When Asher Shalom visited some family members in Los Angeles in 1988, he surveyed the metropolis’s fashion scene and saw an industry that had excelled at milling fleece and denim, but he thought that the city’s business had been coming up short in milling novelty fabrics. Shalom had fallen in love with Los Angeles after visiting from his native Israel and wanted to move to the City of the Angels. He believed he had something to add to the city’s fashion business through his background in fabric engineering. He started the novelty mill Asher Fabric Concepts in 1991.
After three decades in business, the idea of building a niche in domestically made novelty fabrics has paid off for Shalom, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
Businesses are increasingly investing in domestic manufacturing in order to develop an edge in speed-to-market capabilities. During the pandemic, more consumers started relying on many of the fabrics manufactured at Asher such as knits for athleticwear and loungewear.
“2020 was one of our best years,” Shalom said. “One of the reasons is that people were staying at home. They were wearing sweatshirts and loungewear. We have super-soft fabrics that brands are screen-printing on.”
The company also mills fabrics for dress knits, swimwear, sportswear, sweater knits and lingerie. A year before the pandemic, Asher Fabric Concepts developed fabrics for use as post-medical-procedure supplies.
The company also has increased its commitment to milling fabrics in-house. It acquired eight additional leading-edge knitting machines from Tricots Liesse, a Canadian knits manufacturer that went out of business in late 2020, said Yael Shalom Ohana, the company’s president of sales and Shalom’s daughter.
“When we have customers who need fabric immediately, we can accommodate their needs and make their deliveries happen,” Shalom Ohana said.
Asher Fabric Concepts was also able to ride the wave of another increasingly prominent trend. Brands hope to define themselves as unique through exclusivity in product. The company is able to offer its clients such an edge. It works with clients to develop unique designs, Shalom Ohana said.
“They get a great reaction with something fresh and new and unique that complements their individual brand aesthetic,” she said.
Asher Fabric Concepts has an inventory of more than 500 different yarns. One of the company’s guiding programs was to take fibers that would seemingly clash and then build a unique fabric out of the contrasting materials. Price points range from $4 to $8 per yard for jersey fabric and $7 to $10 per yard for French terry and fleece.
The company works with the trend forecaster WGSN on guidance for style inspiration. Shalom also uses his own creativity and background in fabrics engineering to develop knits with a specific customer in mind.
“We try to come up with an interesting sample,” Shalom Ohana said. “[Brands] adapt it to their own lines. Each development is tailored to the brand’s own exceptional aesthetic.”
Shalom Ohana estimated that 25 percent of their customers are emerging brands. Some of the brands that the company started working with since they launched include high-end Los Angeles labels such as Cotton Citizen, Sundry and Velvet. It also looks to be flexible with minimums. “Whether it’s two rolls or 40 rolls, we try to accommodate every customer,” Shalom Ohana said.
Sustainability has increasingly been a concern for Asher Fabric Concepts’ clients. The company has a lot of recycled cotton in stock. In the spirit of supporting sustainable fabric, Asher has produced a sale of its archived dead-stock fabric.
“We are encouraging our customers to repurpose these 400 styles of dead stock. Instead of knitting new fabric, use dead stock,” said Shalom Ohana.
The dead-stock-fabric sale will run through April 15. Samples can be viewed in a tent located outside of the Asher Fabric Concepts showroom in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights area.