From Runway Gowns to Medical Gowns—Goldatech is Making a Difference

As the disturbing scenes of healthcare workers wearing garbage bags in place of proper protective equipment splashed across the headlines at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, a trio of women—more accustomed to designing haute couture gowns for fashion runways than isolation gowns for frontline workers in hospitals—formulated a plan.

Furloughed from their design jobs at Oscar de la Renta in New York’s Garment District, they answered the public call for assistance from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who urged New York designers and manufacturers to come up with creative solutions for lifesaving personal protective equipment, or PPE, to help protect healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.

Together, the three fashion designers, with more than 40 years of combined experience in luxury apparel development, sprang into action.

After consulting with healthcare professionals and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), they reached out to the strong local manufacturing network and diverse industry relationships they had built over the years with New York factories and began designing prototypes of isolation gowns.

“Within a week we pooled our resources and made our first batch of 300 gowns to donate [to local, underserved hospitals] under our non-profit organization—Garment District for Gowns,” said Rachel Rothenberg-Saenz, co-founder and CEO of the non-profit. She is also CEO of Goldatech, a separate company founded by the three women that is FDA-registered and minority-owned and women-owned certified.

Rothenberg-Saenz co-owns the organization with two of her former design team colleagues at Oscar de la Renta—Alexandra Baylis, chief operating officer of Goldatech, and Amy Tiefermann, chief product officer.

A new member of NCTO, Goldatech’s journey and story is emblematic of the U.S. textile industry’s herculean effort to retool production lines and stand up a virtually non-existent domestic supply chain for critical PPE items in this nation’s time of need.

It also underscores the urgent need for state and federal policymakers to craft robust policies to help onshore PPE supply chains, create a permanent domestic supply chain, and support a nascent domestic industry that has exhibited its innovative strength to provide more than 1 billion PPE items.


Building an American Medical Gown Supply Chain

To fund their endeavor, the Goldatech team initially raised $70,000 through a GoFundMe fundraiser, funneling 100 percent of the funding back into manufacturing and donating gowns.

They won a state grant—the first applicant out of a total of 33,000—to be awarded New York State’s Empire State Development (ESD) COVID-19 Retooling Grant, to “establish a NY-based PPE supply chain and get medical gowns into the hands of healthcare workers,” Rothenberg-Saenz said.

“The main objectives behind this grant were to create jobs and bring back furloughed employees, expand our business beyond the immediate needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, build a robust local supply chain and grow the production of American-made PPE,” she added.

With a team of just five people, the company has used the grant to facilitate the manufacturing of isolation gowns, supporting and investing in a network of subcontractors who were facing closures as a result of the pandemic. With an intimate knowledge of the capabilities of New York’s Garment District, they were able to meet and exceed demand for these critical supplies.

The efforts have supported the rehiring of 1,200 previously furloughed workers across the country, including fabric mill, manufacturing and logistics personnel. In addition, many of the subcontractors have also invested money into new machinery to support the ramp up.

“The majority of the subcontractors under our umbrella were previously manufacturing high-end fashion, and all were happy to pivot,” Rothenberg-Saenz reflected, citing one example of a subcontractor who they are partnering with now, who has a history of manufacturing for Ralph Lauren’s Collection (including for the American Olympic team), Donna Karan, and The Row, among others.

“At the beginning it was rapid self-educating, phone calls with the FDA, CDC, AAMI, and keeping up to date with evolving policy. Having never been subjected to meeting FDA standards, we were rigorous in third party testing and ultimately able to ensure the utmost compliance,” she added. “Many of our subcontractors now have the opportunity to slightly shift back into manufacturing fashion, however would rather stay producing PPE.”

Goldatech’s manufacturing capabilities are currently 7 million units of reusable and disposable gowns per month.

Baylis said the team has connected with the majority of USA textile companies making both wovens and nonwovens and has established a family group of manufacturers that they are working closely with to develop new products.

Goldatech designs and develops the gowns, adhering to the strict FDA standards and AAMI levels, and oversees production, securing and sourcing raw materials and coordinating with the entire production chain.

“We work directly with each mill within our network, facilitating orders, freight and logistics to our New York facilities. We are heavily involved in every step of the process, including raw material (fiber) procurement in some cases.” Baylis said.

The company also gives a percentage back to the non-profit Garment District for Gowns and continues to donate to underserved communities across the country. To date they have donated 22,000 reusable gowns to over 51 hospital networks across the country.

“Together with the help of the state, we were able to bring factory workers back, particularly in the garment district, which we view as a national treasure, and help keep many of these factories from shuttering their doors,” Rothenberg-Saenz said.

Goldatech has fulfilled high-volume contracts for New York state—rebuilding its stockpile—New York City’s Department of Health, the Arizona Department of Public Health and other government entities.


Sustainability and Innovation

One of Goldatech’s primary goals is to help mitigate the environmental impact of PPE manufacturing.

To that end, all materials and manufacturing are sourced in the United States and the company partners with industry leaders to “implement a strong domestic supply chain in PPE manufacturing.”

“We are very passionate about reusable gowns as a more sustainable option for the environment,” Rothenberg-Saenz said. “We want to make it easy for hospitals to make the switch, so we developed a straightforward app that goes along with our reusable gowns. Historically, they had a tag with a printed grid that you would manually tick off for each wash.”

“It [the app] digitally records and tracks the lifespan of our gowns. It is built into a back-office software, to monitor inventory levels.  For example, once inventory reaches 90 percent of its lifecycle, the customer can automatically reorder gowns to keep the process seamless.”

She said the demand for reusable gowns is growing slightly and she believes it will continue to grow. “The cost per use is lower than disposable gowns.  These facilities are stuck in old habits, but they should understand there’s a cheaper, bigger-picture option here.”


Challenges—Competing Against China on PPE

Goldatech faces challenges associated with China’s dominance in PPE production and imports of low-cost medical products.

According to PPE trade data now being tracked and reported by the Department of Commerce Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA), U.S. imports of PPE grew from $4.8 billion in 2019 to $20.4 billion in 2020, an increase of 325 percent. Imports from China specifically jumped from $1.6 to $13.7 billion, up 756 percent to capture a two-thirds share of the U.S. PPE import market in 2020.

As NCTO has testified, China’s PPE sector has clearly benefited from state planning and predatory trade practices. Its “Made in China 2025” industrial policies were designed to nationalize and corner market share for these products.

“It’s definitely a challenge to meet their prices as we know the Chinese government subsidizes up to 70 percent of the cost of the PPE manufacturing,” Rothenberg-Saenz said. “It is hard to compete when imported products are being sold below cost. As manufacturers ramp up and reach new efficiencies, the USA industry becomes more competitive. Further commitment and investment from Capitol Hill would bolster these efforts.  We have a strong infrastructure across the country, and we are all intent on getting through this battle and convincing procurement teams to purchase American-made PPE.”


Long-Term Contracts: Push to Build a Permanent Domestic PPE Supply Chain

“[NCTO President & CEO] Kim Glas has been working on so many important issues in Washington to support the PPE supply chain and it starts with long-term contracts,” said Rothenberg-Saenz.

“There has to be a robust domestic supply chain in place,” said Baylis.  “Without fully supporting the manufacturers who have pivoted to making this product, should these events happen again, it is a security issue for the United States. Legislation needs to swiftly be put into place to ensure the significant investment and retooling that occurred during the pandemic was not in vain.”

In May, Glas testified at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on the medical supply chain and outlined a series of policy recommendations to incentivize the establishment of a permanent domestic supply chain.

Among the recommendations she highlighted were: creating strong domestic procurement rules for federal PPE purchases and other essential products—substantially similar to the Berry Amendment and the Kissell Amendment which requires 100 percent U.S. content from fiber production forward; implementing long-term contracts to incentivize investment in the domestic PPE manufacturing base; and creating federal incentives for private sector hospitals and large provider networks to purchase American-made PPE.

Glas said the time is “ripe for a revival of American PPE textile manufacturing. It has already begun but we are at a pivotal time. Without the necessary policy response and support, our recent progress will be undone just as quickly, and China’s stranglehold over global medical textile supply will be locked in for the foreseeable future with no reason to invest here. However, with the right policy framework, the domestic PPE supply chains built overnight can endure and grow, creating a level of self-sufficiency domestically that we have learned the hard way is essential to our national health and economic security.”

Her full testimony can be found here.

“We will always have American innovation, but American manufacturing facilities are not guaranteed unless we continue to support them, especially through legislation,” Rothenberg-Saenz said.


Goldatech Banks on the Future

The company’s long-term goal is to manufacture its own line of sustainable and innovative performance health wear.

“We definitely want to continue manufacturing PPE. We are optimistic that there will be a future here, but we also plan to expand our PPE portfolio. We’re developing a new line which will merge molecular fabric science with expert tailoring,” Rothenberg-Saenz said.

She cited recent statistics showing the healthcare industry is expected to grow 49 percent by 2028.

“We are hoping to set a new standard in biodegradable products, especially with durable scrubs that would decompose in up to three years, which is a stark contrast to the current standard of up to 200 years, ” she added.

Asked if she missed designing for the fashion world:

“There are many similarities in that we’re on the shop floor, problem-solving and innovating new apparel products. That said, we are intensely more passionate about this new direction, and find it to be meaningful,” she said.  “The biggest difference is in the end use of the garment; this one of course being built to protect its wearer from exposure to infection. The magnitude of the situation and sense of responsibility we feel to keep healthcare workers safe has fueled our passion and purpose.”

“The pandemic exposed the profound fragility in our country [to supply PPE] and we have a chance to rectify it now.”

NY Presbyterian in Goldatech Reusable Gowns

NCTO President & CEO Testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee examined key issues related to U.S. medical supply chain vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, the nation’s overreliance on foreign sources for critical medical supplies, “gaps” in the federal government’s response and policy recommendations, at a hearing Wednesday. NCTO President and CEO Kim Glas participated as an industry representative and expert on a panel of medical and supply chain witnesses.

NCTO President & CEO Kim Glas on the expert witness panel

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ranking Member Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) opened the hearing. Both senators raised concern about the country’s lack of preparedness in the face of a once-in-a-generation a health crisis that sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

The full text of their opening statements can be accessed here: Senator Peters’ Opening Statement and Senator Portman’s Opening Statement.

“Despite years of warnings about the dangers of our nation’s overreliance on foreign sources and manufacturers for critical medical supplies, our nation was still unprepared to acquire the masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators needed to treat the significant number of COVID patients, stop the spread, and save lives,” said Senator Peters in his opening statement. “…The federal government should have taken early action to ramp up production of personal protective equipment, and other critical medical supplies, by issuing emergency contracts or fully invoking the Defense Production Act.”

Senator Portman said in his opening statement: “It became apparent that by the time the virus reached our shores, there was little we could do to prevent the shortages of critical supplies. The spike in demand for medical supplies was too high, the production of those supplies too far away, and too centralized in places hit hard by the virus. At the same time, the Strategic National Stockpile was underprepared.”

Portman outlined three broad questions for witnesses: “First, what steps should the United States take to reduce overreliance on foreign countries for critical medical supplies? We need to understand how to diversify supply chains away from China, reshoring manufacturing to the United States, and incentivizing production in the Western Hemisphere.”

NCTO President & CEO Kim Glas prepares to give her testimony before HSGAC

In her opening remarks, NCTO President & CEO Kim Glas said:

“The U.S. textile industry stepped in to fill an enormous void, producing over a billion critical PPE items such as face masks, isolation gowns and testing kit swabs for frontline healthcare workers.”

But a “strong overreliance on Chinese raw materials and finished PPE production chains exposed a severe fragility in these supply chains and posed a significant national security threat,” Glas said, adding that years of offshoring also contributed to the crisis and had “severe ramifications.”

“I come before you today with an urgent plea,” Glas said. “We must get critical policies over the finish line immediately or the very supply chains that were retooled and reconstructed will remain fragile and largely offshore,” adding that China has exponentially expanded its global dominance of PPE production.

For her full written testimony and policy recommendations please see the link here.

Another witness, Shereef Elnahal, M.D., President and CEO of University Hospital in  Newark, New Jersey, outlined the magnitude of the emergency room visits, 83,000 in total, last year and the hospital’s lack of preparedness to “address the surge of patients.”

“As the number of COVID cases in our emergency rooms and intensive care units doubled, tripled and quadrupled, we found ourselves at risk of running out of supplies for which we have never seen shortages before,” he said in opening remarks. “This includes protective equipment for our staff, and ventilators for the patients with the most severe cases of COVID-19.”

Senator Portman had a lengthy Q&A with Glas following introductory remarks.

“One of the things that we’ve talked about today and we’re trying to figure out is how to make more PPE here, but use market forces to do it, so it makes sense,” Portman said. “And, we have manufacturers here in this country who are willing to make stuff, but they need to know they’ve got a market. And if they don’t, they can’t make the significant investments, millions of dollars, to be able to convert their plants,” Portman said.

“This has particularly been tough on the textile industry, and Ms. Glas, I want to thank you for being here but also your hard work and support of the Make PPE in America Act, which you mentioned we introduced and was passed in the Committee just last week,” Portman noted.

The senator also asked Glas why long-term contracts are an effective way to spur market forces to incentivize production in the U.S.

“It provides a critical demand signal for our industry that there will be a purchaser and that they can invest in the new equipment necessary,” Glas said. We have Ohio manufacturers….who have looked at trying to invest more here in the United States, but they won’t without a strong demand signal,” she said, adding that other countries, like Canada, are issuing long-term contracts to their manufacturers to bolster production.

For more on their exchange, please see the a link to the transcript provided by the committee here.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked Glas about the offshoring of the U.S. textile industry and the role trade policy played in it.

Glas pointed to several key trade decisions, including the accession of China to the World Trade Organization and the removal of quotes on textile and apparel imports, as key drivers behind offshoring.

“This played out on a national stage when COVID hit,” Glas said. “How many US textile manufacturers did I represent making PPE [before the pandemic?] Probably two or three. What happened during the pandemic? About 140 companies of mine retooled their production chains to help fight the crisis and now a lot of those companies simply have no orders.”

That has been compounded by an onslaught of Chinese PPE imports, which have increased 756 percent in the past year and are often dumped on the U.S. market below cost, she noted.

“We have a U.S. industry that has invested and who want to make products here but with no long-term demand signal by the federal government. And we have not solved the equation of how to get hospitals and nursing home to purchase products that are made here in the United states.”

Hawley asked Glas to explain why the “deck is still stacked” against the textile industry today.

Glas touched on the unfair playing field in competing against China, which has a long history of human rights abuse and has more recently been accused of “genocide” by U.S. officials, and imprisoning Uyghur Muslim minorities in detention camps and forcing them to make consumer products, including apparel and textiles, for global brands.

“It is hard to compete globally with subsidized industries all over the world including China. We have domestic manufacturers who can be globally competitive. We just need to send them a strong demand signal and we need to get policies over the finish line here in Congress to make sure we can be more globally competitive,” Glas said.

She stressed that it will take a “whole of government approach to trade enforcement” to address the imbalance in our trade policy as it relates to PPE textile products.

Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) said he never again wants to see the images of nurses sewing their own face masks and donning garbage bags as gowns that played out at a local hospital in Georgia during the pandemic.

He asked Glas if the government and country have taken the necessary steps since those early months of the crisis to ensure frontline workers never have to resort to homemade PPE again.

Glas said that while our industry was able to retool and invest in critical PPE, she is concerned that in a few months from now, those domestic supply chains will go offshore again, without long-term funding from the Defense Production Act.

“We are going to need to diversify supply chains moving forward. We need to show a demand signal to the industry,” she noted. “There needs to be incentives for hospitals like the one you have that want to purchase MADE in USA product that costs a little bit more. And there are a lot of Georgia textile manufacturers that want to respond to your local hospital systems and make these products long-term.”

The entire hearing can be viewed at the link here.


Glen Raven and Trivantage Customers Making an Impact on PPE Production

American small businesses, entrepreneurs and inventors, driven by the desire to contribute to the greater good of the country, are stepping up to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face shields and gowns, for frontline health care workers battling the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

On several fronts, the U.S. textile industry has united to play a critical role in the production of PPE products for the nation.

One North Carolina textile company, Glen Raven Inc., has become a major player behind the scenes, working with its customer base who traditionally cut and sew products such as awnings, tents, furniture and cushions– to scale up production of highly needed face shields and gowns.

The 140-year-old performance fabric manufacturer with six manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, along with 12 distribution facilities in 11 states, has stepped into the PPE game and is having a major impact.

Glen Raven has participated in discussions between hospital groups and health care organizations and its customers, while also organizing frequent calls to discuss bests practices, materials, suppliers, and the best ways to get the product to market.

Companies like Hoover Architectural Products in Florida, Chair Care Patio in Texas and Rainier Ltd. in Washington state are just a few of its customers that have tapped their talented workforce to innovate and create new designs for PPE products for their local hospitals, health care workers and communities.

“This effort has been a collective undertaking among all of Glen Raven’s business units. From day one, our entire company has been laser-focused on collaborating with organizations like the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), and healthcare systems across the country to help identify Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) needs.  The ultimate goal was to identify, engage and leverage the capabilities of our industry in an effort to supplement demand for critical PPE products,” said Bret Kelley, vice president of sales, Trivantage.  “Together we are more powerful, and through collaboration with healthcare agencies, hospitals, our customers, suppliers, and other groups we are able to make a greater impact. Through our collective efforts, we hope to help keep first responders, and front-line workers safe and assist our customers in putting people back to work.  We are hopeful this process will result in sustainable longer-term benefits for the healthcare industry and our industry by developing a more robust domestic supply base for PPE.”

While there are many stories, five Glen Raven/Trivantage customers have shared their stories and experiences below.

They have innovated and created new designs—often equal to or better than the medical products currently on the market– by finding new ways to use fabrics and materials traditionally used for outdoor and industrial applications. Their collective voices underscore the importance of maintaining and cultivating a domestic apparel, textile and industrial supply chain and minimizing the country’s reliance on foreign imports during a global crisis.


Chair Care Patio

For the past 32 years, Debby Martz’s company, Chair Care Patio, has carved a niche in patio furniture repair and custom cushion and pillow designs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“We started this business as a hobby in our garage in 1988,” Martz said. “We were repairing patio furniture with vinyl straps and over the years we took it from the garage to 30,000 square feet of space in Dallas. We started with one sewing machine making replacement slings for our local Dallas/Fort Worth customers and that grew and grew to patio shops buying wholesale from us and an online business of custom designed cushions, pillows and slings.”

But over the course of just one month, the COVID-19 pandemic has put her company– along with tens of thousands of other American small businesses– to the test

Instead of shuttering her business, Martz met the challenge head on.

First approached by a local hospital, Martz said she started making prototypes of face shields, and later protective gowns, to help frontline health care workers battling the spread of the disease.

She tapped into a diverse cushion fabric inventory and started experimenting with new fabrications for gowns while also using vinyl materials and foams for face shields.

PPE production in Chair Care Patio factory

Today, Martz is working through an order for 20,000 face shields from Baylor, Scott and White Hospital in Dallas, which has a network of 400 hospitals in north Texas.

Chair Care Patio is now turning out 1,500 protective gowns and 1,000 face shields a day to fulfill the order, she said.x

In the past month, Martz purchased 14 new three-needle and four-needle surgers and has also hired 10-12 new sewers to her existing workforce, while carefully considering expanding her business over the long term.

“We have proven we can make things in America with a high quality and at a reasonable price,” Martz said. “I think we need to source material and goods in the United States and bring it all back to the United States to manufacture products like this and not be so dependent on imports from other countries.”

It has been a gratifying experience to help hospitals and keep her current staff employed, while adding new employees to the staff, she said.

“I think we need to get back to that manufacturing base of sewing and manufacturing because we can,” she noted. “We figured it out because we were forced to figure it out.”


Hoover Architectural Products

Hoover Architectural Products, a leading metal and fabric awnings manufacturer  founded in 1949, with locations in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has made fabric awnings for the past 71 years and recently diversified into metal and other products for its customers.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoover had 44 employees but like so many other companies, it has had to lay off part of its workforce, said Matt Carroll, a third- generation owner.

The company’s traditional customer base ranges from general contractors to government and defense contractors as well as commercial customers such as The Cheesecake Factory, as well as residential, hotels, restaurants, resorts and shopping plazas.

Carroll said he was watching television with his son and heard about the need for face shields. His son, who told him he could make the face shields, was the initial catalyst behind his move into producing the PPE product.

Face shield production at Hoover Architectural Products

An inventor at heart—Carroll has a patented product set to hit the market later this year known as Wiper Fill, which filters rain water, turns it into wiper fluid or antifreeze, and deposits it into an vehicle’s wiper fluid tanks—he reached out to Kelley at Trivantage and heard about other fabricators who were starting to make face shields.

In just two short days, he had come up with the prototype and design that he is making now—a flexible, face shield with foam cushion that rolls up into a two-inch diameter tube. Putting his inventor instinct to work, Carroll utilized marine and awning grade clear vinyl that is scratch resistant and cleanable, foam cushions and Velcro brand straps.

“I was talking to nurses who said every time they turned their heads, the traditional face shields they use would hit their shoulder and fall off because of the hard plastic rigidity to them,” he said.

Carroll said he has the capacity to make 7,500 to 10,000 face shields a day and has currently made about 2,000 for local contractors and a medical health care facility, as well as orders for single-use by private companies.

He is also bidding on very large contracts of between 300,000 to 800,000 units and working with local hospital systems.

“As far as my philosophy of working through this time, we have given away more shields than we have sold, because there is so much red tape [on securing orders],” he said. “It is more important to me to be a good partner within our community than to make money. I do want to keep my employees busy and make sure they have a paycheck but it is as equally important to take care of our community.”

Carroll said collaboration with other fabricators and Trivantage has been important. The companies have shared designs, raw material suppliers and even cutting templates in the spirit of providing first responders with critical supplies.

The supply chain of fabricators with cut and sew operations in the U.S. is extensive.  They can be competitive on pricing and provide much needed supply, he said.

“If anything, this is going to teach us a good lesson to be a little more prepared,” he noted. “Build a stockpile, yes, but also be better prepared; know who the manufacturers are; have them pre-certified and screened and they will be able to flip a switch and go. It is critical for our nation’s security.”

Carroll echoed the sentiment of other American small business owners—that it is critical to maintain and prepare the country’s domestic supply chain for future threats.

“If we can’t take care of our own needs, then we’re not as strong as we could be as a nation,” he said. “Buying U.S. products from manufacturers that are local, sourcing local is important. It doesn’t make sense, in my opinion, for California state to be buying from a company in Florida when there are numerous local manufacturers.”


Rainier Industries Ltd.

Rainier Industries is an historic Seattle, Washington-based tent, awning and graphics company that has been producing products in the Pacific Northwest since 1896.

The company has three divisions—shelter, shade and display, including commercial and residential awnings, tents and industrial sewn products and a graphics print business.

Scott Campbell, president of Rainier Industries

Employing 250 people when operating at full capacity, Rainier has two plants in the Seattle area, as well as an assembly plant in North Carolina.

Scott Campbell, president of Rainier, said his existing tent and shelter business has been in high demand during the crisis, particularly for use as temporary shelters in the emergency hospital space.

Although the demand has also been high for sewn masks, Campbell said he could not take on additional business because his fabrics business is at full capacity due to the demand for emergency tent products.

But he jumped at the opportunity to develop prototypes for face shields and has been part of the shared discussions and collaboration involving fabricators, hospital systems, Glen Raven and Trivantage.

Companies worked on their own proprietary designs for face shields with different cost structures and designs, found ways to collaborate on suppliers and designs and taking the product to market.

“I really appreciate Bret, Trivantage and Glen Raven collaborating with us in taking face shields to market,” he said.

Rainier has sold 20,000 units of the clear vinyl face shields. The company’s largest customer to date has been the Department of General Services, Procurement division for the state of California, and it also selling the face shields to local hospitals.

“The demand is so high for face shields and they are primarily disposable at a low price point,” he said. “We are not making any money but we are keeping our people employed.”

Rainier is also launching a web-based store to sell its face shields but Campbell said he is uncertain whether this will develop into a long-term business for the company.

“We don’t want to get too deep into this and end up with a lot of inventory,” he said, echoing concerns shared by small business owners across the country.

Small business owners are facing serious challenges, including furloughing workers until business picks up, keeping on as many employees as possible, and developing PPE prototypes for products such as face shields, that have never been a part of their business plans.

“In general, there is no clear path in front of us. If business is shut down too long, the economic damage accelerates but if we bring them back too soon, you have health issues to worry about,” he said. “It is really difficult to do business planning and forecasting with a huge variety of unknowns.”

The silver lining, he said, has been developing new products, such as the face shield, which has generated healthy competition among his employees and could still evolve into a new business opportunity.


CCP Manufacturing

CCP Manufacturing is a custom manufacturer of canvas and vinyl products, providing contract sewing services for a variety of industries, including the athletics, medical, industrial, military and transportation areas.

Founded in 1965, the company has grown and diversified and has existing production in the medical field with its healthcare products line, which incorporates high-quality antimicrobial fabrics.

Jan Kellogg, president and owner of CCP Manufacturing

Face shields were not part of the company’s production line until COVID-19 hit but the company has an existing medical production line, said Jan Kellogg, president of CCP and a third-generation owner.

Tapping into her medical products, which includes a line of radiology straps for hospitals, Kellogg said she has used sewing capacity and materials to fabricate the face shields.

“We also took materials that we might use for windows—clear vinyl for curtain walls—and used them for the shield,” she said. “We have elastic that we use for the medical products that we manufacture and we utilized that as well.”

She estimates the company is now producing between 4,000 to 5,000 face shields per week for local hospitals and office groups in Ohio.

“We are doing this for two reasons: 1. To help people who need them and 2. To give our employees continued employment and a meaningful task at the same time,” she said.

Kellogg said it is easier to get the face shields into the hands of people locally, who are quick to make a decision to purchase.

Her response to healthcare groups and hospital associations who are looking for much larger quantities, is to let them know she is capable of supplying a portion of an order and works to see how her company can be part of the solution.

“We are very happy to be part of that whole process,” she said. “It revolves around innovation and openness to how to come to a solution for this new and different problem that we have never faced before.”

Kellogg has weathered economic downturns in the past, particularly the housing crisis of 2008 and 2009 that led to the Great Recession.

Her philosophy: “You come up with ideas like we did today and you move forward—and take care of your people.”


J Miller Canvas LLC 

For the past 25 years, J Miller Canvas LLC/Inc. in Santa Ana, California has manufactured architectural fabric structures, including tension umbrellas and retractable restaurant canopies; but the swift impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy has turned the company into manufacturers of PPE face shields overnight.

Dan Neill, principal of J Miller Canvas, said he bought the company with his business partner nearly two years ago.  The company works with developers and architects and manufactures architectural fabric structures for a variety of commercial market segments.

Neill recently learned that Providence St. Joseph Health (a group operating six to seven hospitals), was utilizing hospital volunteers to manufacture the shields and felt with the help of J Miller Canvas manufacturing the shields, the hospital volunteers could utilize their services in other areas.

“We went into the back and told our guys we needed to make shields. We put a couple of examples up on the screen, Googled face shields and let them go to town,” Neill said.

His team ran through 30 different design ideas and overcame various material supply challenges. But once they finally landed on the right design, production of the first face shields could begin.

Face shield assembly station at J Miller Canvas LLC

After delivering its first prototype, J Miller Canvas received an order for 10,000 units from St. Joseph’s and was manufacturing 500 to 750 face shields per day. Production has been put on hold currently, as the initial supply demand was met earlier than expected; but is expected to start up again very soon.

The face shields, comprised of a 20-gauge clear vinyl material with a one-inch square foam for the forehead and elastic band that holds the shield to the face, are primarily used for drive-up testing sites and other non-surgical activities in hospitals.

“Bret Kelley at Trivantage has been ‘essential’ in facilitating connections between our industry and hospital groups”, he added. “He has been a huge leader, telling hospitals ‘we have guys out here who can help and here is their name and number.’”

“We’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Neill said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is going to be something for the history books. We will be talking about April 2020—the year the world shut down.”

But it will also be considered the year U.S. small businesses turned their know-how, creativity and innovation into action and retooled production lines or used existing materials to rush to the aid of the nation and frontline health care workers in need of critical PPE products.

“Our workers have taken ownership of the face shields,” he said (noting the company employs 22 people). “Our whole goal is to keep these guys employed. They are the lifeline.”


Milliken & Company Mobilizing Production of Medical Textiles in Battle against COVID-19

Jeff Morris, Senior Vice President, Protective Fabrics at Milliken

Jeff Morris, senior vice president, Protective Fabrics at Milliken

Milliken & Company (Spartanburg, SC) is rapidly mobilizing on several fronts to ramp up production of newly engineered fabrics and inputs for personal protective equipment (PPE) to support healthcare workers in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

Jeff Morris, senior vice president of protective fabrics at Milliken, is co-leading the company’s Medical Fabrics Task Force, coordinating efforts across Milliken’s Textile Division as well as tapping networks to repurpose existing fabrics for PPE products.

Morris said the divisional task force is “engaging all elements of our business to utilize our in-house capabilities in order to meet the needs created by COVID-19, especially those of our healthcare workers.”

A key part of Milliken’s strategy is increasing production of its patented BioSmart® fabric, which uses bleach-activated technology to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria.

Milliken is also working across the division to repurpose fabrics and get them into production with a network of cut and sew operations to produce several medical textile products.

Morris said, “In a very short period of time, Milliken has taken existing products in our portfolio and repurposed them to meet certain standards” of The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) for Levels 1-2.

Scaling up Production of Anti-microbial BioSmart® Fabric

Milliken, a global diversified manufacturer, has ramped up domestic production of its BioSmart fabric during the coronavirus crisis. The advanced material integrates anti-microbial protection into a wide range of medical products including scrubs, lab coats and privacy curtains.

The company’s Biosmart fabric, first launched in 2007, is a patented bleach-activated technology that turns textiles into another layer of defense against microbial exposure.

Production of Milliken's BioSmart fabric.

Production of Milliken’s BioSmart fabric.

Morris pointed to a 60 Minutes interview with a doctor, who discussed the routine he goes through each night to protect his family from contracting the disease. He puts his scrubs in a bag, drops them into the wash and sterilizes them with Clorox bleach, while also showering to remove any potential traces of the virus from the hospital.

“This is where Milliken’s anti-microbial technology can add value,” Morris said. “Our BioSmart product is a textile enhancement. We apply BioSmart technology on fabrics for scrubs, lab coats, face masks and hospital privacy curtains. BioSmart binds chlorine to fabric, so if the doctor is washing a garment in chlorine bleach, they are now going to recharge the chlorine protection to the surface of that garment, which will give them an added level of protection.”

“You are putting another barrier between you and that virus potentially spreading to the next person,” he added.

Milliken Increases Production of Advanced Medical PPE

Another prong of Milliken’s PPE strategy is engineering textiles into medical-grade fabrics for Level 1 and 2 gowns.

The company is now manufacturing new critical barrier protection fabrics to be used in gowns and headcovers for health care professionals and is also researching and developing material inputs for face masks, Milliken said in a press release.

“Our team of scientists and developers are fully engaged, uncovering solutions to address critical medical and protective needs for those fighting on the front lines of this pandemic,” stated Chad McAllister, president of Milliken’s Textile Division and EVP, Milliken & Company.

The new innovations complement an existing range of products that can be used for temporary shelters and privacy dividers for transitory field hospitals.

Milliken’s advanced medical fabrics and barriers meet the Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 ANSI/AAMI/PB70 Standard and are used in gowns in minimal-risk, low-risk and moderate-risk situations.


Behind the Scenes of a Textile Giant–Repurposing Fabrics for PPE

Morris said Milliken has been working diligently to convert fabrics and greige goods to get them to the level of protection that is useful in the healthcare space.

“We turned this thing pretty quickly-in about a week’s time. We went from having a minimal offering to an offering in almost a week,” he added.

Milliken teams have spent hours working remotely—to develop plans for pivoting existing in-house fabrics to materials for healthcare workers.

With graduations across the country on hiatus during the coronavirus crisis, Milliken, one of the largest producers of the fabric, has a portion of its inventory for PPE products.

“By adding unique chemistry and solutions through creative thinking, we are able to repurpose those fabrics to meet Level 1 and Level 2 protective products,” Morris said.

“There are two paths Milliken is going down. We are working on all fabrics for wearable garments [and converting them into Level 1 and Level 2 medical fabrics]. We are also looking at how we can transform materials from our nonwovens business, which has typically been for the automotive industry, into protective masks and gowns,” he said.

A worker sewing fabric for Level 1 gowns together

Morris said Milliken is working with cut and sewers to design hospital gowns to make them more wearable and “reusable” than the current disposal products.

Illustrating how the company is working with its traditional customer base, which primarily makes industrial workwear and flame-resistant garments, Morris pointed to a long-time customer in Cleveland, Ohio—National Safety Apparel—which has historically produced PPE products for electrical workers, industrial workers and other safety-oriented products.

Having been deemed “essential” by authorities, National Safety Apparel has converted its manufacturing to help supply the urgent needs of healthcare workers.  Milliken is providing Level 1-and 2 tested fabrics for NSA to produce protective gowns.

It is just one example of many where Milliken is working with traditional customers to supply fabrics for medical PPE products.

Milliken will continue to work with a network of cutting and sewing operations that are also repurposing their manufacturing lines from office furniture, automotive, upholstery, and industrial workwear products to medical textile products for the healthcare industry.

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) has been a “big facilitator in brokering with a number of cut and sewers,” Morris said. “These are cut and sewers that we don’t typically work with domestically who make men’s dress shirts, suits and tailored products. As these lines turn towards medical PPE, we are able to come alongside their efforts and supply critical fabrics.”

Ultimately the company’s goal is to develop a long-term, sustainable business.

“Milliken wants to help, and we’ve shifted to meet this immediate need,” Morris said. “As we move forward, there are a number of lessons industries can apply from this experience. You need to have diversity in your supply chain. You need to keep domestic manufacturing more viable. Furthermore, this has opened our eyes to the necessity of medical PPE at any time, something which inspires us to support both now and into the future. It is not always about the lowest price.”

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

Sustainability Series: Milliken & Company Part of the Discourse on a Circular Economy in Partnership with National Geographic

Milliken President & CEO Halsey Cook

Milliken President & CEO Halsey Cook

Milliken & Company President and CEO Halsey Cook addressed the challenges and opportunities associated with eliminating and recycling waste as part of the National Geographic Circular Economy Forum on February 26 in Washington, DC.

Milliken was a sponsor of the forum, along with Waste Management and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which brought together approximately 400 leaders from the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and government to address multifaceted solutions aimed at achieving zero waste.

“Closing the loop on waste requires a holistic plan,” Cook said in a statement. “We’re committed to forums and conversations that will lead to aligned, sustainable innovations.”

Susan Goldberg, editorial director of National Geographic Partners and Editor in Chief of National Geographic, led a panel discussion, in which Cook participated, focused on the enablers and barriers of a circular economy.

Goldberg asked Cook to respond to an Op-ed in the New York Times written by Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, in which he declared “Capitalism, as we know it, is dead.”

Cook assured the audience that Capitalism is “alive and well and evolving.”

He said Benioff’s comment “underscores that if you don’t take a view towards the impact of your business across all of your stakeholders, you can pay a huge penalty, which will ultimately impact the shareholder as well. So the bottom line matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters.”

“As time has gone on, what we have seen is that the unintended consequences of businesses that have a blind eye toward their communities or toward the environment end up becoming very risky environments,” Cook said.

Milliken’s CEO said some of the toughest conversations happening at the moment in boardrooms around the world are centered around “mitigating the risk against environmental impact and against societal impacts which could actually decimate your bottom lines in the longer term.”

Earlier in the week, Milliken earned the recognition as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies,” a recognition it has been awarded 14 years in a row.

Milliken was selected again by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining standards of ethical businesses.

A materials science expert, Milliken has a portfolio of industry-leading specialty chemical, performance textiles and floor covering innovations and is one of eight industrial manufacturers to receive this designation in 2020. Only seven companies have received the honor for 14 consecutive years.

“Ethisphere tracks the returns of winners of the award,” Cook said. “The data is very clear that companies that do focus on the right things over time have higher returns than the averages of the S&P 500. I think it is a win-win but it’s hard work to get it all right.”



Public pressure on companies to mitigate their impact on the environment has created more urgency to address the issue.

“What we see is that a lot of consumer-oriented companies are making big declarations about recycled content and that is going to create opportunities in the future for more recycling,” Cook said.  “We saw the numbers–such a small and insignificant part of the actual production today turns into recycling.  A lot of that is because there is not value.”

Packaging companies and branded companies have made commitments to increase recycled product to 25 percent and even as high as 50 percent by 2025 to 2030, Cook said.

He said continued consumer pressure will create more recycling streams. The economics change, he noted, when consumers are willing to pay a higher price because they think it is “important enough” to pay those prices for recycled content.

“We are an equity investor in PureCycle Technologies—and the technology continues to improve where we can take recycled content–post-consumer–and turn it into resins that can be used again without creating new resins. That could potentially be sold for a higher price.”

Cook said there is science around the recycling aspect of Milliken’s business, noting there has been a “pivot” within the company’s scientific community, particularly around polymer research.

“You have to break down the molecules and build them up…,” he said. “We don’t actually make plastics, but we make additives, which make them stronger. In that case, when you go through the recycling process, polymers break down and have to be strengthened again. Our team is researching how to facilitate and enable large scale recycling efforts by the global economy.”


The company’s award-winning DeltaMaxTM Performance Additive has significantly contributed to improved manufacturing processes with recycled polypropylene, which Milliken said is among the fastest-growing plastic globally.

The additive “balances the product quality and production challenges of manufacturing new products with recycled polypropylene, enabling the use of up to 100% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled polypropylene resins from which new products are made,” Milliken said.



Manufacturers and retailers of plastic products are held financially responsible in the European Union under the concept of “Extended Producer Responsibility,” for dealing with their products once they hit the waste stream, Goldberg noted.

Asked if the concept should ultimately be part of the plastic waste solution in the United States, Cook said he thinks it does have a role.

“It motivates people to return products,” he said. “There are sub-economies that emerge as a result. We’ve seen the success of that with the aluminum can business in the U.S. States that have deposits on bottles can see recycled at rates as high as 60-70 percent versus low single digits in states that do not. It’s definitely a trigger that needs to be thought about.”



“We are going to start to see increased legislation,” Cook said.

The CEO was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and said there are at least two active plastics bills “coming online.”

Cook pointed to laws around banning and curbing single-use plastics in several states and noted the “environment is going to change.”

But he warned that decision makers have to start determining “what we are solving for.”

“It’s very easy to [say we should] eliminate plastics, but then you might replace that with materials which actually have a big disadvantage from a carbon footprint,” Cook said.

“In this conversation of trash you have to remember that we’ve got an existential threat around climate change,” he added. “What are we trying to solve for? Is it plastics in the ocean? You need to focus on Asia. Is it recyclability? That’s part of the reason we find this forum so exciting. We get a chance to mingle with a lot of different people in the value chain and get their views on it.”



American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

Sustainability Series: Apparel Industry Group Launches Project to Move Textile Industry from Linear to Circular

A broad apparel industry coalition is taking the issue of textile waste head on as the industry continues to explore the next generation of textiles.

The apparel industry group has launched a new collaborative project under the banner of Accelerating Circularity, with a mandate of eliminating textile waste in the supply chain.

The U.S. textile industry has made significant strides in eliminating industrial waste and incorporating technologies to recycle waste in its operations over the past several years.

“The new project seeks to move the industry beyond solely addressing post-industrial waste to developing new practices and technologies for post-consumer waste to reduce the millions of tons of waste in landfills” said Tricia Carey, Director of Lenzing’s Global Business Development Apparel and Secretary of the Accelerating Board of Directors.

“The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 15 million tons of textile waste is generated annually in the United States alone,” the Accelerating Circularity group said in a statement today.

NCTO members Unifi and Lenzing, are among the founding project partners, which also include Gap Inc., Giotex, Gr3n, Target, VF Corp, Revolve Waste and Fabrikology International Inc. This group represents a broad industry-based coalition of technology providers, fiber manufacturers, textile waste and supply chain experts and brands and retailers.

The group said its aim is to “accelerate the textile industry’s move from linear to circular.”

The Accelerating Circularity founding project partners include Gap Inc., Giotex, Gr3n, Target, VF Corporation, Lenzing, Unifi, Revolve Waste and Fabrikology International, Inc., representing technology providers, fiber manufacturers, and experts in textile waste and supply chains, as well as brands and retailers.

“In 2017 LENZING™ launched TENCEL™  Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology, using cotton scraps to make new lyocell fiber and we continue to support industry initiatives to drive textile to textile recycling,” said Tricia Carey. “Accelerating Circularity developed out of supply chain and brand discussions of how we can facilitate collaboration and mapping a new route together.”

Carey said textile companies and experts will provide advice and input on how the industry must change.

“Essentially for Lenzing the consumer will become our raw material supplier,” she said. “This is a big change as we consider the next generation of textiles. With circularity you need everyone. This breaks the silos and you have to think about impact to keep cycling materials.”

“Shifting the apparel industry toward more circular solutions is a complex challenge with significant technical, economic, and business implications,” said Alice Hartley, Senior Manager of Sustainable Innovation at Gap Inc. and board member of Accelerating Circularity. “At Gap Inc., we have a responsibility to protect the environment and reduce waste at every stage of our production process – from design, to sourcing, to manufacturing. As we address the full life cycle of our garments, we look forward to working with these partners to collaborate, advance efforts and share learnings with the wider industry for the health of our planet.”

Accelerating Circularity’s board members include, Tricia Carey of Lenzing, Alice Hartley of Gap Inc., Beth Jensen of VF Corporation, Karla Magruder of Accelerating Circularity, Eileen Mockus of Coyuchi, and Laila Petrie of 2050.

Partner organizations include American Apparel & Footwear Association, Apparel Impact Institute, Circle Economy, Outdoor Industry Association, Textile Exchange, The Renewal Workshop, and United States Fashion Industry Association.

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series – Unifi, Inc.

North Carolina-based Unifi Inc., a global producer of synthetic and recycled performance fibers, has been a leader in the industry—not only through its corporate culture and REPREVE® recycled performance fibers, which have touched every corner of the apparel supply chain, but also through campaigns and collaborations with organizations to raise awareness of the corporate stewardship aimed at mitigating the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment.

The company’s recycling efforts have been driven and widely adopted by the entire apparel supply chain.

Unifi’s REPREVE brand, launched in 2007, has transformed more than 19 billion plastic bottles into recycled fiber for new clothing, shoes, home goods and other consumer products made by leading brands. The company is on track to hit its goal of 20 billion plastic bottles in 2020.

Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing

The brand uses 45% less energy, 20% less water, and has reduced greenhouse gases by 30% versus virgin polyester production, according to Jay Hertwig, Unifi’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing. The company’s total recycling of 20 billion bottles will offset the use of petroleum needed to produce virgin fiber, conserving 323.4 million gallons of water.

“REPREVE was born through a manufacturing excellence project where Unifi was trying to determine how we could be more efficient from an overall manufacturing standpoint. Even though we have a high production efficiency rate, we still produce waste,” Hertwig said. “We developed a product made from 100% waste in 2007.  Patagonia and Polartec started demand for Repreve as Patagonia was looking for fleece with recycled content.”

REPREVE has come a long way in just a decade. The number of customers using Unifi’s recycled fibers has grown significantly—from those two brands in 2007 to more than 700 brands globally, according to Hertwig.

Moreover, Unifi has invested heavily in recycling technologies and manufacturing—more than $150 million—over the past decade.

The company now operates its own recycling center in Yadkinville, N.C., which opened in 2010, as well as the REPREVE Bottle Processing Center, a $28 million investment, which opened in 2016.

“We continue to grow our REPREVE production year over year. It has become almost 40 percent of the total production at Unifi today.”

Asked whether Unifi could achieve 100 percent REPREVE production, Hertwig said “Once we started to see demand grow for REPREVE, our vision formed to one day run 100 percent recycled REPREVE production. It’s a lofty goal that comes with many challenges, but one we still strive to meet.”

“As we continue to invest in sustainable and recycling technologies, Unifi expects a larger portion of our production will be REPREVE-based in the future.”


Green Movement and Congressional Scrutiny

As consumer awareness, activism around pollution and calls for more eco-driven products continue to deepen, lawmakers are also increasing scrutiny of plastic pollution in particular and considering proposals to curb it. Some experts have warned that similar bills could be proposed to target microfiber pollution from petroleum-based materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon.

Hertwig addressed some of the underlying concerns from a sustainability perspective within the context of the end-goal that Unifi is pursuing—curbing pollution through recycling, while creating more cost-savings and efficiencies.

“There are many opportunities for increasing recycling, especially in the United States, where the recycling rate is less than 30 percent. Recycling around the rest of the world is much higher,” Hertwig said.

“We are actively working with our customers and our stakeholders to explore potential impacts that microplastics and microfibers have on the environment. All the while, we remain dedicated to diverting billions of post-consumer plastic bottles, and textile waste, from oceans and landfills. We feel this is one of the most effective ways to mitigate plastic pollution, including microplastics, and to help to shift our economy from linear to circular,” Hertwig added.

As more attention is paid to microfiber pollution in synthetic clothing, companies are taking a closer look at solutions, investing in testing and exploring the effects of fiber shedding.

“We’re working with some brands that are doing research around microfiber pollution. It is a challenge to be overcome—to prevent loose fibers—but laundry equipment manufacturers offer some solutions in terms of removable filter systems,” Hertwig said. “The majority of our production is filament yarn, and if the yarn and fabric is processed in the right way, the fabric doesn’t shed.”

Unifi is on track to meet its goal of recycling 20 billion plastic bottles by 2020 using its REPREVE® technology.


Champions of Sustainability

Hertwig said Unifi’s REPREVE brand is expected to have another good year.

“We are definitely seeing more and more demand in various supply chains that we have around the world for REPREVE and recyclable material in general.”

Unifi launched its sustainability awards in 2017 to recognize brands, retailers and textile partners that are committed to sustainable sourcing.

Unifi announced the recipients of its Third Annual REPREVE Champions of Sustainability Awards on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The awards were given to 26 brand and retail partners that transformed 10 million or more recycled bottles and 42 textile partners that each transformed 50 million or more bottles through the use of REPREVE performance fibers.

Unifi recognized several companies, including H&M which recycled more than a half billion bottles and Walmart and Quicksilver, which reached the quarter billion bottle milestone.

“What we wanted to do with Champions of Sustainability is recognize brands, retailers and fabric suppliers, and highlight their efforts in producing eco-friendly sustainable material with REPREVE,” Hertwig said. “It generated such a level of interest in the supply chain, that many brands, retailers and mills contacted us to learn more about how to be recognized for using Repreve. As the sustainability movement started to grow within their organizations, they wanted to make sure they were getting credit. It has been a surprisingly successful program.”

At the end of the day, Hertwig said Unifi aims to create a higher level of awareness. The REPREVE tagline is “For the Good of Tomorrow.”

“Part of our goal is to create awareness and also educate as many customers and consumers about the importance of recycling through our different marketing campaigns and event appearances,” he said. “We’ve been doing that with our REPREVE national mobile tour, which is relaunching later this spring. It’s traveling across the United States to brands, retailers and different sporting events promoting the importance of recycling, while showing consumers how a bottle can become a pair of shoes, a jacket or automotive seat material.”

Unifi’s REPREVE® on display outside of their factory in Yadkinville, North Carolina.

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

American Textiles: We Make Amazing Sustainability Series

The U.S. textile industry’s investment in sustainability and the “circular economy” comes at a pivotal time.

Consumer demand continues to grow for eco-friendly products, legislators and regulators are taking a hard look at environmental issues across manufacturing industries, and executives across a broad industry spectrum are making sustainability a pillar of their business models.

For years, domestic textile producers have been developing effective sustainable technologies, practices and products to address the myriad challenges associated with reducing manufacturing waste, water and energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions—moves that have helped curb environmental impact.

While there is ample anecdotal evidence showing that the steps textile companies are taking in the U.S is reducing waste, water and energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, no academic or scientific studies exist to date that measure either the impact in the U.S. in aggregate.

However, scores of U.S.-based textile producers, brands and retailers publicly highlight their sustainability goals, commitments, policies and products on their websites.

Most industry executives and experts cite the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as the best credible source for measuring global textile and apparel pollution. China, which has a poor environmental track record and relies largely on coal-based energy, is the number one supplier of apparel imported to the U.S.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the global supply chain is accountable for consuming 98 million tons of non-renewable resources—from the oil used in synthetic fibers to pesticides and fertilizer in cotton production. Globally, the textile industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, including cotton farming, according to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study in 2017. In addition, the Circular Fibres initiative (a consortium of NGOs, philanthropists, brands, and cities cited in the MacArthur report) estimates the global textile industry generated 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Experts warn that all stakeholders both here and abroad will continue feeling the pressure to make greater progress in the years to come.

U.S. textile executives fully understand the drive for sustainability, which often yields benefits in the form of cost-savings and increased efficiencies, and many are at the forefront of the country’s recycling efforts, conservation efforts and advanced technology developments.

Against that backdrop, NCTO is launching a blog series on sustainability that will feature interviews with several textile executives and experts to highlight the industry’s progress, while also outlining challenges companies face in the quest to ultimately contribute to a cleaner environment.




WASHINGTON UPDATE: NCTO Unites with 13 Trade Groups to Support USMCA

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), representing the full spectrum of U.S. textiles from fiber through finished sewn products, joined 13 trade associations in a letter to House lawmakers this week, urging members to vote in favor of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The House was expected to pass USMCA on December 19, 2019.

The USMCA updates and modifies the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and makes significant improvements that textile and cotton producers believe will help bolster cotton exports to the region, as well as the $20 billion in annual trilateral textile and apparel trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Mexico and Canada are the two largest export markets for U.S. textiles, totaling nearly $12 billion in 2018.

For U.S. cotton producers, Mexico is the top export market for U.S. raw cotton and the second largest export market for U.S. cotton textile and apparel products. Canada is the fourth largest market for those products, according to the National Cotton Council.

NCTO will continue to push for passage of USMCA in the Senate, which is expected to hold a vote early next year on the trade pact.


WASHINGTON UPDATE: U.S. and China Complete Phase 1 Deal

Just ahead of a new round of tariffs scheduled to take effect December 15, the Trump administration announced a “Phase One” deal on December 13 that will suspend indefinitely those tariffs and reduce the rate for the list that went into place on September 1 (List 4A).  The text of the agreement has not yet been released; the U.S. and China are expected to sign it in early January.

Based on the latest information available, the deal includes new commitments covered by specific chapters on Intellectual Property; Technology Transfer; Agriculture; Financial Services; Currency; Expanding Trade; and Dispute Settlement.  A fact sheet summarizing the agreement is available here As part of the Expanding Trade section, China has committed to purchasing over the next two years an additional $200 billion of U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, energy products, and services, compared to a 2017 baseline.

In addition to canceling the December 15 tariffs, the United States agreed not to move forward with a previously discussed 5% increase to the tariff rate for Tranches 1-3, meaning that the tariff rate on the $250 billion covered by the first three lists will remain at 25%.  For Tranche 4A, the grouping that went into effect on September 1 at a 15% rate, the U.S. will cut that rate in half to 7.5%.  As a reminder, most apparel and home furnishing products are on Tranche 4A, while textile fibers, yarns and fabrics are part of Tranche 3.   It is unclear precisely when the decreased rate for 4A will take effect, although press reports indicate it will be 30 days after the agreement is signed.  Further, no firm plans have been announced yet as to when the U.S. and China will launch the second phase of the talks or what the scope will be.

As we review this Phase One agreement, it is important that the administration strike the proper balance of maintaining its leverage with China by keeping duties on finished product until a final strong and enforceable deal with China is completed.  We look forward to reviewing and analyzing the deal in more detail. See NCTO’s official press release here.

Further, an exclusion process for the Tranche 4A list is currently underway and will extend through January 31.  The online portal is available here, with exclusion requests being posted on a rolling basis.  Included below are further details for engaging in this process should your company wish to submit an exclusion request and/or respond to requests submitted by others that may overlap with your production capabilities or that of your customers.

Submitting a Tranche 4A Exclusion Request 

To submit an exclusion request, Requestors must first create an account See the $300 Billion Trade Action (List 4) webpage for more information on filing a request for an exclusion, submitting a response to a request, or replying to a response.  Exclusion requests must be submitted by January 31, 2019.

Viewing and Responding to Tranche 4A Exclusion Requests

The list of Tranche 4A exclusion requests posted to the public portal is available here and can be sorted by HTS number to better identify products of interest.  Interested parties do not need to register for an account to view a request or file a response to a request.  Responses and replies will be publicly viewable and should not contain Business Confidential Information.

After a request for exclusion of a particular product is posted to the portal, interested persons have 14 days to respond to the request to express support or opposition.  To file a response, first click on the associated “Exclusion Request ID” to view the public details of the request, then click the “Submit a New Response” button.

Requestors then have 7 days after a response is posted to file a reply.  If a response is filed, USTR indicates that the original Requestor will receive a notification email.  Requestors may file a reply by following the link in the notification email or by logging into their account and viewing the relevant response.

We strongly encourage members to review and continually monthly the exclusion portal through January 31, noting the 14-day window for any responses.  Please let NCTO know if you file a response.