For the 53 leather vendors that participated in the India Factory & Sourcing Expo in New York last week, the event provided a platform for these factories to test the waters with American customers. Hosted by The Accessories Council and held in partnership with India’s Council of Leather Exports, the presentation of manufacturers was the first of its kind in the U.S. for many years.
“By taking part, the factories learn if they’re right for the market,” said Karen Giberson, president of The Accessories Council. “Everybody wants to work here but not everybody’s right, so it’s a very affordable option for the factories to dip their toe in the water and see if it’s good before they invest a lot.”
The expo saw a total of 156 companies and 200 buyers attend over the two days, ranging in scale from Vince Camuto and Kenneth Cole to hopeful designers with plans in their pockets. In a similar fashion, the variety of vendors on display included both those who were already selling to well-established European brands and those willing to work with much smaller minimums. Representatives of The Accessories Council were also available to direct visitors towards the right fit; members of the team make regular trips to India to tour the facilities so that they can speak firsthand to what can be offered.
Including a range of product, price point and capability was a priority for the event. The Council for Leather Exports in India was responsible for assembling the line-up and used a democratic process: whoever signed up first got the spots. However, for future expos, The Accessories Council intends to implement a more rigorous system by requiring proof of Sedex or ISO certifications.
“We want to know we can send a buyer to a factory that we can assure is certified, that has been inspected,” said Giberson.
This was the first expo of many that the Accessories Council hopes to host with Indian manufacturers. Part of a four-year-long project between the two countries, the event is seen as part of a broader mission to educate brands on this alternative to Chinese factories — which grows more relevant as trade talks continue. With the additional recent announcement that the biggest footwear park in the world will be developed in Bahadurgarh, India, there is increasing reason to look towards the country.
“It’s a learning process for our brands, our companies and our members, who need to think about diversification of their supply chains because of everything that’s happening with the tariffs or could potentially happen with the tariffs,” explained Giberson. “It’s a good time to take a look and to start to groom your next factory partner.”
How the India Factory & Sourcing Expo Hopes to Challenge China’s Manufacturing Power