U.S. textile industry proving its mettle during crisis

By Devin Steele

Over the last few weeks, the sewn products, textiles and apparel industry and many of its suppliers have demonstrated all that is possible when everyone comes together with a common purpose to address a major crisis.

And for this industry in the U.S., the possibilities appear endless.

That was one of the major takeaways from a webinar Tuesday hosted jointly by SEAMS, The Association & Voice of the U.S. Sewn Products Industry, and SPESA, The Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas. The event attracted 176 viewers.

During the webinar, titled “Supply Chain Dynamics Amid COVID-19,” leaders of four companies involved in the industry’s drastic turn into Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production for frontline healthcare heroes and the general public covered the challenges and opportunities this “pivot” has presented, as well as some of the backstory that pushed them to answer this call.

Speakers included Colin Holloway, senior manager, Global Innovation at HanesBrands; Frank Henderson, president and CEO at Henderson Sewing Machine Co.; Jeoff Bodenhorst Jr., president of LA Corp and of SEAMS; and Ron Roach, president of Contempora Fabrics and secretary/treasurer of SEAMS. SEAMS Executive Director Will Duncan and SPESA President Michael McDonald moderated.

Each presenter explained how he got involved in the effort. Holloway, who splits his time between Hanes’ office in Winston-Salem, N.C., and its facility on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, is now involved in the global brand’s shift into PPE production, he said. Hanes is part of a coalition of several textile companies and apparel brands formed last month through collaboration with the White House and the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO).

The company, Holloway said, switched gears in several areas to now focus day-to-day on various types of face masks and other PPE such as gowns and scrubs.