Monday, July 16, 2007

The Women's Wear Initiative

IN THESE PAGES, I've mentioned the various corporate initiatives Cotton Incorporated pursues to increase the use of cotton in the marketplace. By identifying market segments that are underutilizing cotton, or by researching those areas which cotton has yet to penetrate, the corporate initiatives set the groundwork for increased demand.

Expertise from many parts of the organization is coordinated by these initiatives to foster adoption of products and technologies to maintain and further cotton's market share. A prime example of how one of these initiatives works is the Women's Wear Initiative, which uses resources from several different departments to create, market and promote innovations in the important area of women's apparel.

Women's wear is a key market for cotton as it accounts for 53% of the entire apparel segment of the industry and over 50% of fiber sales. That means an increase of as little as one percentage point in market share is the equivalent of 108,088 additional bales of cotton used on an annual basis. This translates into nearly $32 million dollars of additional revenue for cotton producers.

Expanding cotton's presence in this important area means identifying those qualities the consumer is looking for and creating a product that addresses those needs. Women want comfortable, well-crafted garments that hold their shape and make a fashionable statement whether in casual or more formal settings. With that in mind, two fabric lines, Cotton Essentials and Cotton Luxury, were developed to cover broad areas of the market.

But these fabrics don't just appear." Opportunities for fabric constructions are identified by research. Both the Fashion Marketing and Fabric Development departments comb through resources including trade shows, trade publications, the market place, the World Wide Web and consumers, for inspiration. These fabrics are often 100% cotton, but some blended fabrics - cotton/wool, cotton/cashmere and cotton/lyocell - have tremendous potential in the luxury line, integrating the benefits of these alternative fibers with the benefits of cotton.

Once viable constructions are identified, they must prove manageable on existing textile equipment. Our Fabric Development department takes on the responsibility of testing fabrics so that mills can create these innovative constructions easily to facilitate product adoption. Additionally our Dyeing and Finishing department adds their expertise by treating these new constructions with a variety of attractive finishes to enhance the feel of the fabrics and colors to better place them in the market.

After extensive testing with fabrications and finishes, Global Product Marketing presents these fabrics to mills and manufacturers. Utilizing their years of textile expertise, the Global Product Marketing team can point out the benefits of these constructions while addressing any concerns the mill/manufacturer representatives might have. The final step in this process is promoting our efforts to the textile trade, so that we generate interest in cotton and cotton-rich fabrics for the women's wear market. Currently, we are looking at several opportunities to generate interest in the press. One of the more exciting developments is the use of our women's wear fabrics in trade advertising.