While dozens of Mexican textile companies have closed down, Rio Sul has become the leader in manufacturing denim jeans for leading labels. Susana Baumann reports on how the company succeeded against all odds.
Globalization affected many industries world- wide. One of the most affected was the textile industry in Mexico.
For those companies that were able to rapidly adjust to a changing environment, it meant deep-pocket investments and intensive labor training. It also meant a great effort to introduce new technologies and increase their manufacturing levels to target new market segments and respond with a more crafted, elaborated version of the clothing they manufactured.
Such is the case of R¡o Sul S.A. de C.V., a company founded in 1987 by Edward Abraham and Justo Olvera Caballero in the state of Puebla, southwestern region of Mexico. The region carries a long tradition in the denim industry, from manufacturing the fabric to cutting and sewing basic jeans, so supplies and trained labor were available.
Since 1987, in order to become the lead company in full package of denim jeans, R¡o Sul has made an effort to expand vertically. That effort included building a factory of woven labels, leather and cardboard tags, and locating offices and a warehouse in El Paso, Texas. Except for spinning yarn, R¡o Sul has taken control of all facets of operation in order to guarantee the best service possible.
The company has worked now for Sam’s Club’s Members’ Mark for 10 years, and for Perry Ellis for the last two years (Perry Ellis handles Members’ Mark production through the acquisition of Tropical Store International programs). “Working for these clients demanded our investment in state-of-the-art technology and equipment to compete with the principal companies in Latin America and China,” said Tere Arabian, Vice Sales Director. The company’s investments helped to integrate the entire supply chain while maintaining strict controls of inventories and delivery times.
R¡o Sul’s full-package capabilities allow the company to deliver an article fully processed in 20 days from specs to shipping. However, the company can reduce those times for urgent orders. “Once the prototype is created and approved, we can cut, sew, finish and deliver in 15 days,” explained Arabian.
Although the company handles the latest equipment, such as Drover, Pegasus, Yamato, Union, Gerber and TIKK zippers, the current trends demand intensive labor in the washing and finishing processes. Sometimes, runs with specific details such as special pockets, embroideries or other details also demand hands-on involvement of specially trained workers.
R¡o Sul performs all processes in house to maintain consistency and meet style and quality requirements. Once the garment is sewn, the laundry and finishing processes are instrumental in the piece’s look. These processes begin with tests of fabric resistance, shrinkage levels, and color firmness.
The company has worked with top customers, such as Berkley & Jensen, Bill Blass, Savane, Izod, TSI, Sonoma, OCI, Guess, Calvin Klein and Bugle Boy, and their products are sold to department stores such as Sam’s Club, JC Penney, Kohl’s and Goodies.
The company’s location in the city of Puebla allows excellent means of communication to be in contact with its plants in Oaxaca, Chiapas. In addition, Arabian believes that the secret of R¡o Sul’s success lies on a great team.
“We are concerned about our people and we regard them as our most important asset, which makes the company achieve the kind of success we have attained,” she concluded.