Tohoku Textiles/Knits Manufacturer Tradeshow in NY Attracts More than 70 Well-known Brands
The Tohoku Regional Textiles/Knits Manufacturer Tradeshow, sponsored by JETRO, was held over two days on January 18th and 19th at the luxury New York hotel, The Setai New York. A total of 16 companies (5 textile companies & 11 knit companies) participated from Fukushima, Yamagata, and Iwate Prefectures lining up booths in approximately 230 square meters of space. Over the course of the event, over 70 renowned U.S. apparel brands visited and conducted business meetings.
Buyers from many famous brands such as Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Theory, and Juicy Couture visited. To promote this event, JETRO joined forces with 12 Japanese trading companies and textile agents in New York to create ?Team Japan?. Together, they encouraged many influential buyers to come participate in business talks and provided incentives to support Tohoku textile companies? U.S. sales outlet expansion.
President Katsuhiko Kawasaki of Katsu Kawasaki New York, who cooperated in the event as the JETRO textile coordinator, explained, "When the people who came to the U.S. for the first time to create employment in Tohoku took the approach of asking to be taught (what products are in demand in the U.S.), many more appointments than usual were made in a short period of time" When Jhane Barnes, a menswear designer and a member of the largest fashion industry organization in the U.S., the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), informed the president of the CFDA, Diane von Furstenberg, about the business talks, she provided unprecedented support by sending a notice to all members of the organization. More than 10 of the companies who attended had received that notice. Many other companies, including Alexander Wang, Chris Benz, and Daryl K., were introduced to the event and Japanese textiles through their participation in one of JETRO?s Buyer Invitation Programs. In these programs, JETRO offers overseas buyers the opportunity to visit production areas of Japan and interact directly with manufacturers. By giving U.S. companies the chance to see first-hand the intricacies of Japanese production, successful programs often lead to new creative partnerships between U.S. designers and Japanese manufacturers.
John Patrick, designer for the brand Organic, attended the first day of the show. When asked about his impression of the event he said, "I am happy that the Japanese government has taken the initiative to send people to New York from Fukushima and Yamagata to show their products and that the U.S. fashion community understands the serious attitude the Japanese manufacturing industry has toward fashion. I was particularly struck by the wool dyed with natural dye in the Fukushima tradition. There is a significant possibility that these products will sell throughout the world; the Fukushima dye crafts are displayed in a powerful format and are attractive. The business of my brand is expanding in Japan and Asia and I plan to expand future production in Japan using these textiles."
Some of the most popular items of the event were the linen knit products of Kenland, Inc. from Yamagata Prefecture. Their unique fabric senses impressed many buyers. Twenty-two companies, including Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs, requested swatches from Kenland and many others purchased expensive product samples (FOB price 60-260 dollars) used for t-shirts, camisoles, shawls, and jackets. The three textile buyers from J Crew were particularly enthusiastic about the selection saying, "We are inspired by the fact that it can be used inside out and by the draping properties. It makes it easy to get an image because products (clothes) using the samples have been displayed, rather than just the textiles."
DAISAN Co.?s fabrics from Fukushima were also very popular for their light and airy sensation. Described as a ?midair silk knit with twisted thread with a hollow center?, their fabric is a unique material patented by the company in Fukushima. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, and Thom Browne all requested swatches. DAISAN Co. even exhibited a dress made from that knit which garnered a lot of attention and seemed to really appeal to the taste of the New York designers.
There were many other remarkable pieces displayed at the event including: the piece-dyed jacquard made from triacetate from Hanyuda Fabric Co. (Yamagata), the firm but smooth and glossy silk from Saiei Orimono Co. (Fukushima), the double-knit cotton jersey made from santoni from Seino Corporation (Yamagata), and the vertical stretch polyester and triacetate/polyester fabrics with piles from Seibun Textile Company (Yamagata). The double weight satin from Arashida Silk Co. (Yamagata) also received a lot of praise. The buyer from Reed Krackoff was even heard saying, "It has been a long time since I have seen good silk." Nihon Home Spun (Iwate) and Okuyama Meriyasu LLC (Yamagata) were very popular for their distinctive fabics and production techniques. Nihon Home Spun presented theircomplex union cloth made of lamb and silk with French lilian not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, Okuyama Meriyasu was admired for thier denim-like and vintage-like processed cotton. Equally beautiful and intricate were the knitted fabrics and elaborately-detailed products of Hermano, Infinity, and Kanno Fabrics (all from Fukushima) which also attracted a lot of attention.
The Sato Seni Co., Ltd. of Yamagata was one of the few exhibiting companies to have already achieved results within the U.S. market. Nevertheless, the company president, Masaki Sato, was surprised at how successful the event was, saying, "I have been to many business talks up to this point and I think that it is amazing that this many apparel companies have come to see products only from Japanese manufacturers." The company?s exquisite yet plain baby alpaca and 15 micron wool were their most sought-after products at the event with swatch requests from 24 companies, including Doo.Ri, Rebecca Minkoff, and Rogan.
Many people who participated in the Tohoku Textiles/Knits Manufacturer Tradeshow were encouraged by the support they received and the overall success of the event. The president of Hit, LLC, David Isshiki, was one of the textile agents to provide his services to the exhibitors. He said, "It is great that the people who were selected to be invited were able to expand their appreciation. I would like to quickly create a structure to discuss ideas (about selling Japanese textiles in the U.S. market) while maintaining an awareness of the goals."
JETRO will also continue to support the business talks of the participating companies, will visit each of the apparel companies that attended to ask again what they require from Japan, and will be active in future business talks and buyer invitations.