President Sean Zahedi says supply chain woes and a new ‘stay-at-home’ focus are driving apparel brands to his knit textile manufacturer.
Founded 36 years ago by Zahedi’s father, Lafayette Textiles got its start in the manufacturing of woven fabrics. However, when US apparel brands began buying more woven fabrics from overseas, the company had to pivot if it wanted to remain in business.
“That’s something that makes us special,” Zahedi says. “We’ve really adapted over the years, and whenever the market has changed, we’ve changed with it. Now, we’re predominantly a domestic knit textile manufacturer.”
It’s a change that has definitely paid off. Lafayette Textiles has since grown to 60,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing and the remainder of the warehouse space set aside for raw material and finished good storage. Zahedi says the company’s facility runs 24 hours a day and produces 2.5 million pounds of knit textiles each year for apparel manufacturers and brands that sell finished goods wholesale or direct to the consumer.
Lafayette Textiles’ customers benefit from lead times as short as two to three weeks on their orders. “Our focus is not so much on stocking finished goods inventory,” Zahedi says. “For the most part, our system is made-to-order, and we focus on keeping lead times as tight as possible for our goods. We keep yarn in stock so when someone places an order, we don’t have to wait for the raw materials. We just grab the yarn, put it on the knitting machine, and we’re running the order right away.”
Zahedi’s team sources yarn and other raw materials from all over the world. While they typically buy cotton yarn domestically, other fibers –including polyester, polycotton, bamboo, and Tencel — may come from India, Vietnam, Mexico, or South Korea.
Lafayette Textiles’ knitting machines range from 4-cut to 28-cut in different stitches
including jersey, French terry, rib, sweater knit, and unlimited repeat stripes. “There are probably 12 different types of knit structures we’re able to make,” Zahedi says. “On top of that, some of our customers want to make custom fabric. They may give us one to analyze and copy or just give us an idea of what they are looking for and then we’re able to develop a product for them.”
Zahedi notes that the textile company’s jersey fabrics have been particularly popular along with French terry and fleece. “Those are predominantly used for t-shirts, sweatpants, hoodies, and jackets,” he continues. “As stay-at-home became a way of life [during the pandemic], a lot of brands started transitioning to making sweats, sweatshirts, and stay-at-home attire, so to speak. We were pretty well positioned for that because of our strong production capability with fleece and French terry fabrics and quick-turn lead time.”
Challenges: Zahedi says that sourcing raw materials has been challenging. Prices for raw materials are also increasing due to labor shortages and growing freight costs. “Our challenge is maintaining our margins while trying not to raise our own prices too much,” he continues. “We’re trying to keep them as low as we possibly can.”
Opportunities: Zahedi says the pandemic — and the supply chain issues it created — drove more brands to switch to domestic fabric manufacturers including Lafayette Textiles. “We actually saw an increase in business last year starting in June,” he explains. “And since then, we’ve continued to see a lot of growth.”
Zahedi estimates that the company’s revenues will be as much as 40 percent higher by the end of this year than they were the year prior — and he anticipates demand for fabric that is made in the US to continue to grow. “For us, it’s really just capturing more apparel companies and brands that may have been producing overseas before but are now looking for a ‘Made in USA’ manufacturer.”
Needs: “Raw materials are everything,” Zahedi says. “If you don’t have yarn, there’s nothing you can do. We’re also always on the hunt for good people to join our team. We need a production manager who understands textile manufacturing, and that’s not a very easy position to fill. We also need salespeople. I think we’re a great opportunity for any salesperson who wants to get into selling fabrics.”