US fashion brand group VF Corporation believes Asian manufacturers will continue their hold on the global apparel supply chain, despite reports of rising costs in China.

Speaking at the IAF World Apparel Convention in Maastricht last week, Thomas Glaser, sourcing director of VF Corporation, said: "We think the future is still in Asia.

"You might say 'well China's changing and the Renminbi is changing' but the reality is that's where the fabric is, the wages are still quite low, and it's unlikely, in our view, to come back to North America or very largely to Europe.

"Even though the costs are coming up [in Asia] it's still relatively less expensive and even more importantly that's where the vertical supply chains are, and that's where the fabric is."

The NYSE-listed company, whose portfolio includes the Wrangler and North Face brands, still produces around 35% of everything it sells through 40-owned facilities worldwide.

He also said that VF, which currently owns sites Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Poland and Turkey, was exploring the possibility of opening further owned-factories, potentially in the Middle East. 

"We don't think that the day of owning factories is completely done, but we are doing portfolio shifts based on how the global sourcing equation is moving around."

VF's number of owned-factories has fallen 27% in the past eight years though, with much sourcing transferred over to Asia.

Today the company sources from 1,400 contractors throughout the world, mostly in Asia and with 15% of total purchases made in China.

However, Glaser added its Asian sourcing is relatively still small compared to branded competitors, and that the company was also looking to support the North American markets, including Mexico and the Carribean, whose exports have been bolstered by NAFTA and CAFTA trade deals respectively.

VF makes 75m pairs of jeans a year in Mexico for import to the US.

Meanwhile, Glaser outlined that for the Euro-Med zone, VF sources from countries including Turkey, Romania and Egypt, together with its sourcing office in the Far East that employs around 1,200 people.

By Joe Ayling, news editor.