There Are Still Products Being Made
Only In America, say Manufacturers
by Charlene Nelson, Fashion Editor
hosiery industry continues to grapple with increasing pressure from
global trade, American manufacturers are finding that quality and
innovation in yarn and equipment as well as expertise in new development
are giving domestic manufacturers an edge.
While the competitive edge still
rests on the ability to ship small orders and guarantee quality, event
eh manufacturers who are using foreign sources for commodity products
report that the Chinese and other foreign manufacturers just can't make
China falls short in at the least
three categories, say manufacturers: 400 n. products, high-tech
and sports-specific socks and medical legwear.
Although foreign manufacturers may
imitate the products, the quality, styling and performance cannot be
imitated because foreign manufacturers don't the the control over
production of the yarns and fibers and are lacking proper machinery.
American manufacturers also have a better handle on product development,
especially when working with clients wants specific products.
"Kayser-Roth's knitting equipment is
state-of-the-art. As a result of our high-tech machines and
automation, we have increased control over our product and quality,"
says Alison Hessert of Kayser-Roth. "In contrast, one of the
reasons China's overhead is so low is that they buy old machines.
As we make our own yarns in the U.S., we are able to control and monitor
not only the quality of the products but also of our yarns."
Kayser-Roth purchases very little 400
n. product from China because the yarns used in the United States are
far superior, says Hessert.
"We have not seen much innovation in 400 n.
products coming out of China. The only styles that generally
consider developing and manufacturing in China are styles needing
beading or other applications. The problem is that the leg yarns,
especially for sheer hoisery, are never as premiums as we would like for
China doesn't compete well in
pantyhose size and fit eighter, says Hessert.
"Pantyhose styles also are very fit
and color sensitive -- two areas where China seems to consistently fall
short. Our color-matching skills are far more advanced, and there
is little tolerance in sheer hosiery for off-shade, " explains Hessert.
"U.S. sizing is very different from
that of Europe and China, there, while they can come close to matching,
our U.S- made product is much more accurate in terms of fit."
Kayser-Roth's new Breathable Comfort
hosiery, which offers control top support with "airy comfort", is a
perfect example, says Hessert as well as HUE's Clear Control Lace Panty
with Invisible Control, HUE's Age Defiance and Calvin Klein's Zero
Yarn technology as well as expertise
in product development and manufacturing is why Gold Toe Brands make its
women's line of All Day Comfort dress/casual socks in the United States.
"These products are knit here because of
how the yarn needs to be spun by the spinner, a domestic source, in
order to meet our quality standards and to make it where we can run it
on typical knitting machines." explains Steven Boyd, Told Toe Brands
Inc. Marketing Manger. "Also, due to the fact it was developed
here, we have the expertise on the manufacturing floor and in product
development to address any problems quickly and to create new products
with this yarn along the way."
"Gold Toe ADCO (All Day Comfort) is
the first and only line of women's dress/casual socks to feature Outlast
phase change fabric technology," says the company. "Because
Outlast is a smart fabric that absorbs excess body heat when too much is
created and releases heat when needed most. Gold Toe ADC socks
provide 'climate control for your feet."
Gold Toe has been producing an All
Day Comfort men's line which is in most major department stores, for the
past two years. the women's styles will launch at the end of
In the sports-specific category,
proprietary yarns and product development unique to domestic
manufacturing is not being match by foreign producers, say domestic
Product development expertise
and the ability to communicate well with the customer are things foreign
manufacturers just can't compete with, says Susan Huitt of Huitt Mills.
The Hickory, NC--based manufacturer which
offer only 100 percent USA-made products, is working with the owner of a
specialty apparel and footwear line to develop high-performance fibers
for a line of sports specific socks which will be available in August.
"We are combining innovative fibers
with unique design for a specialty sports market. Our new socks
line will compliment the existing line of products that the customer
already has developed. The yarns will offer the wicking,
anti-microbial and therapeutic characteristics that these active sports
require combined with the design knowledge of people who know the
sports," explains Huitt.
Sports-specific manufacturer, Thorlos,
which makes all its products in North Carolina, uses variable density
padding and unique proprietary yarns to product high-tech sports socks
that are unique to the Statesville, NC-based company, according to
Company Spokesperson Katie Cavicchio.
"Thorlos creates the machines to sew
these sock where - as if they were outsourced to a factory everything
would be made the same," explains Cavicchio. "Each Thorlos
products features padding in the places you need them the most to
protect against shears and blisters."
Thorlos produces socks a variety of
sports, snow sports and outdoor activities as well as casual and dress
socks. The socks come in three levels of protection, allowing the
consumer to select the protection that best fits his level of activity
depending upon the degree of difficulty.
"For example, there are three
levels of protection available in the running socks depending upon the
length of the run and the terrain," explains Cavicchio.
The company's newest introduction is
the Ultra Lite Hikers for women made with Coolmax™.
Medical legwear is another market not
being penetrated by foreign producers, primarily because the marketplace
does not want to purchase large quantities of medical hosiery that
target specific ailments, according to Peter Menzies of Menzies Southern
Hosiery in Hickory, NC.
"Medical goods are real complicated
to knit. They have real intricate patterns that have specific
designs and fit a specific need," says Menzies. "They (China) will
make them, but they want to sell a truckload at a time.
We are making one specifically for
plantarfactis that supports the arch," says Menzies. "It is difficult to
knit and not something you are going to make truckloads of."
As domestic manufacturers strive to
maintain a competitive edge and come up with new products that can't be
reproduced by foreign manufacturers, Huitt says people have begun to ask
for American-made products.
"For the purchasers of socks, they
want to know that not only are they getting great quality, but the
manufacturer acts responsibly, both to their employees and their
environment," explains Huitt." Every part of the process should be
top-notch, from the way we pay and treat our employees to the yarns and
chemical we put into our products, and finally, tot he way our company
respects the community and the environment in which we operate. We
don't take shortcuts that someone will be stuck paying the cost for