Woven shirting fabric from Luthai.
Looking good is no longer enough. The way a shirt feels on the body and how it stands up to daily laundry cycles has become much more important. Shirts made from quick-drying, wrinkle-free fabrics are in high demand – especially among male consumers – who want a fast turnaround and don’t enjoy ironing!
The outbreak has also heightened awareness of the importance of caring for the environment and keeping our planet liveable. This will undoubtedly have knock-on effect on the apparel industry, particularly in retail stores, where consumers are increasingly considering sustainability as part of their clothing decisions.
“Shirts have always been an integral part of the average wardrobe. Before the outbreak, they were evolving into garments that deliver extra comfort, wrinkle and stain resistance and, most recently quick drying/moisture management,” said Steve Stewart, Apparel Vice President – Asia, The LYCRA Company.
“In the very near future, these attributes will be the new normal. They’ll be the key differentiator, a major selling point and a must-have feature for anyone who is serious about shirts,” said Stewart.
Working with winners
In addition to earning an unbeatable reputation with consumers, the LYCRA Company vigorously cultivates working relationships across the fabric, garment, and retail sectors.
The LYCRA Company is collaborating with leading mills globally to develop innovative solutions for shirting businesses. It has become the go-to problem solver and innovator for some of the most successful apparel-related businesses.
They include China’s Luthai Textile, which has seen demand for its high-quality woven shirting fabric products grow steadily in China and in over 30 export markets around the world, including Japan. And Japan’s STYLEM – a firm with more than 150 years of industry success, which is now the country’s largest wholesaler of men’s and women’s RTW fabrics, along with fine gauge circular knitted fabrics for shirts.
Both firms have earned their place in their own particular niche and on the global market.
Selling five million meters of fabric a year
Luthai Textile is one of the world’s most successful shirting textile enterprises. Marketing Manager, Felix Lee, attributes much of that to a focus on the research and development of new materials. Facing fierce competition, the company realized it needed the support of a leading global raw materials supplier to meet its ambitious goals. It found The LYCRA Company.
The collaboration between the two companies began in 2002, when Luthai began to exploit the potential of LYCRA® FREEF!T® technology and COOLMAX® fiber. Now the company’s products encompass a wide range of COOLMAX® fiber technology including COOLMAX® freshFX®, COOLMAX® EcoMade and COOLMAX® EcoMade ALL SEASON technologies.
“We were very impressed by The LYCRA Company’s professionalism and its willingness to adjust and adapt fiber innovations to our needs. We have enjoyed the benefits of close partnership since 2002,” said Lee.
He cites the example of using LYCRA® FREEF!T® technology. The patent-pending technology makes it possible to create lightweight, wrinkle-resistant shirting fabrics with a host of advantages, including moderate stretch, breathability, enhanced whiteness and low shrinkage.
“We work closely with The LYCRA Company on R & D cooperation, because we want to improve product performance to meet market demand. A special joint work team solved these problems, and we continue to sell these high-quality fabrics 5 million meters every year,” said Lee.
Luthai Textile’s success reflects a highly integrated approach to the research, development and marketing of new fabric concepts. But Lee is quick to emphasize that this does not compromise its ability to precisely match products to individual customer needs.
“Different brands have different requirements for a given fabric type. We first understand the creative strategies of their designers, and then fine-tune our offer in ways that enable them customize and differentiate their products. The LYCRA Company’s technical support is invaluable in this,” said Lee.
Fine gauge CK shirting fabric from Stylem.
When the going gets tough, it’s time to make a better shirt
According to Ryuki Ueda, Sales at Japan’s STYLEM Co., Ltd, the men's shirt industry is tougher than ever. Especially in the mature Japanese market, where the growth potential is limited.
That means there is fierce competition for customers, and everyone is looking for an edge. Ueda noted that there is a growing demand for new functionality, such as anti-odour, antibacterial and wrinkle-free.
This is truer than ever during the current COVID-19 outbreak. “Functional shirt materials are essential. Therefore, it is important to develop fabrics using higher-performance materials and products with a high comfort level. That’s our company’s role,” said Ueda.
He is convinced that adding performance and sustainability, rather than pushing down price, is the best way to build his firm’s business.
One of Stylem’s key competitive advantages is its investment in advanced 36G and 44G knitting machines. Quite rare in the industry, they allow the company to easily produce very thin, lightweight and elastic fabrics that are impossible for most other mills.
Combined with some of The LYCRA Company’s latest innovations, such as COOLMAX® EcoMade fiber and LYCRA T400® fiber, Stylem’s products are in demand from medium-to-high-end customers. They include UA (BEAUTY&YOUTH), Lacoste, Kamakura Shirts and many other formal business wear, fashion and sports brands.
“Along with all the functional capabilities that boost comfort and the overall user experience, innovative fabrics also open up possibilities for improving the brand image. In the long-term, that can make a tremendous difference to apparel companies in terms of attracting and retaining customers,” said Ueda.
He believes The LYCRA Company and its products have come to symbolize performance, quality and a superior experience among customers. That is translating into business benefits.
Dressing for success
COVID-19 has created tremendous uncertainties. However, as people adapt to the new normal, one thing remains certain – competition will be fiercer than ever.
“The LYCRA Company is collaborating globally with leading mills, like Stylem and Luthai Textile, to help customers compete more effectively. That means differentiating through innovation, increasing speed to market and enhancing desirability through investments in branding,” said Steve Stewart of The LYCRA Company.
“Individually each of these factors is important. Together, they are a recipe for success in the world’s most competitive shirting markets,” he said.
COOLMAX®, COOLMAX® freshFX®, COOLMAX® EcoMade ALL SEASON, COOLMAX® EcoMade, LYCRA T400® and LYCRA® FREEF!T® are trademarks of The LYCRA Company.