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ATC goes straight to sourcing

With 20 years under its belt, Associated Textile Converters — an $80 million business — has seen a seismic shift in the way decorative fabrics business is done.

The company was formed in 1982 when Jeff Thomases of Swavelle Fabrics, Piermont Mills and Piermont Fabrics purchased it from his father Fred Thomases and his partners. The elder Thomases and his partners had filed bankruptcy under Chapter 11 the year before for their converting and printing business, which served the apparel markets under the name Brewster Organization.

"When I bought the businesses, we probably did about 10 percent of our sourcing off-shore, and then only for greige goods," Thomases recalled. Today, he said "it's probably 75 percent off-shore" from countries including China, Holland, India, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Taiwan Turkey and Thailand. "And today, it's creative sourcing, not just for price but loyalties that involve quality and service as well as price." In addition there are techniques that cannot be done here, such as metallics for environmental reasons and the printing techniques used in Holland.

As an example, he cited Turkey as a fabric source. "Richard [Hanfling, corporate vp] and I went in '92. The mills just couldn't perform. Seven years later the changes were immense — financially, as well as stability and state-of-the-art equipment and service."

The company in 20 years has expanded from its product roots of printed sheers, piece-dyed solids, moires, laces, sheers, casements and cotton mini-prints to include a product mix of upholstery fabrics, 54-inch multi-purpose prints, an ongoing and highly successful collection of wovens and prints under license from Raymond Waites, and the exclusive NAFTA distribution for Italy's Manifattura Lodovici. "Raymond's fabrics did more than $10 million last year and overall has a couple of million-yard patterns. He has tremendous vision and insight, is well travelled and deals with many industries. It's been a wonderful marriage," Hanfling said.

Lodovici, now in its fourth year, has achieved all its goals in sales and is producing a very nice profit, he said.

A contract division, aided in part by styles from Lodovici as well as a recently developed national sales force "with some stars in that marketplace," is moving the contract business forward, said Hanfling. Overall, he added "that market is soft but with our new efforts, it is growing."

As the offshore challenge continues to expand, Thomases said, "We have to look at weaving and printing offshore to provide goods for manufacturers sewing off-shore."

Thomases is quick to credit the work of his employees, especially those with him since day one: Joe Cappi, Lloyd Goldstein, Al Hazen, Anne Powers, Mike Richman, Russ Rosenfeld, Jean Santomero and Juan Soto as well as the next generation of Thomases, sons David and Greg.

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