston College. Ever heard of these guys? Me neither but I definitely want to know more. As it turns out, the TCC is kind of like the TC2 of fabric and they do fabric product development. They do incredibly fast turn around, like two weeks. They also do any kind of textile testing you can think of. This is one place I definitely want to visit; it’s all fiber technology. Boy, I wish I could swing a gig over in that part of the world (NC) to pay for my trip. I learned a lot of interesting things from these guys (as we debated sustainability vs organics). One interesting thing was, you know that fabric made from recycled plastic bottles (such as Repreve from Unifi) and how expensive it is? As it turns out, it’s expensive -not due to processing or recycling- but due to supply. They can’t get enough bottles. Who knew? As they explained to me, mills have gotten out of producing that fabric because they can’t get inputs in the door. It sounds like recycling programs need to be more comprehensive (plastics aren’t collected around here) or there’s a bottleneck in distribution. I really enjoyed talking to these guys, very open minded. Mike completely understood why I don’t have much sympathy for US textile producers who can’t renovate their practices to supply smaller companies. The TCC is a lobbying group, maybe we can lobby them :).

I think this post is long enough. More to come in part three…

8 Responses to “MAGIC Trip Report: Kathleen pt.2”

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BenO
February 20th, 2007
1:04 PM

Fabulous post Kathleen. Wish I would have gone. Thank you!

Oxanna
February 20th, 2007
4:11 PM

What I’ve heard about US mills not being very accessible is frustrating. I’m only planning my business, but I do not want to source fabric from China (although other countries may be an option). Sweatshops aside for the moment, I don’t feel right about supporting a government that won’t protect its citizens’ rights and collects organs from its prisoners.

There have to be US suppliers out there who will work with DEs. And there has to be a way of convincing the stubborn ones that they could make more money that way. :)

Kathleen
February 20th, 2007
4:41 PM

Fabulous post Kathleen.

Thanks Ben, shallow I may be, call it pats on the head but feedback is great. If everybody is too quiet, I think I’m boring everyone. I try to tell myself everybody is quiet because I haven’t left people any room to really make a comment or that they’re processing. But thanks.

If I do get too tiresome, you’ll let me know?

Mike Hubbard
February 21st, 2007
8:47 AM

Kathleen,

I did want to correct a misperception regarding US mills. NCTO’s focus in participating in MAGIC was to show what US mills can do and the vast array of products available throughout the supply chain. Small orders are an everyday event because that’s where much of the business is today. Even companies that focus on larger orders (which is due to the processes involved in producing certain items) are working with smaller lots. All of the groups that worked together to sponsor the US pavilion represent sectors of the US supply chain – SEAMS, the Hosiery Technology Center, The Hosiery Association, TC2, the Textile Technology Center, and NCTO – and we are committed to working together to meet customer needs, large and small, throughout each step of the supply chain. All of these groups meet important needs and do a great job representing their respective sectors.

We were surprised at the number of companies we met that were unaware of US production capabilities or the vast array of products available from US producers, but we are excited to have the opportunity to work with them. If any of your members are searching for fibers, yarns, or fabrics from US producers, please.

BenO
February 21st, 2007
9:16 AM

You are more than welcome!

I have yet to come across a post here that I don’t learn something from. Please don’t feel that if people aren’t saying anything that your experiences aren’t making a difference.

Although I am still in the startup phase, I wouldn’t be nearly as far along as I am now if it wasn’t for your book, blog, and forum.

And yes, if you do ever get tiresome I’ll be more than happy to give some constructive feedback :)

Jennifer Whisnant
February 21st, 2007
4:51 PM

Hi Kathleen,
I just read your trip report from MAGIC and it sounds like the show was very interesting this year. Seems as though the sustainability theme continues to weave its way through the show. I noticed your reference to Repreve® from Unifi and wanted to offer another angle. Repreve is a family of yarns manufactured from 100% recycled materials. Unifi doesn’t actually produce recycled fabric, only recycled yarn. Repreve is manufactured using both post-industrial and post-consumer waste. As for the supply of Repreve, Unifi has quantified it’s production capabilities and is confident in their ability to meet the market’s needs for 2007 and going forward. They have also identified additional waste streams for further demand. Thought these points might be interesting based on some of your conversations at the show.

Madz
June 29th, 2009
7:56 AM

Hi! I am really interested in knowing how will the Kapok be spun into a string or thread or be weave into fabric. My thesis group is trying or best to made it very usefull for any one especially to farmers of the Philippines. I hope you can write an article on where to find manufactures of it and people studying about the natural fiber. Thank you.

Kathleen
June 29th, 2009
11:04 AM

Hi Madz, the only source I have for Kapok is Nancy who I mentioned in the post. Textile science is very complex, I know the scant minimum one is required to study in school (two semesters). I know enough to leave it to the experts. Sorry I can’t help, Nancy is a better source.

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