Come together

Carole Sloan, June 28, 2004

Well it looks like it's time to do another elder statesperson column.

Yes, times are different and troubling.

Yes, people are working like they never have before.

And yes, companies are disappearing, and new ones with very different names and origins are emerging.

But that still is no reason for the ennui and lack of involvement such as that shown at the annual HFPA golf and tennis outing last week.

There was a nice group, albeit significantly smaller than in past years.

The thing that was most interesting was that the companies giving the prizes sent no one to the event.

As one CEO in that group explained, "Everyone's just so busy doing more than their jobs."

Then there is the question of the longevity of the Hometex Design Awards since it was noted by one executive that companies don't want to have their design talent exposed to the marketplace.

Isn't that exactly what the apparel business does at many levels — from the marquee stars to the up-and-comers?

It's almost as though the temperature of the marketplace is so incendiary that no one can stop to talk with one another. One thinks back to the '90s when there was the "A" group of vendors and retailers, the "B" group and the "C" group — each of whom gathered for dinner during market week to have conversations — not divulge company strategies.

Those groups disbanded long ago for myriad reasons — competitive reasons being one of the key points.

But this non-involvement thing is impacting more than just a social activity.

There are issues facing this industry that have the potential of forever changing the way products are made and sold.

Key among them is the flammability issue.

Like it or not, this issue is clearly front and center on several governmental fronts. And nobody, yes, nobody in this business seems to care a whit.

There have been meetings on this subject sponsored by the industry association — the HFPA — and the attendance was so small it seemed that the participants were in quarantine.

The mattress folks and the upholstery fabric folks have managed to cobble together an organization to work with the governmental moguls on the flammability subject.

Flammability regs are high on the priority list on both the state level — California — and the Federal level via the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Isn't it time this business got itself together for the same reason — maybe on the 19th hole?

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