The producer of natural fibres and the producer of manufactured fibres are engaged in two very different businesses. The farmer who raises cotton, the rancher who herds sheep or the grower of silkworms is trying to produce a maximum quantity of fibre from animal or vegetable sources. The grower may attempt to improve the quality of the seeds or breeding stock but is limited in production by natural factors. If the demand for the product increases or decreases, the grower cannot, like the manufactured fibre producer, simply increase or decrease the short-term supply of fibre.
The term-manufactured fibre describes a fibre produced commercially through regeneration from natural materials or synthesized from chemicals. Trade associations in the manufactured fibres industry may be industry wide or specific to particular fibres. The American Fibre Manufacturers Association, Inc. (AFMA) is the trade organization for the manufactured fibres industry, conducting many of the same kinds of promotional activities as described for the natural fibres associations.
AFMA always uses generic fibre names-such as polyester, nylon, rayon, and so on-in printed materials, while its individual fibre producing members concentrate on their trademarked fibre names, such as DuPont’s Dacron@ (polyester) or Wellman’s Fortrel@ (polyester). Producers of particular fibres may also join together to form fibre-specific trade associations. The Acrylic Council, the Polyester Council, and the American Polyolefin Association are examples of fibre-focused trade associations.
Production in the manufactured fibres industry differs from the production of natural fibres in a number of ways. While the manufactured fibres industry must depend on available supplies of the raw materials from which fibres are made, this industry is not dependent on natural forces that regulate the supply of fibre. A great many manufactured fibres are made from materials derived from petroleum, and therefore supplies and costs of raw materials may be affected by changes in the price of oil. Manufacturers can regulate production according to supply and demand. Manufacturers can also help to create demand for increased quantities of fibre products through advertising and other publicity.
Many manufactured fibre producers and firms are, or were originally, chemical companies. The fibre manufacturer generally sells the fibres produced to a firm that will make yarns and/or fabrics. These fibres may be sold as unbranded products or commodities. When fibres are sold in this way, the purchaser has no obligation to the fibre manufacturer to produce a product of any specific quality. Products must meet no minimum standards. In short, the buyers can do whatever they wish with the fibres they have purchased. Other fibres may be sold as trademarked fibres. The manufacturer owns the trademark, which is denoted by placing either the symbol @ or TM after the trademarked name. Trademarked names are always capitalized-for example, Micrell@ polyester. The owner of a trademark can bring court action to prevent unauthorized use of the trademark.
When the fibre manufacturer’s trademarked name is carried by the finished product, the fibre manufacturer has some control over the quality of the fabric, although it is still possible that a poorly made garment could be constructed from the fabric. One advantage to the fabric and garment manufacturers of buying a trademarked fibre is that they can capitalize on the publicity and promotional materials distributed by the fibre manufacturer. Licensed trademarked fibres are sold only to those manufacturers whose fabrics meet the standards established by the fibre manufacturer. Standards may be set in regard to the construction of fabrics, the manufacture of apparel or other products, and, in blends or combinations of two or more fibres, the appropriate proportion of fibres to be combined. As an alternative to trade marking, some fibre companies assign certification mark names to yarns or fabrics made from their fibres. Such designations require that the items identified with the certification mark meet criteria established by the fibre manufacturer.
Not only do the fabric and garment manufacturers benefit from customer familiarity with the brand name of the fibre, but the fibre manufacturer often shares the costs of advertising or mounts intensive publicity campaigns to promote the fabric, the final product, and even retail outlets where the products are sold.
The interest of manufactured fibre producers in their products does not end when the fibre is sold. Because techniques for spinning and fabricating manufactured fibres may not be uniform for all fibres, the fibre producer provides technical assistance to the fabric manufacturer. Technical bulletins are published that recommend the most effective ways of processing fibres. Consultants from the fibre companies provide information about new developments in textile machinery and finishing. Research and development in fibre-producing companies is often focused on more effective ways of handling manufactured fibres during fabrication.
Fibre producers assist manufacturers of fabrics, garments, or other products to locate sources of yarns and fabrics. The marketing department of a fibre-producing company also maintains a library of fabrics that can be used by manufacturers and their designers.
A wide variety of other services is offered to the direct customers of the fibre companies and to the general public. Exhibits of current products are presented, often at trade and professional meetings. Educational materials for schools, retailers, and consumers are prepared and distributed. Retail stores may be assisted in promoting trademarked products through fashion shows, publicity materials, or cooperative advertising in which the fibre producer pays some part of the advertising costs. Fashion consultants may be available to assist the designers of fabrics, clothes, and furnishings.
Many of these activities are part of an organized advertising and public relations program. In addition to the services offered that result indirectly in publicity and goodwill for the company, direct advertising is also utilized. Besides advertising cooperatively with manufactures of retail products and retail stores, fibre companies also advertise in publications ranging from those for the trade to general magazines. Research and development (often abbreviated as R & D) is an important function in most large textile fibre companies.
Researchers are constantly looking for new fibres, fibre modifications, and improvements in processing at all steps of manufacture. The whole synthetic fibres industry might be said to have grown out of the research and development program at the chemical company Dupont, for it was in this program that W. H. Caruthers first synthesized nylon.