(reprinted from Intimate Apparel Journal October 2017)
On a beautiful Saturday morning in Paris this past July, visitors to the Interfilière Show at Paris Mode City were surprised to see a booth in the fibers section of the exposition hall that looked like anything but the display of an ingredients supplier. Absent were the technical drawings showing yarn properties, or product names that sounded like they belonged in a chemistry lab or on a pharmacy shelf.
Instead, huge 3D letters formed color-drenched words: “BRILLIANT,” “INSPIRED” and “BEAUTIFUL.” Three-meter-high lightbox images of fashionable young people wearing stylish outfits, each bathed in a uniquely colored glow, sported bold headlines like “Where Brilliant Design Begins,” “Superior Performance Starts Here” and “Smarter is Beautiful.” Sleek mannequins dressed in extraordinarily soft and light innerwear and innovative activewear welcomed guests to the modern space, where a huge HDTV monitor played a video showing busy millennials going about their lives comfortably, purposefully and intelligently.
Who was behind this initiative?
NILIT, the Israel-based global manufacturer and marketer of premium Nylon 6.6 fiber, known for its leadership in hosiery, intimate apparel, seamless and, more recently, active apparel and athleisurewear, chose the Paris show to launch Sensil®, the company’s new premium Nylon 6.6 master brand for apparel. It was the culmination of a year of consumer and market research into the rapidly-evolving apparel marketplace, resulting in the development of new strategies for communicating its quality, service and value story to the new generation of brands, retailers and consumers that represent the future of apparel.
SENSIL® and the New Consumer
Major disruption is underway in the retail apparel market thanks to a dramatic shift in the way consumers are living, shopping and buying. A very important and influential segment of young millennials is leading this change. They are digital natives, more connected, informed, demanding and empowered than ever before. To them, quality, longevity, authenticity, performance, and value are of paramount importance, and many are turning away from the traditional brands that are cheapening their raw materials and quality to lower costs. Young, influential consumers are demanding multitasking clothing that does more than just look nice and cover the body. Through its research, NILIT found that many influential young consumers are turning away from fast fashion. They would rather pay more for superior quality, fit and design than to wearing something a few times and throw it away. NILIT’s Nylon 6.6 products, which are premium-priced and found in the best activewear, intimate apparel, legwear and other apparel products, were the perfect solution for this next generation of consumers.
Sensil® Product Benefits
Nylon 6.6 is softer, stronger, more comfortable and more durable than polyester and Nylon 6. Garments made of Sensil® look and feel better, have increased longevity, and retain their newness longer. And second skin apparel like intimates, underwear, activewear and hosiery, are perfect for Sensil®, whose light weight and ultra-soft hand make it the perfect next-to-body solution.
The Sensil® product line spans fibers from the finest hosiery yarns to denim and outerwear counts. Its ultrafine 6/4 yarn was featured in the Guiness Book of World Records as the world’s finest yarn, and its Ecocare was the first-ever patented recycled Nylon 6.6.
Sensil® Nylon 6.6 delivers premium performance with inherent odor control, temperature and moisture management, qualities that are given an extra boost in its performance products like BodyFresh, Breeze and Aquarius. Sensil® is the first step in the most advanced apparel in the market, giving consumers the freedom to do more and live better. These performance products, along with its far infrared product Innergy, and warming product Heat, represent the fastest growing area within NILIT’s portfolio.
The company’s growing offering of fashion yarns, including the Diamond yarn debuted at Interfilière, offers designers tremendous flexibility in visual and tactile aesthetics and in the use of color and luster.
The Paris show truly marked the beginning of a new era for NILIT. NILIT’s plans for Sensil® represent a significant departure from its former tendency to market exclusively to fabric producers. The company realized that although it was well known to the direct customers it worked with on a regular basis, the increased fragmentation of the industry, with many small startup brands launching on a weekly basis, and the shifting of power from producer to consumer, meant it needed to direct its narrative and build awareness downstream in the value chain, closer to the end-user.
Through the successful downstream marketing of Sensil®, NILIT could finally begin to thwart the attempts of people in the supply chain whose sole focus seems to be cost reduction, a practice that has resulted in the dilution of quality and the hindering of innovation.
NILIT will continue to work with established premium players such as Lululemon, Wolford, Odlo, Spanx, Jockey, Stance, New Balance, Parah Sport, and Donna Karan, building programs and awareness of Sensil® Nylon 6.6 benefits among important influencers and consumers.
Also, thanks to important new relationships at smaller, more exclusive fabric producers, the NILIT marketing team will also be working with many of the new next-gen digital brands that are gaining a foothold in the market. Brands like Negative Underwear, Thinx, Third Love, Outlier, Rhone, Commando, Stance, True & Co and others are capturing the imagination of a growing number of young consumers who prefer to shop at brands that tell a compelling story.
Beginning in early 2018, NILIT will market Sensil® through a 360-degree communication program to brands, retailers and consumers on both print and digital, traditional and social media platforms, and at e-commerce and brick-and-mortar point-of-sale.
The company was founded in 1969 by Ennio Levi, who moved with his family from Italy to Israel. Construction of the company’s nylon plant in the northern part of the country began in 1971, with the first commercial product sold in 1974. For many years the company concentrated in the hosiery market, then expanded into the new seamless technology that was taking the industry by storm. Later, NILIT moved into circular knit, warp knit and woven fabric markets, giving it presence in key segments like activewear, intimate apparel and the outdoor and outerwear areas. At the same time, it was growing its presence internationally, forming a joint venture in 1997 with Sara Lee Hosiery (today part of Hanesbrands), followed by another JV in 2001 with yarn texturizer Unifi, Inc.
In 2008 the company founded NILIT China, where it would cut the ribbon 5 years later on its first Nylon 6.6 plant, in Suzhou. In 1995, the company established the Engineered Plastics division.
In 2009 NILIT’s North American presence was established with the purchase of Nylstar’s plant in Martinsville, Virginia, and then in 2014 the acquisition of Invista’s nylon plant in Americana, Brazil, took place. The company now had production sites in the four key apparel regions of the world and an expanding commercial presence, serving customers in more than 70 countries, distributing and marketing products under both its own brands and those from licensing partners TACTEL, SUPPLEX and CORDURA.
Throughout its almost five decades, the company has been slowly but systematically growing its geographic and category footprint in Nylon 6.6, along with its line of innovative apparel fiber products, demonstrating commitment and leadership in a manmade fiber space that has become far too often “commoditized” by suppliers and buyers alike. Truly a master of its craft, the company is 100% committed to Nylon 6.6, and is the only nylon producer investing today in marketing, R&D and technical innovation. Although the company also supplies fiber for some light industrial and technical applications, since the recent sale of its plastics business apparel is the focus of almost everything NILIT does.
The Company Today
With an ethnically and culturally diverse workforce of 1300 employees around the world (720 in Israel and Europe, 200 in China, 200 in Brazil, and 170 in North America), NILIT prides itself on its social responsibility, safety, and environmentally-friendly production processes. The company is majority-owned by the founding Levi family, with Tel Aviv-based Investment Banking Group Leumi Partners holding a minority share. Privately-held, the company does not share financial information.
At NILIT’s helm since June is General Manager Ilan Melamed, who led the company’s recently-sold plastics division to meteoric growth. To Melamed, elevating NILIT into premium markets where exceptional quality, service and intrinsic value are important will be a key initiative going forward. “We at NILIT are ready to meet current market challenges. With our expertise and reach across the global value chain and our belief in our Nylon 6.6 product portfolio, we are renewing our commitment to helping our supply chain partners differentiate and enhance their products, setting an even higher standard for innovation and service.”
Pierluigi Berardi, Global Marketing Director since April 2016 when he joined NILIT from Invista, where he spent a decade marketing Lycra and other fibers, sees great opportunity ahead for NILIT in the premium market: “The apparel industry is at an exciting crossroads. Consumers are more empowered and demanding than ever before. They don’t want just cheaper, they want better. With Sensil®, we are taking our message of craftsmanship and quality to a new generation of brands and retailers who are setting new standards for performance, style, and value.”
Berardi’s team of Global Marketing Managers located in Asia, Europe, Israel, the U.S. and Brazil is a well-coordinated group of professionals with almost a century of collective industry experience between them. They convene on regular conference calls and quarterly in-person meetings at the company’s various offices around the world.
A few months ago, on the occasion of NILIT founder Ennio Levi’s 100th birth anniversary, company Chairman Michael Levi sent an eloquent letter to employees marking the day and honoring his late father, whom he called “uncompromising and meticulous about every detail.” These exemplary qualities continue today in Sensil®, and remain more relevant than ever in meeting the needs of the demanding, hyper-competitive market.
Through its knowledge of what consumers want now, and what they will want in the future, NILIT will continue to work with its supply chain partners to develop new, differentiated products and exciting marketing programs that will help everyone in its sphere thrive and grow.
The Sensil® logo, as elegant and strong as the models in its visuals, with double lines representing partnership, is the perfect symbol with which to tie all the imagery together. One marketing executive, seeing the design for the first time, remarked that it “looks Art Deco on the one hand, but very modern and clean on the other.”
By keeping one foot planted in the past and another pointing straight ahead, eager to work with its partners to meet the needs of a rapidly-evolving industry, NILIT remains well-positioned for the future, with the heritage and innovative vision to handle whatever the market throws its way.
(From left) NILIT General Manager Ilan Melamed, Global Marketing Director Pierluigi Berardi, Global Marketing Strategist Judith Russell, Marketing Communications Manager Amy Holzer<< BACK TO SENSIL In The News