With Looming Tariffs on $250 Billion in Chinese Manufactured Goods – Colombia & South Florida Fashion & Apparel Industry Bounces Back
DRAFT- August 10, 2018 To Publish: Tuesday – August 14, 2018 6 AM EST
Miami.FL. / The Inex * Colombiamoda Fashion Week un-spooled July 25 -27 in the bucolic, post modern city of Medellin,Colombia. Attendance included 56,000 fashion-forward visitors, 13,000 domestic and international buyers, representing 13 countries. Collections, design must have’s and tomorrow’s fashion trends showcased by 500 exhibitors were on display serenaded by man of the moment, JBalvin, a Medellin native.
Colombia’s Fashion Week coincided with a post in Business of Fashion confirming, “A new round of proposed tariffs on Chinese goods ,with 200 pages of items including apparel and textiles, were valued at a whopping USD $250 billion.”
With over a third of US clothing imported from China, and despite assurances from the US Administration that the new tariffs would impose “maximum pain on China, minimum pain on consumers,” downplaying the inevitability of price hikes and disruptions in supply chains is naive if not blatantly counter-intuitive.
Said Hun Quach, Vice President of International Trade for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, “Consumers, businesses and American jobs dependent on trade are in the cross hairs of an escalating global trade war.” The disruption of supply chains, the imposition of exorbitant tariffs (dubbed the “Trump Tax”) resulting in wavering confidence in exports are but a few reasons North Americans will predictably be suffering soon from sticker shock at the cash register. While many of the current administration’s supporters may bear the brunt the agile among us are seeking alternatives. Colombia making for the ideal trade partner.
The new duties are “a reckless strategy that will boomerang back to harm US families and workers,” said David French, the National Retail Federation’s senior V.P. for government relations, while laying the blame at the president’s shiny, elevator shoes.
As adversity is the mother of invention, Colombia’s apparel industry is joining forces with South Florida and California fashion makers and purveyors with a palatable push back to fill the looming gap. Kacie Schweikhardt, a curator for the California based Pure Lorraine (PL+US) attended Colombiamoda to prospect for new eco-friendly collections to represent. She observed, “Colombia’s fashion, apparel and textile industry is in ascendance. It is positively positioned to assume the mantle as a top tier trade partner, especially in Florida, the eastern seaboard and California.”
Colombia has historically been a major player in the manufacture of denim, leather attire, private label brands and accessories, with exports in 2017 rounding out at USD $225 million. “Colombia is assuming an aggressive stance as a reliable trade partner,” according to fourth generation Colombia textile manufactures Dan Haime, of Textillia, Bogota. “It’s relevance as a source and supplier of customized fabric, high-end apparel, shoes, fit wear and all manner of finished goods will continue to grow in direct proportion to restraints on the import of wearable goods from Asia, specifically China.”
“As the trade war escalates, companies are looking to move production to avoid paying higher levies and further weakening consumer confidence,” chimed in Jennifer Sclafani, President of Showroom-305 based in the Miami Fashion Collective located in the burgeoning Fashion Allapattha Design District (FAD.D) . “Entering its third decade, Colombiamoda, la Semana de Moda ® and the concurrent Textiles 2 Expo are the most significant fashion confab in the Latin American Hemisphere,” according to Sergio Echeverria, Fashion Coordinator – Pro Colombia – Los Angeles.
A downturn in Colombia export and domestic sales over the last two years may best be attributed to “our adapting to advanced technology, shifts in retail trends from brick and mortar to ‘see now – buy now’ online commerce, and ‘a Denim slowdown,’ according to Natalie Kingham of MatchesFashion.com. With the downturn demand for denim as the fabric de rigueur did not bode well for Colombia’s mainstay textile.
The bounce back in 2018 was palpable. Colombia is poised to revitalize its industry with superlative designers, “that are not only ahead of the trends but are, in fact, creating them,” according to Ismael Trivino of ProColombia- Miami.
SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE LOOKS – COLOMBIA MODA
Hot on the runways and adorning the audiences this last week were gender-less vertical vintage stripes in cocoa, ivory and mandarin. Jeans, tight white T’s accessorized by splashy, juicy colored kimonos were everywhere on and off the catwalk. From swimwear to evening wear there was more goldenrod than a field of, well, goldenrod.
Combine trend makers with fabric factories and manufacturers that are stoked up to meet demand, whether small quantity designer labels or high volume merchandise, Colombia-made goods are a hand-in-glove fit domestically and for those abroad.
STREET SAVVY STYLE AT COLOMBIA MODA 2018 COURTESY OF VOGUE MAGAZINE
Feeling the squeeze from the ‘Trump tariffs’ were a cadre of consultants sleuthing around for alternative supply sources outside China. They were representatives of household name fashion brands, big box chain stores to luxury malls from Dubai to DeMoines. Countless fashion curators, sales reps and the fashion-forward were entertained by consecutive runway shows that could have easily been mistaken for those in Milan , Paris or New York. Prescient attendees and a cosmopolitan press corps surveyed the landscape as an alternative to pre-existing and established supply lines.
Among the standouts were Four Brothers, classic button down men’s wear with a cornucopia of clever emojis woven into the socks. The “made with love” hand-tooled sunglasses, with a vast collection that is filled with history and a commitment to the environment and watches with rare dried flowers embedded in the face were the highlight from Fento represented by Alejandro Monsalve. The Taller Alado sculptured wool and filter fiber appliqués in organic neutrals, Lugo Logo men’s couture with luminescent green beetles on hand stitched suits and tails reminiscent of Royal occasions by Alejando Lugo, Parchita Form handbags channeled the late Kate Spade with geometric forms in primary Crayola colors were all fokeen on extending their brand’s reach across borders.
The rousing event concluded with the street-smart Disney collection for the “urban citizen” that saw Minnie and Mickey holding hands while taking a turn down a glitter festooned runway. The sartorial complement of J Balvin, a native of Medellin, appearing live at the GEF Department Store and recently sharing the stage with “The Biebs,” one could do worse for a defacto brand ambassador.
“ Collateral damage from the looming tariffs may actually be a silver lining for those fashion forward who appreciate that Colombia is a watershed of creative design, combined with the most impeccable workmanship found anywhere on the planet.” commented Kacie Schweikhardt, attending Colombia Moda prospecting for designers focused on a more eco-friendly approach to manufacture and bent on extending their brands to California and beyond.
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