Founder’s Letter

Fashion’s Big Shift

April, 2024

By Andrew Olah

Fifty years ago, when I started in this business, the garment factories were all located in the Western hemisphere. American factories owned American fashion brands and fabric vendors sold to the garment factories whose products they sold to department stores. No store wanted to see fabrics.

Levi Strauss, Wrangler and Lee all had their own factories and one of their challenges in expanding to new countries was the investment (capital and management) in new garment factory locations. I believe Canada was Levi’s first foreign jean factory. Foreign denim mills in Italy or Japan were built to supply the big three as they expanded internationally.

Fast forward to the days when brands started calling themselves marketing companies, ditching their local garment factories and relying primarily on foreign factories to produce for them. Faded Glory and Brittania were two of the first companies that entered the jeans industry factory-less, producing their products in what was then labeled as “the British Colony of Hong Kong”.

Others followed rather successfully, including Jordache, Sasson, Sergio Valente, Gloria Vanderbilt, and so on. Finally, even Levi’s and the other older jeans brands started to produce in Asian factories they did not own.

Now almost 40 years later, we have returned to “GO” and the time is ripe for the jean factories to own the brands that are every day relinquishing the responsibilities and skill in owning a brand.

More and more we hear brands are relying on their factories for design, for financing, for production and logistics— not just wash development and amazing fabric development.

One way to look at all that’s going on is to lament change and wistfully force yourself to accept the new world. But another perspective is to see the opportunity. Now more than ever, Kingpins exhibitors have to be as creative as they can. They need to forget how it used to be and start to give the customers direction and lead fashion, rather than follow it. It’s time for mills and garment factories to hire the best in the industry.

Yes, we are all caught up in a commodity-driven world. Yes, price is the dominant factor of our existence — but fashion is never going away. If we make things people love, price can turn into the B factor — which is what it should be. Consumers need to be fans the way the New York Yankees have fans or Manchester United has fans. Price does not make fans. Great products do.

Best,
Andrew Olah

Founder, Kingpins

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