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Textiles fan inflation fears amid London Fashion Week

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Soaring textile prices are a major talking point at London Fashion Week./AFP
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Feb 22, 2022 - 03:13 AM

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Textile prices, like many raw materials, are soaring on resurgent post-pandemic demand and the rocketing cost of both energy and transport, industry experts say.

Cotton, linen, silk and wool, as well as synthetic materials derived from petroleum, faced surging prices in recent months, boosted also by the global supply-chain crunch.

As a result, red-hot inflation is now a major talking point at the industry’s London Fashion Week showpiece, which runs until Thursday.

Price hikes represent a new challenge for the industry that has already been stricken by both Brexit and the Covid-19 health emergency.

‘Impressive cotton surge’ 

“The textile and clothing industry noticed an impressive surge in cotton prices,” said the European association of textile producers, Euratex, in a statement sent to AFP.

“The restart of activity worldwide in 2021 and the increased demand from the textile industry have accelerated the mechanism of (market) tension on raw materials,” it added.

“This has resulted in a shortage, and rising material costs.”

Cotton, which had already surged almost 50 percent last year, peaked earlier this month at $1.29 per pound — reaching a level last seen in 2011.

Organic cotton from key producer India has experienced buoyant demand due to low stockpiles.

The cost of wool and flax linen meanwhile rebounded between September 2020 and June 2021, having declined for almost three years.

Impact of ‘oil upswing’ 

The industry has also been spooked by the sky-high cost of oil.

“The increase in oil prices have affected the prices of synthetic fibres … as these are produced from petroleum-based chemicals or petrochemicals,” Euratex noted.

Oil had threatened to top $100 a barrel last week on simmering tensions between Ukraine and key crude producer Russia.

“The ongoing upswing in oil prices is lending buoyancy because it increases the price of synthetic fibres that compete with cotton,” added Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

The price of man-made or synthetic fibres — like acrylics, nylon and polyester — have shot up.

Textiles also face the same snarled-up supply chains that have plagued economies worldwide.

Retailers and manufacturers will therefore struggle to meet rebounding demand, particularly for cotton, commentators say.

Logistical headache 

“Demand is strong amid inflation concerns and logistical issues that make it harder for world buyers to source any cotton anywhere,” Price Group analyst Jack Scoville told AFP.

Importers and exporters face a huge spike in transport costs, as reopening economies create feverish demand for container shipping.

Rogie Sussman Faber, owner of Chicago area company Vogue Fabrics, told AFP that transportation was their biggest issue.

“Here in the USA, we are more affected by the sharp rise in shipping than the price of the materials,” Faber said.

Onward transport from the port of Chicago compounds that heavy burden, mirroring transit problems seen elsewhere.

“Since the onset of Covid, we have experienced a decline in truckers, and the transit companies have raised their prices to cover fuel costs and overtime (and) bonus incentives,” noted Faber.

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