The key is product differentiation. The challenge is actually doing it.
Interfiliere Hong Kong (March 20-21 got off to a buoyant start - much better than we expected, given the generally slow consumer markets and the fact that intimate apparel has been seeing weak sales.
The fair was dominated by Chinese suppliers, but included a handful of exhibitors from other Asean nations, most notably from Indonesia.
As with other fairs, it seems that the challenges facing brands and retailers have prompted buyers to make a bigger effort to look for new developments, even if ultimately they will end up sticking with basics.
From Focused to Fragmented
Still, it's a step in the right direction. For many suppliers the strategy was to try and be able to tackle more than one market sector. While intimate apparel might be their main market, most were trying to see if they could cross over into either ready-to-wear or active sportswear.
Like it or not, everybody realizes that they need to diversify. Staying focused is a nice concept, but grabbing any sale you can is a matter of survival. So companies are continuing to reach out to more market categories and geographic markets.
Peggy Risna Dewi at PT. Sinar Para Taruna said that her company was fortunate to sell to both ready-to-wear, as well as intimate apparel companies. Other companies were banking solely on intimate apparel, where competition was fierce.
Tech-driven innovation was proving to be a winner for 3T, which specializes in heat transfer prints that have a chameleon effect. Unlike digital prints, the heat transfer process allows the design to reflect light and thus creates that color-shifting effect.
According to Zilvanis Svigaris, the company does 60-70 percent of its business with the apparel sector, but sells to the automotive and other industries as well.
Nonetheless, when asked about their outlook for business in the coming year, most people were at least cautiously optimistic. Still, no one denied they are facing a tough market.
And unlike in other years where one market might be good and another market might be a bit weak, this time suppliers agreed that all markets are struggling.
Focus on Function
New developments at Interfiliere Hong Kong focused on performance, primarily fabrics with improved stretch properties. Continual development to create even soft touch and cool touch fabrics was also important.
Flocking was popular in many collections, especially on mesh grounds. So were shimmering effects, which add an eye catching, luxurious look to solid and jacquard fabrics. Hints of metallic were also important, adding a bit of glamor to intimate apparel - something that has a lot of consumer appeal.
Lace developments featured richer patterns with 3D effects. Patterns were larger, bolder and more dramatic. While geometrics were being heralded as most popular in Western markets, florals remain the bestsellers for Asian markets.
The rush of product innovation is giving buyers plenty of choice. For those bold enough to bring it through in new collections, there’s a real opportunity to win over consumers.