By  on September 27, 2007

MUNICH — Textiles took on futuristic but practical qualities at the Munich Fabric Start, held Sept. 4 to 6 at the MOC Sports & Fashion Center here.

Traditional patterns were refreshed with modern yarns or innovative coatings, and materials with an old-fashioned sustainable feel, particularly honest wools, went space-age with technological finishes.

Key trends for fall-winter 2008-'09 were influenced by ecological concerns, evident not only in the increasing demand for sustainable fabrics, such as organic denim, but also in changing textile weights: Winter fabrics were lighter than ever, hinting at climate change and the warmer winters Europe has recently been experiencing.

Munich Fabric Start featured 750 international exhibitors from 30 countries presenting 1,600 collections. Traffic was up 5 percent compared with last fall's show, with 12,600 registered visitors.

Shine was everywhere, although in a subtle and sophisticated form. Lanificio Piemontese, suppliers to labels such as Giorgio Armani, Gucci and MaxMara, emphasized a discreet shine by adding Lurex or focusing on supersoft brushed wools and cashmeres. Traditional materials, such as tweeds, were enlivened by a glitter finish and softened using 2/80 yarns.

"We are renewing the idea of old-fashioned tweeds and flannels by adding a metallic weave," said Andrea Frau, product manager of Rosenstein & Co. "It's a way of brightening up and modernizing classical looks. The key is to add a subtle shine and a rich look without going too Russian."

Wools are being lightened and brightened with acetate and polyester, flannels have gone extra lightweight and crepe is being added to give a light, draping, feminine look.

"It's about a casual, easy-to-wear look that also uses sophisticated and rich materials," said Matteo Ciampolini, designer at Dinamo, which caters to many Antwerp designers.

This effect is achieved using high-quality, tightly knit wools, pure linen moleskins or double-faced wools with one side coated with viscose. Dinamo is also experimenting with superlight weights, such as transparent organza or silk with a chintz finish.

Focusing on expensive sophistication is being seen as a main way for European manufacturers to combat low-cost materials from China and Turkey, exhibitors said. A shift upscale also allows suppliers to compete effectively with the cheaper vertical fashion stores.But going the exclusive route isn't the only way for European manufacturers to stay in the game.

"Our main competitive advantage comes from our roots and heritage," said Stefan Krause, sales director of Loden Steiner, which has been making traditional Austrian clothing from the felt-like fabric loden since 1888. "That is the real plus point we have compared to Asia."

Supplying the likes of Yamamoto, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Jaeger, Loden Steiner is still used as outdoorwear by local shepherds and is manufactured at the company's factory at the foot of a glacier in Austria.

"Our story is a real selling point and particularly important for many of our Japanese customers," Krause said.

The rapidly growing denim section was a new and increasingly important aspect of Munich Fabric Start. Dubbed the Blue Zone, the section has grown to house 75 exhibitors, compared with 51 at the last show in February. All the exhibitors interviewed expressed satisfaction with visitor numbers, the quality of buyers and the volume of orders being made.

Denim is also focusing on lighter weights, with the midweight range proving most popular. It is a trend that's here to stay, noted Thomas Dislich, managing director of the denim giant Vicunha Europe, suppliers of customers such as DKNY, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Liz Claiborne.

"The comfort factor has become the most important thing," Dislich said.

As with other fabrics, a glossy shine is also being added to denim. Vicunha is investigating innovative finishing techniques and adding a subtle sparkling yarn into the weave of dark blue denims.

ITV is being even bolder by adding glitter, including silk and cashmere yarns and producing a Lurex and denim mix with gold or silver yarn.

"Going luxury is the best way the denim market can compete with Asia," said product manager Marzia Gnutti.

Washes are still clean and dark, and grays and blacks remain the dominant colored jeans. Vintage washes, such as stonewash, are making a soft comeback, and stretch is more important than ever.

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