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If you mention fabric and new products to the average person, they think immediately of the fashion world, most don’t realize how much textiles touch their lives everyday. Most of the performance fabrics are developed for specific needs and markets. When researching new fabrics, KTS1 looks outside of these original needs and markets, create new products, penetrating additional markets, and increasing fabric production. We have worked with a large variety of industries, from the pet industry, which represents $52 billion annually, home décor which does $270 billion annually and more. While there are several industries we design product for, these new items are still part of the textile world.
Gus: What inspired you to launch KTS1?
Kathy: We were manufacturing within an industry (textiles) which has suffered an extraordinary amount of losses over the last couple of decades. Many of the jobs were headed offshore and everyone was scrambling for the military contracts which had to comply with the Berry Amendment. In fulfilling these contracts, we became aware of the constant demand for new and improved military products. We created a team, including scientists, seaming experts, mills, additional manufactures and others to streamline these needs, a “one stop shop” per say, cutting down on the time and costs on a new product. When the economy started to struggle, we were approached by more than one entrepreneur searching for the same type of service. As the demand increased, we made the decision to launch KTS1 as the R & D company for new textile assembled products. Providing prototypes, samples, sourcing for both materials and the correct manufacturing facility, we now align with a variety of mills, knitters, manufacturers and others in supplying them with work and contracts.
Gus: Can you expand upon how you support entrepreneurs on all levels, providing them the support they need from initial design through development to product launch?
Kathy: Entrepreneurs come to us from all over, ready to build a better mouse trap. Most have a “common sense” approach to a problem and have a pretty good solution, but as they are not familiar with the textile industry, it can be pretty challenging to build prototypes, source not only the materials, but also the right manufacturer, provide the right information to the manufacturer to ensure a product is created correctly, identify the target markets, create the strategy and actually penetrate the market to finally make a profit. Some entrepreneurs have done a lot a research and need little assistance, but most need more. We have several options available for our clients. The can pick and choose what level of assistance they require and also work with them on funds, providing a different set of payment plans which can work within their budgets. We really try to work with our clients to help them get their products created and launched.
Gus: What kinds of insights and experience have you gained from working with such a variety of industries and what kind of insights that has provided to KTS1?
Kathy: While we work in textiles, it touches so many industries; we are constantly researching and are aware of the trends and buying power over a multitude of them. There is a constant effort from so many people about improving their portion of the world they live in and share with us regularly. One example would be the pet industry. We developed Force Field 360™, a line of pet products created from fabric which repels insects, and discovered some pretty amazing facts about the pet industry. The Pet Industry appears to be weathering the recession well; it actually grew by almost 10% every year in the last 4 years and is now over a 50+ billion dollar annual industry. With this information and the buying trends within this industry, it has really put it on our radar and we continue to search for additional new fabric technology and products which we can introduce into this market.
Gus: What are some trends in the textile industry that you’re excited about?
Kathy: The most exciting area of this industry isn’t on the average person’s radar, it’s the technology combined with fibers. When technology is the topic of a conversation, the average person will speak of the next smart phone, tablet, software or something in that area. As man continued the quest for creature comfort and personal protection, his environment continually changed. Electricity was discovered, machines were developed and everyday life thrived with new inventions. While the history of many of these products are easily recognized, such as computers – they were once huge main frame systems, which required large rooms to accommodate them and now are microchips, operating in milliseconds and in several everyday products – textiles has quietly recognized a huge evolution of its own. After centuries of relying on natural materials, synthetic fibers were developed. Synthetic fibers opened up a new world of textile products and the beginning of what is now commonly known as performance fabrics. Technology in the textile industry has an entirely different meaning. Since Dan Rivers introduced Perma Press back in the 60’s, the textile industry continues to create performance fibers and fabrics, allowing for the creation of some interesting new products. It is now textiles and technology performing together creating an era of innovation for fiber technology, performance fabrics and virtual designs.
And these are only a few of the fabrics which are available. Combined with the advancement of the “computer” technology, the creation of new products continues to supports everyday life. This doesn’t even touch on the new manufacturing methods and virtual designing capabilities. Some of these new methods are simply amazing and unbelievable. And there is so much more to come. It’s not just cut and sew anymore.
Gus: Can you provide an example of when you’ve used strategic foresight to link innovation with future growth and to overcome current barriers in the textile industry?
Kathy: The advantage of developing products in a variety of areas and working with different manufactures allows us to keep a pulse in many industries. A good example of this is our BMP 911 line. This line was developed for law enforcement and working with the industry we became familiar with a multitude of products and their needs. We developed new products, some of which needed very specific manufactures, holsters specifically and working with these manufacturers discovered their large production increases since 2008. The information we gathered and analyzed provided us with a new niche market for women in concealed carry and are now launching a new line, Tru Carry, to accommodate this evolving market. Our patent pending designs along with other proprietary components is already creating a lot of excitement.
While there are barriers in this industry, several entities, including some very large names, including scientists, mills, designers, suppliers and more are working together to provide new products which is helping to reshore this industry to the US. The ever increasing demand for Made in USA products, along with this collaborative effort has already started creating the trend of some of this production coming back. Over the last couple of years, there are already presentations at industry shows as to how buyers and others should look and handle this new trend. We just started a little earlier than they did.
Gus: What inspired you to open the KTS1 Sewing Lab and Design Incubator space to the public? What have been the most rewarding aspects of the experience so far?
Kathy: One of the most common things we heard from our clients was there was no place for them to even try to develop their product. Up until a about the mid 60s to 70’s, there was a sewing machine in each home, that number has dwindled due to mass production. Even the “Home Ec” classes in the schools have changed drastically. Many don’t know how to run a sewing machine and over the years, we have lost a lot of our US creativity in design and other areas, noted in several news articles in the last few years. When we changed our business model to support new product development it left several machines and manufacturing space available. My daughter designs and competes in the costume industry, specifically the Anime and Role Playing world, also another multi-billion dollar industry. Over the last couple of years we have had several groups from this industry showing up to utilize our quiet machines and space. There is always a lot of energy and several wonderful things created during these times. No one is told, they can’t create, we do just the opposite. Once again, we took a step back to analyze everything and decided to provide that missing link and support. We reached out to our local schools, including universities to offer this link and insight into the textile world and have had very positive response to date. We have already spoke in both engineering classes and fashion merchandising on how this industry really operates and what it actually takes.
In this down turned economy, there are several people with ideas who want to create their products on their own, but have neither the space nor the money to invest in. Incubators have been an answer to that problem for several industries, from kitchens to laboratories. It was just a natural move for us to support these budding entrepreneurs. The creativity is there; sometimes it just needs a little bit of support and guidance.
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