That’s How Denim Companies Came out of the Pandemic

The pandemic is as good as over—touch wood. The new normal has brought newer challenges. But, how did denim players tide over the COVID-19 crisis. texfash.com looks ahead even as it looks back.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • In dealing with suppliers, the most complicated thing has been managing delivery times, which have lengthened considerably, besides the price increases.
  • Besides the raw material supply issues, cost issues too like energy price changes and machine supply problems have had a big impact on distribution channels.
  • The entire digitalisation-omnichannel exercise allowed enterprises to make better use of sharing tools, avoiding unnecessary production of samples, managing waste and the expense of unused samples due to the impossibility of travelling.
Denim companies—from fabric manufacturers to garment exporters and accessory producers—had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on two fronts. They had to look at the denim ecosystem and pre-empt how to fit into the new scheme of things once the virus had been eradicated, and—like all other businesses in the fashion industry—manage both ends of the value chain.
Looking Back Denim companies—from fabric manufacturers to garment exporters and accessory producers—had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on two fronts. They had to look at the denim ecosystem and pre-empt how to fit into the new scheme of things once the virus had been eradicated, and—like all other businesses in the fashion industry—manage both ends of the value chain. Berto Industria Tessile

Denim companies—from fabric manufacturers to garment exporters and accessory producers—had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic on two fronts. They had to look at the denim ecosystem and pre-empt how to fit into the new scheme of things once the virus had been eradicated, and—like all other businesses in the fashion industry—manage both ends of the value chain.

General Manager (R&D and Sustainability) at Karachi-based Rajby Textiles, Safdar Shah, outlines it in a way that would ring true for most companies: “Initially the pandemic hit everyone hard, including us. There was a complete shutdown in Pakistan, but once the lockdown was lifted, we had to amend all our working conditions with strict safety measures and following WHO guidelines at work. We were able to bounce back and got going with full capacity within three months. It was tough though because the office timings were reduced, alternate working days were implemented, workers were forced to get tested for COVID-19, etc. The buyer and supplier ends were managed using electronic media in the absence of physical shows/ meetings.”

At Rajby, the owners led from the front. “As this was global, small delays in both receiving raw materials and shipping goods were all properly communicated and duly accepted at both ends. The key to success was timely communications, transparency, and clarity in mutual understanding. The financial issues were tackled smartly by company’s directors who decided not to lay off any employee or make any salary cuts. The owners funded all the financial setbacks from their own pockets and this decision actually helped us as the employees really started to work with more dedication and were a big support in making the company running at full capacity once again.”

The setbacks were of a different kind in Italy, where the first wave was a catastrophe.  Berto Industria Tessile, founded in 1887 in Bovolenta, a small town in the province of Padova, had its rich heritage and quality production to fall back on. Recalls Francesca Polato of the Italian giant’s marketing department: “Many customers came back looking for quality Italian denim fabrics and we were ready to supply them. In dealing with suppliers, the most complicated thing has been managing delivery times, which have lengthened considerably, besides the price increases. But our fabrics are still fabrics with an already high price since they are made in Italy.”

The financial issues were tackled smartly by company’s directors who decided not to lay off any employee or make any salary cuts. The owners funded all the financial setbacks from their own pockets and this decision actually helped us as the employees really started to work with more dedication and were a big support in making the company running at full capacity once again.

Safdar Shah
Safdar Shah / GM (R&D and Sustainability) / Rajby Textiles

Not far away, in Turkey where Iskur Denim produces some 18 million metres of denim fabric every year, the conditions both then and now have been similar. Chief Executive İsmail Kurtul points out, “Cotton and chemical supply delays became a major problem for denim production during the pandemic. The demand has been high and the supply slow, which also makes prices rise coupled with delays in production. Besides the raw material supply issues, cost issues too like energy price changes and machine supply problems have had a big impact on distribution channels.”

Foison Textile mill in the Foshan Datang industrial park of South China too had felt the pinch, with orders taking a hit. Says its Business Director for the European Union, Fiona de Maat: “Yet, we are lucky to have major European and now also American retailers as our customers. We have regular orders with them—the order quantity might be small, but the orders are regular. We are also offering more fashion products as more and more garments are being sold online. We maintain regular contact with our buyers, through both online and physical meetings.” The company is now trying to be lean and efficient in operation. “We have expanded our production with a new knit fabric production unit and an additional dyeing facility. We are also providing a one-stop-shop service to our customers’ sourcing needs.”

New opportunities also came through new avenues. For Barcelona-based Tintes Egara, the pandemic “gave us a chance—every crisis can be either a crisis or an opportunity. That’s why we decided to take it like an opportunity and show the world our product and what we were capable of.” The result was that the company saw lines of business that, according to Chief Executive Armand Galobart, “we had not explored, such as online sales, and sales through platforms with our customers like Zalando. This gave us the possibility of contacting new suppliers, and being able to maintain the amount of production and sales, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.”

Many customers came back looking for quality Italian denim fabrics and we were ready to supply them. In dealing with suppliers, the most complicated thing has been managing delivery times, which have lengthened considerably, besides the price increases.

Francesca Polato
Francesca Polato / Marketing Manager / Berto Industria Tessile

By and large, companies had their own way of doing things. Italian accessories and ribbons manufacturer Ribbontex invested heavily, especially in certifications and research. Says Export Sales Manager Gloria Crivellaro: “We have also moved to a huge new building, are able to meet the needs of our customers, and have implemented the use of eco-sustainable materials. We have also strongly embraced digitalisation. However, one thing has not changed: the respect for our collaborators. In fact, we have continued to be reliable and serious partners for suppliers and customers because human relationships are the base of everything.”

Italy’s Cadica Group too turned its focus on digitalisation. Its Chief Marketing Officer Carlo Parisatto elaborates: “It was the time to look ahead and think about how the ‘new normal’ will impact all the different working areas. To face this new digital era, the Cadica Group launched the Cadica app. Digitalisation is also a green choice, saving on sampling and shipping costs. We improved our B2B web shop for customers with additional services, launched the new CadicaApp Collection to let customers browse our latest labelling and packaging proposals, order samples, chat with a representative, and watch webinars explaining materials and technical information for each collection.” The entire digitalisation-omnichannel exercise allowed the company to make better use of sharing tools, avoiding unnecessary production of samples, managing waste and the expense of unused samples due to the impossibility of travelling. “We have invested in a company app that contains all our catalogues, from which you can view and order products.”

Now that the pandemic is as good as over—touch wood—the new normal has brought still more challenges, all of which need to be addressed by denim stakeholders. More of that in the next two days.

We have regular orders with them—the order quantity might be small, but the orders are regular. We are also offering more fashion products as more and more garments are being sold online. We maintain regular contact with our buyers, through both online and physical meetings.

Fiona de Maat
Fiona de Maat / Business Director (EU) / Foison Textile
 
 
  • Dated posted May 18, 2022
  • Last modified May 18, 2022