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Demand for tailored suits to resurge as pandemic restrictionsCOVID-19 has changed office dress codes forever as tailored suits are a rarity these days. In fact, even before the pandemic, the general trend was towards dressing down. The pandemic further accelerated this trend with Refinery’s business dropping by almost 80 per cent during the period, says As Stanton Ho, Co-founder of menswear establishment Refinery.

Low returns compel store closure

In a report in the South China Morning Post, Sian Powell writes, the decline of tailored suits has compelled Ho and his partners to close their bespoke tailoring store in Hong Kong and shift focus to online business and flagship store in Tsim Sha Tsui. The company generates almost 95 per cent of its business from local market that is currently hit by Hong Kong’s strict border restrictions and its pandemic related rules.

Like Refinery, 200-year-old US company Brooks Brothers was also forced to close last year due to the pandemic. It plans to re-launch withDemand for tailored suits to resurge as pandemic restrictions ease renewed focus on casual and leisurewear including knits this year. Parent company of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS brands, Tailored Brands had to shut 1,400 stores and file for bankruptcy. The company laid-off 1,800 workers.

Similarly Aoyama Trading, Japan’s corporate apparel manufacturer, had to close 130 stores and restructure 400 of them. It also had to layoff hundreds of employees like its contemporaries Konaka and Haruyama Holdings. The government’s drive to promote casual office wear has depressed the demand for tailored suits in Japan.

New office wear trends emerge

Chinos, jeans, shorts and T-shirts have emerged as the new office wear with casualwear increasingly being accepted as official dress code by consumers. Accelerated by the pandemic, this global shift to casual wear has been under way since the last few years. World War I made men’s fashion more practical with knee-length waist coats giving way to short jackets. Standard tailored business suits dominated people’s minds for decades before COVID-19-led disruptions ushered in a new era of relaxed dressing.

Yet, Roshan Melwani, Managing Director, Sam’s Tailor opines, the power and identity provided by a suit cannot be dismissed so easily. Operational since 1956, the establishment has several celebrity clients including the former US president Bill Clinton, politician Sarah Palin, film star Russell Crowe, singer Rod Stewart and former tennis star Boris Becker.

The store has launched a DIY online fitting service for clients unable to attend personal fitting sessions. The service works well for customers as it enables them to return their garments incase of inappropriate fittings. Sam’s Tailor gets six to eight clients enquiries every day. The store is confident of business returning to normal in future.

Easing restrictions to make suits more casual

Dean Cook, Head-Menswear, Browns, also believes, demand for well-made tailored suits and separates will continue to grow even if the demand for formal shirts and ties declines. The brand recently launched a made-to-measure tailoring service in partnership with Ermenegildo Zegna to create more separates. Cooks also predicts a future rise in demand for travel suits and casual suits that can be worn easily. He witnessed this trend particularly at the menswear trade show Pitti. The general trend witnessed during the show was for less structured tailoring, he adds.

The formal suit is here to stay, says Melwani who holds border restrictions rather than changing tastes responsible for the current slump in tailoring. Its demand will resurge as pandemic restrictions ease and life returns to normal.

  

Vardhaman Textiles reported a 589.5 per cent jump in net profit during the second quarter ended June 2021 fromRs 64.29 crore to Rs 314.70 crore. The company’s net sales during the quarter rose by 135.72 per cent to Rs 1,926.97 from Rs. 817.47 crore in June 2020.

Its EBITDA increased by 1163,67 per cent to Rs. 523.79 crore in June 2021 from Rs. 41.45 crore in June 2020. Vardhman Group is a major integrated textile producer in India. The Group is today the largest textile conglomerate in India. Vardhman portfolio includes and marketing of yarns, fabrics, sewing threads, fibre and alloy steel. The group was setup in 1962 in Ludhiana.

  

US textile and apparel imports were up 22.6 per cent in May 2021 compared with the same period in 2019, reveals CCF Group stats. Both US apparel imports volume and value moved up sharply year-on-year and month-on-month but they were close to or lower than the level in 2019. Therefore, the import volume and value did not recover to the level in the same period of 2019.

In May, US textile and apparel import average unit price decreased compared with the previous month. From May 2020 to May 2021, the average unit price has been in shock, with a certain regularity. In May 2021, the average unit price continued to decline month-on-month. The unit price of US textile and apparel imported from China has dropped greatly since the second half of 2019. The sharp decline in average unit price may be due to dropping price of China's export commodities, on the one hand, and the change in the commodity structure of US textile and apparel imported from China, on the other hand.

From January to May, the proportion of US textile and apparel imported from China decreased by 1.6 percentage points and 6.4 percentage points compared with the same period in 2019, and the volume and value of apparel also dropped.

  

US apparel and footwear imports from China declined to 37.9 per cent in 2019. It was 50.7 per cent in 2010. Similarly, the EU’s imports from China declined to 36.1 per cent in 2019, from 47.6 per cent in 2010.

Bangladesh and Vietnam have benefited the most due to the shift in apparel and footwear exports from China. In 2019, both countries’ combined share of apparel and footwear exports to the US and the European Union (EU) equaled half of China's share. Vietnam is more focused on the US, while Bangladesh focuses more on the EU for a number of reasons. Vietnam produces more value added items, which are received at comparatively higher prices. In contrast, Bangladesh exports large quantities but gets low prices.

Bangladesh's apparel and footwear exports share to the US increased to 4.3 per cent in 2019, which was 3.5 per cent in 2010. The country's export share to the EU stood at 13.2 per cent in 2019, up from 6.6 per cent in 2010. Vietnam's export share to the US and the EU rose to 14.9 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively in 2019. Vietnam's shares to these two traditional markets were 6.6 per cent and 4 per cent respectively in 2010.

  

China Sewing Machinery Association (CSMA) will be held from September 26 to 29, 2021. The theme is smart manufacturing, intelligence enabling and wisdom gathering. It aims at enhancing the sewing sector’s competitiveness so as to secure an upper hand in the global arena and make more contributions to China’s manufacturing strategy. The event will exhibit a wide range of intelligent achievements and technical solutions, which could assist downstream users in solving problems related to changing market demands and render a win-win situation across the whole industrial chain. The exhibition will offer image, design, information guidance and logistics support.

CSMA is the main window and the biggest stage of the world sewing machine industry. The humanized smart sewing factory is also being transformed from a mere idea into a substantial, sensible and usable reality, which is widely used in the downstream fields of clothing, home textiles and leather. The industry has made remarkable achievements in integrating multiple industrial platforms, while at the same integrating consulting, designing, manufacturing, warehousing and service in a single body and covering the related upstream and downstream industrial sectors.

CSMA has balanced the pandemic control requirements with exhibition preparations. Modifications have been made in response to pandemic prevention regulations.

  

Prada sees strong sales growth in the second half of the year. Total revenues of the Italian fashion group jumped by 66 per cent at constant exchange rates. The global health emergency last year interrupted two years of sales recovery at Prada, the result of a revamp plan focused on boosting e-commerce and sticking to full-price sales. Like the rest of the luxury sector, the group started to see the first signs of a rebound last summer after the key Chinese market eased anti-contagion restrictions.

Sales from Prada’s store network were eight per cent above their level in the first six months in 2019, even through a sixth of shops were still closed during that period. There was a strong acceleration in the second quarter. Asia and the Americas exceeded pre-pandemic levels, while revenues in Europe - where shops remained closed longer - were still 29 per cent lower than two years ago. Once stores re-opened, sales partially recovered. Robust demand from local customers partially offset the lack of tourists in the region. E-commerce grew by 100 per cent or more compared with a year earlier. Online sales now accounts for seven per cent of retail revenues.

The industry is now steaming ahead as lockdowns have been relaxed around the world.

  

In the second quarter Puma’s sales increased 95.8 per cent. All regions and product divisions contributed with at least double-digit sales increases. Footwear was the growth driver. Also, apparel and accessories showed strong growth. Compared to the second quarter of 2019, sales were up 36.3 per cent with all regions and product divisions delivering double-digit increases.

The second quarter was a good quarter for Puma. Despite many operational issues, the brand saw very strong growth both in sales and profitability. Puma’s wholesale business grew 114.2 per cent. The direct to consumer business increased by 54.7 per cent with growth in owned and operated retail stores and e-commerce. After stores gradually reopened in the second quarter, demand shifted partially from the e-commerce channel to retail stores, while the overall underlying demand for the Puma brand was strong. The gross profit margin in the second quarter improved 360 basis points to 47.5 per cent. The improvement in gross profit margin was driven by better sell-through and less promotional activity, while inefficiencies in the supply chain including inbound freight had a negative impact.

Operating expenses increased by 34.5 per cent due to higher marketing expenses as well as sales-related distribution and warehousing costs.

  

Klim Glas, CEO and President, has urged the Biden government to utilize the Berry Amendment to increase domestic content rules for federal government purchases. Glass said, NCTO commends the Biden administration for awarding contracts for 22.2 million Berry-complaint masks in March this year. Their production according to the Berry rules will bolster the full production chain, he added.

The US administration is seeking to backfill the Strategic National Stockpile with essential products and NCTO, with other industry associations and labor unions urging the administration to continue purchasing Berry-compliant products for PPE. This is essential to bolster its domestic industrial base at a time when PPE orders have diminished. Further, NCTO believes Berry rules should be applied to other mission critical products purchased by non-Defense federal departments and agencies like Homeland Security, Glass added.

Fully maximizing purchase of Berry complaint products will help sustain the progress made to date and form an essential part of the administration's onshoring and industrial expansion efforts, he added.

  

In an open letter to European Commissioners Didier Reynders and Thierry Breton, Kalpona Akter, Head, Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity has called for strong rules against labor rights violations and access to justice for victims. The new rules should include mandatory value chain transparency so that everyone can easily trace a company’s production sites, or a T-shirt’s origin, Akter urges. Every year in April, when the survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse get together in memory of those who had died in the rubble, she is reminded what happens if workers’ rights are left to voluntary commitments, and what it takes for the victims to access remedy.

Akter says, the rules should ensure every company identifies, prevents and mitigates human right risks in its whole value chain, including the company’s own purchasing practices. She is a member of Clean Clothes Campaign’s global strategy board that has put forward concrete proposals for binding rules aimed at ensuring responsible business conduct in ‘Fashioning justice: a call for mandatory and comprehensive human rights due diligence in the garment industry’.

  

Japan has recorded a 2.13 per cent dip in apparel from January to May 2021. There has been continuous fall in woven garment imports. Japan’s import of woven clothing plunged by 8.35 per cent in these five-months. However imports of knitted garments were up 4.78 per cent in the same period.

Of the major shippers to Japan, China, India and Bangladesh registered growth in shipments. On the other hand, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sri Lanka recorded a fall in shipments. Japan is a sophisticated market, leaning towards small-lot and short cycle delivery of supplies. Consumption is diversified and quality expectations are high. High quality and expensive Indian garments are gaining popularity in Japan. Customers like selecting garments that have a different character when compared with dresses and kimono worn at such occasions as weddings and parties.

India Trend Fair was held in Japan, February 12 to 14, 2020. The trade show showcased Made in India clothing and accessories to Japanese buyers. The business matching event focused on knitted and woolen clothing as Japan is a major world market for wool, wool blended, and other textile products. The event featured over 300 product categories and over 25 pavilions.

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