16 Sept 2005
Cotton Polyester(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 01,2006)
The Ideal Mix
One example of the industry's expertise is Tan Tat Piece Goods, which each month dyes more than one million yards of cotton sourced from the mainland and Korea. The firm subcontracts its dyeing processes to about 10 Chinese mainland factories, and maintains its own quality-control personnel on site.
Cotton and varieties such as corduroy and denim represent about 60% of the firm's production, cotton/polyester takes 30% and PVC and PU the rest. Popular cotton/polyester products include twill, poplin and canvas.
"We use a 35% cotton/65% polyester blend because the texture and material composition is more like cotton," says assistant manager Peter Wong. "Demand is growing for cotton/polyester because it costs about 10% less than pure cotton, shrinks less and is good for printing patterns," he adds.
Established in 1987, the firm uses reactive continuous dyes for the materials it exports to Europe and the US.
"This is a requirement in those markets, but also improves the colour fastness so that there isn't much fading," Wong explains. Other major markets include Hong Kong and the mainland.
FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$1-2 per yard. However, with more than one million yards of material currently in stock, Wong says that prices for older stocks could be lower.
A minimum order is 2,000 yards per colour for delivery in 1-2 days ex-stock or 10-12 days from production.
Meanwhile, wholesaler Yu's Sing Wai Trading Co Ltd imports high-quality cotton polyester, microfibres, nylon and N/T/C from the mainland, Korea and Thailand and resells these materials to factories in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
About 60% of its sales comprise 35% cotton/65% polyester blends. "This is the most traditional blend of cotton/polyester and has the biggest demand. Such blends are very popular because they are more functional and cheaper than pure cotton," says executive secretary Verona Wai.
The company's cotton polyester microfibre fabrics (twill, satin and plain dye) are finished with a process that gives the materials a peach-fuzz texture. "Some cotton/polyester blends, and some 100% polyester fabrics, are given a shiny chintz finish, too," Wai adds.
Minimum order is five yards in either 44- or 58-inch widths, while FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$0.83-2.18 per yard for cotton/polyester and US$1.35-2.05 per yard for microfibres.
Delivery, following order confirmation, is immediate ex-stock or within 30 days if the material needs to be ordered. "Our suppliers are very good, but there have been delays in factory production on occasion," says Wai. "Usually, 30 days is sufficient."
The looms at Paramount Textiles Ltd's 15,000-square-metre Changzhou factory on the mainland produce 100% cotton and cotton/polyester dobby, jacquard, poplin, twill and corduroy.
"We average almost 500,000 yards per month," says director Patrick Tse. "Our capacity is flexible because we can subcontract and double the output with ease. For example, dyeing is subcontracted to specialist factories on the mainland."
Natural fibres constitute the majority of the company's production, although 10% is various blends of cotton/polyester. Cotton is imported from the mainland, Pakistan and India, and specialty weaves include dobby corduroy and cavalry twill. A cotton/polyester mix called heather ottoman is another specialty fabric.
Tse says that corduroy and medium-weight twill stand out as the 15-year-old weaving company's best-selling items. "Together, these account for more than 50% of our production," he states.
Overall, FOB mainland prices average US$2-3 per metre. A minimum order is 1,000 metres or more, depending on the quality of the fabric, for delivery 30 days after order confirmation.
"The US and South America are our main export markets," says Tse, "and sales have remained steady for the past year."
The focus at Splendid Int'l Co Ltd is on cotton/polyester, linen and ramie. "We weave the fabrics and do our own dyeing too," says director Au Yiu Shing. "We produce many different cotton/polyester blends, but mostly an 80% cotton/20% polyester mix."
He says that cotton/polyester materials account for 40%-60% of sales, with seersucker, poplin, twill, calico and cotton sheeting among other popular products.
The 13-year-old company's four joint-venture factories in the mainland's Guangdong Province turn out 70,000-80,000 yards of fabric per month for export to the US and Europe.
FOB mainland prices range from US$2.00-2.50 per yard for cotton/polyester and from US$3-4 per yard for linen and ramie.
"Special material orders can go as high as US$5 per yard for certain jacquard items," says Au, adding that a minimum order is 1,000 yards per pattern or colour while delivery is usually 35-45 days after order confirmation.
Au notes one trend of late has been to combine different fabrics. "A customer might ask us to blend viscose, cotton and linen in one material - this is in fashion now," he says.
While fashions can be fickle, Hong Kong's thriving weaving, dyeing and fabrics makers and traders are proof that it takes a special combination of skill and shrewdness to succeed over the long haul.
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
Paramount Textiles Ltd
Polytex Linen Cotton Ltd
Splendid Int'l Co Ltd
Texful Textile Ltd