By  on September 13, 2011

PARIS — The Paris edition of Texworld is seeing double this season.

After several seasons of upping its quotient of apparel manufacturers with vertical production chains, organizer Messe Frankfurt France is introducing the Apparel Sourcing trade show to run concurrently with Texworld at the Le Bourget exhibition center from Sept. 19 to 22.

Dedicated to finished products and fashion accessories, it will occupy Hall 1, with Texworld located in Hall 2. Launched in New York last year, the Apparel Sourcing show should run concurrently with Texworld on a semiannual basis starting in 2012.

Michael Scherpe, president of Messe Frankfurt France, said that with more than 150 exhibitors, the inaugural edition was off to a good start, but there is plenty of room to grow.

“I think there is a market for at least double that figure, but I can’t tell you when that will happen,” he said.

The show will feature exhibitors from traditional sourcing centers like India, Pakistan, China and Hong Kong, all represented through national pavilions, in addition to those from nearby European countries and the Mediterranean basin, who are increasingly in demand for small production runs with a faster turnaround. The show will also put the spotlight on Haiti, a supplier to the North American market, which is presenting its offer in Europe for the first time.

Two global sourcing experts, Samuel Alimi and Roger Zacaropoulos, will address the redistribution of sourcing in light of recent upheavals in China in a lecture on opening day titled “The New Geography of Sourcing.”

Texworld, meanwhile, will host more than 827 exhibitors, down slightly from 876 in September 2010. Scherpe noted that, although prices of some raw materials remained high, the speculative pressures that fueled markets at the same time last year had abated.

“I feel that, globally, people’s mentality has evolved toward a certain kind of normality,” he said. “It reflects a certain dynamism compared with what we saw at the height of the crisis, even though I can’t say for sure whether the crisis is over.”

The roughly 100 brands presenting eco-friendly fabrics at the fair will be highlighted on Sept. 20, which has been earmarked as Sustainability Day and will feature conferences by organizations such as the U.K.’s Rite Group, the Soil Association and the Global Organic Textile Standard.

Defying economic turmoil, global retail sales of organic cotton grew 20 percent in 2010 to an estimated $5.61 billion, according to the Global Market Report on Sustainable Textiles published by Textile Exchange, a nonprofit organization based in Lubbock, Tex.

“Behind environmental and ethical concerns, there is a lot of innovation, and this innovation is aimed at meeting increasingly complex demands,” Scherpe said.

Eco-friendly functional fabrics are the focus for Taiwanese exhibitors, which include Ecomax Textile Co. Ltd, whose customers include Marks & Spencer, Muji, Tesco and Nike, and Da Ai, which makes recycled polyester using plastic bottles collected by volunteers. An offshoot of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a non-governmental organization founded by Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun, Da Ai started off making blankets from recycled PET bottles for underprivileged families and has since developed a full range of fabrics and consumer products, said sales manager Larry Lee.

“Our major mission is to bring the concept of environmental protection to the general consumer,” said Lee.

Da Ai is working on developing new procedures for solution dyeing its recycled polyester in a bid to achieve more stable color outcomes while preserving water supplies. It is also experimenting with mixing its fibers with materials like jade stone, which has cooling properties, and coffee residues, which help protect against UV rays and absorb odors.

“You’ll be seeing a lot more products with this kind of vision in biotechnology products in the near future,” Lee predicted.

But even if customers with a green conscience are prepared to fork out a little extra, clothing manufacturers face a difficult overall environment as European households tighten their purse-strings in the face of fresh government austerity measures designed to cap ballooning state debt levels. In August, the Eurozone’s private sector economy posted its weakest growth in two years, with the final composite purchasing managers’ index published by financial information services company Markit falling to 50.7 from 51.1 in July.

French consumers appear particularly gloomy. In the aftermath of disappointing summer sales, French clothing sales plummeted 15.6 percent in July compared with the previous year, resulting in a drop of 1.4 percent in the first seven months of 2011, according to data published by the French Institute of Fashion.

“The economic environment is not conducive to spending,” said Gildas Minvielle, head of IFM’s economic observatory, noting that the renewed market turbulence coincided with some clothing brands passing on cost increases to their customers. “The question is how consumers will respond to these price increases.”

Though French women’s budgets have steadily shrunk since 2007, some categories are proving resilient. Sales of dresses rose 26.9 percent in 2010, while jeans fell 19.7 percent.

Texworld is hoping to capitalize on the new “neo-bourgeois” trend with a strong selection of wool fabrics suitable for structured coats and capes in its Strict Essence section. Exhibitors will include Scottish mill Reid & Taylor, featuring fine double cloths made from lamb’s wool tweed, and Indian company Uday Industries, with products ranging from velvety wools to classic tweeds and a recycled wool range.

“In times of crisis, there is a focus on quality,” said Scherpe. “People clearly want and need a reason to wear clothes for longer, because they don’t have the means to renew their wardrobe every five minutes.”

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