By  on October 17, 2011

HONG KONG — Buyers at the Interstoff fair here exercised restraint and caution in seeking textiles despite cotton and wool prices easing from earlier this year.

The three-day Interstoff Asia Essential textile trade fair at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center, which ended Oct. 8, drew 210 exhibitors, the same as the spring edition. The organizer, Messe Frankfurt, said visitor attendance also matched the spring fair at about 7,000.

Buyers said raw material prices had stabilized, but not enough for them to place many orders. Cotton peaked at $2.197 a pound on March 7, the highest in the 140 years it has traded on an exchange. It fell to $1.17 for the month of September, according to International Monetary Fund figures.

Fine wool, which was at $18.65 a kilogram in June, the highest month this year, fell 15 percent to $15.93 in September, according to IMF figures, but that was still 61 percent higher than the same month a year earlier. The dip was not enough for many, including Rhea Sajnani, who helps purchase for Kavi International, a Hong Kong-based sourcing company that supplies Wal-Mart, Kmart and Sears.

“Our customers are cutting back,” said Sajnani, secretary to the company vice president. She did not put down any orders at the fair and said her company had been making fewer purchases due to the high prices. She added that it would not be buying more until prices returned to 2010 levels.

Some buyers looked to alternatives to silk and cotton. Joyce Ku, a merchandiser at garment and accessories manufacturer Vinnitsa Hong Kong Ltd., said: “Where silk was used before, maybe polyester can be considered. Mixed fabrics are also options, and fabrics with lower cotton content.”

Other buyers said they were casting a wider net, going to more stalls to find the best prices.

Even so, vendors with higher-end clients said were not too bothered by higher raw material prices.

“Their price points are higher so it does not have a big effect on them,” said Joe Xu, marketing director at Foshan Yifang Textile Co., whose clients are European, American and Japanese clothing brands.

Eco fabrics were a key feature at the fair. The number of exhibitor companies that supplied such products rose 60 percent to 40, Messe Frankfurt said.

Subdued palettes and neutral hues, wool blends with thick textures, organic cotton and mixes of rayon, polyester and nylon were important. There was also a focus on artisanal elements, with plenty of quilted and embroidered materials and jacquards, elaborate velvets and folk motifs on display.

Kay Kim, general manager of vendor D.A.K. Korea, which supplies knitted fabrics, eco textiles and functional products, said many visitors had shown interest in sweater fleece and suede fleece, relatively new offerings from his company, as well as his company’s organic cotton and natural fabrics.

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