During the return edition of LA Textile at the California Market Center in downtown Los Angeles, apparel makers and creatives were welcomed back to the trade-show floor to find inspiration following the event’s hiatus, which began after its March 2020 edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the Sept. 29–Oct. 1 event, 1,500 attendees and 130 exhibitors from across 18 countries met to discuss textile-sourcing options.
In addition to networking and buying opportunities, LA Textile offered a full schedule of information sessions that provided expert analysis regarding sourcing, production and design trends. On Sept. 30, the event hosted a full-day intensive Sustainability Certificate Workshop presented by Fashiondex.
In town from Seattle, Irena Zilina was visiting LA Textile to source silks and find color inspiration for her business, Lingerina Zilina, which had evolved and shifted during the pandemic. Zilina began as a lingerie maker yet transitioned into silk masks, scrunchies and hair bands during 2020. Now ready to return to the brand’s roots in intimates, Zilina was preparing to introduce the lingerie that Lingerina Zilina’s loyal customers have been craving.
“Some colors are popular because of specific areas. I am from the Northwest, and it’s all about gray, beige, navy and black. If you go to Los Angeles, it’s floral prints in pink, turquoise and light colors,” Zilina explained. “Young customers like neon colors, but customers around my age like silk and luxury. I wanted to meet in the middle. Luxury in neon.”
Visiting LA Textile for the first time, Zilina was happy to connect with suppliers and peers in person following a year defined by stay-at-home orders and Zoom meetings.
“My main goal is to find silk suppliers and Pantone color swatches, which is great for custom-dyed colors,” said Zilina. “There are networking opportunities. I am having a great time since it was hard to keep yourself motivated when we didn’t see people so much and you felt isolated.”
In addition to the joy of meeting with associates in person, another pandemic byproduct was the increased interest in local resources as nearshoring becomes more popular. Faced with supply-chain challenges, many in the apparel industry are now seeking options to diversify.
“We have a lot of people who want their products made in America,” said Albert Huh of Vernon, Calif.’s Royal Textile Print, Inc. “It’s been going well. It’s our first year here. It’s been pretty good.”
While there is currently a demand growing for domestic sourcing, Huh noted that the trend toward diverting the supply chain overseas has had an impact on his business. It is Huh’s hope that the interest in United States–made goods will create an uptick in his segment of flatbed textile printing.
“Textile printing in the United States has died off a lot. Most of the industry has moved overseas to China, even down south to Central America,” Huh explained. “This is an effort that we’re making to get ourselves out there, have people make their products in the U.S. more and print in the U.S.”
Many exhibitors and visitors noted a focus on ecologically sound options, with 73 percent of companies showcasing sustainable offerings. Visiting the show for the first time from Greenville, S.C., Matthew Moreau, creative director of The Landmark Project, which celebrates public lands such as national parks through different products including apparel, was searching for heavier-weight sustainable materials as the brand prepares to expand its clothing line.
“The heavier-weight sustainable materials are really hard to find. At that point, organic cotton gets really expensive. We’re looking at blends that are in the 200 gram and higher weight to do sweatshirts and fleeces but still have a sustainability story,” Moreau said. “Some of the factories we work with can’t even find that so I came to find it myself. I am also looking for good flannels. We’re hoping to do some wool or wool-blend flannels in 2023.”
As a buyer who typically attends outdoor-lifestyle trade shows, Moreau was impressed with the options that were available to a business the size of The Landmark Project. There was a sense of optimism stemming from attending a textile show that leveled the field for operations of any size.
“You can be a small brand and this is still relevant to you,” explained Moreau. “Almost everybody I talked to has really created a process that helps people who are just getting started, whether its making samples easily, low minimum quantities, stocking fabrics, things like that.”
At the Rex Fabrics booth, the Los Angeles textile business saw local buyers and those from Texas and the East Coast, including New York. Representatives Jay Wetherald and Rachel Ratonel noted interest in sustainable fabrics.
“For us, we are definitely more into the athleisure and eco-friendly fabrics with the recycled polys. Muted earth tones and rose golds are still the thing,” Wetherald said. “[At this show,] you can find trims, fabrics, sourcing—you can find everything. This is one of the few shows where you can find everything on one floor for small manufacturing. Local manufacturing is very hot.”