By  on October 1, 2007

VILLEPINTE, France — Nino Cerruti, 77, has run the family mill Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti for more than half a decade, and at the show’s opening day he summed up what Première Vision had to offer, declaring simply: “Fabric is important now.”

Indeed, if the 733 vendors proved one thing at the fall-winter 2008–2009 edition of Première Vision, held here Sept. 18–21, it was that cloth is ready to take center stage for next fall.

Textiles, often overlooked in favor of flashier trends—like men’s skirts, shrunken silhouettes or bold accessories—have started to win column space and retailer attention as innovative fabrics have made a splash on the runways in recent seasons.

“There had been a trend toward the destruction of fabric, in my opinion in an effort to attain a certain sense of casual. It is nice to see the return to formal finishes and an innovation making luxury fabric continually more luxurious with beautiful hand feels as well,” said Ian Hylton, Ports 1961, vice-president and senior men’s wear designer.

But the buildup—which started with translucent, lab-born fabrics and gossamer-thin weights—is only a crescendo to the textile prowess we’ll see come fall. Imagine reed-fine fabrics coated with bubbly, rubberized and plastic-like surfaces, three-dimensional blends, leather as fine as silk chiffon, or slippery woolen suit fabrics so slick they look as if they were woven from raw silk taffeta. Handsome-looking, ultra-compact shirting fabrics and color-saturated denims also looked like they’d been coated with a crystallized finish.

The disparate ways in which different mills showed their flair from the loom was night and day: rigorously classic weaves with modern gleaming, tactile finishes; or the type of avant-garde, disjointed weaves that flaunted multiple structures and coatings, which if framed could easily be hung in a contemporary art museum.

One side of suiting fabrics showed clear-cut patterns, constructed from compact weights and luminous finishes. The mill that masterminded this approach, Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti, grouped a bunch of these navy blue, black and brown textiles together and called them “Hollywood” as they evoked the world of 1930s tailoring—the sort of three-piece suits Humphrey Bogart wore. Mill president Nino Cerruti is familiar with the silver screen, having made a few cameo appearances in Hollywood films in the ’90s. The mill also produced 300 meters of limited-edition wool fabric with super-luxurious yarn counts of 13 micron, dubbed Super 1881 AAAAA.

To get a similar sheen, Luigi Botto upped the silk content in its wool suiting fabric but then gave the fabric a fuzzy flannel finish in a charcoal background with a pale blue stripe. The tactile-type shine was more attractive to the American buyers who were often wary of silk blends, said the mill’s vice-president, Arianna Leone.

Other traditional fabrics retained a stately look. Earth-hued and ochre-mottled tweeds, some topped with a check, summoned up a vision of Prince Charles tending to his organic vegetable patch. Obviously the English mills did these sort of fabrics best: Arthur Harrison showed a muddy brown tweed with an olive green check, while Reid & Taylor’s olive-mustard herringbone tweed had a two-tone blue overcheck. Moon washed its country glen check so that the finish had a fuzzy vintage feel.

Some classic fabric weaves were craftily adapted on the loom. PV’s Trend Forums called these looks “manipulated fusions”—which ranged from broken-up houndstooth, haphazardly arranged checks that seemed to fade away in places, and false plaids with movement. It was as if the mills’ technicians unfurled these fabrics to show off their technique and say: “See what we can do?”

Other prevalent designs included pheasant’s-eye and bird’s-eye, which was a creative diamond-shaped pattern that turned up on worsted wools at Fox Brothers and Lanificio Fila. Fox Brothers also presented some wool/cashmere blends in bordeaux, navy, and black that contained a gray mélange base, and an enlarged gray houndstooth pattern on a pale beige background. Whereas Robert Noble took the same beige background and cast the oversized houndstooth design in chocolate and black.

Those technicians then took it up a notch by glazing, lacquering and plasticizing dense or double-faced fabrics.

A vinyl-coated plaid and a gun-metal-laminated bouclé black wool at Ultra crossed bondage-style naughty with prim. It was women’s wear, but that didn’t stop many men’s wear buyers from snapping them up in more manly color combinations.

Double-faced wool/cottons at Gartex, a division of Luigi Botto, were in a highly textured, raised zigzag green-and-black pattern—the kind of thing Première Vision’s celebrity buyer, André Benjamin, might have liked. The mill’s black and silver lamé houndstooth evening suit fabric looked as if it were coated in diamond dust that could out-dazzle Las Vegas’s lights. Modus’s worked next fall’s biggest color, brown, in a herringbone on a gleaming silver background.

Trench coats and sporty jackets are going to look even more tech-tastic next fall. Paolo Gilli’s gauze-like, gun-metal-gray poplin was coated with a clear, filmy plastic. Ospiti Del Mondo showed outerwear-weight waxed cotton, the surface coated with polyester to look like grainy leather, while Daiwabo plumped up the yarn count to get extremely dense, silky-looking cotton cavalry twills.

Meanwhile, denim was also getting the high-luster treatment. Hellenic Fabrics showed super-penetrated indigo blue and black denims that had a metal glaze, and other coatings that gave a leathery or taffeta-like hand. Similar metallic denim finishes were featured at Tejidos Royo and R.S.P. 51. Playing with new colors, Hellenic Fabrics presented an intense electric blue that was described as the “dip color of the Atlantic ocean” and double-colored denims that started out as brown or blue in the weave and overdyed in contrasting black or blue.

After summer’s prevalence of lightweight, diaphanous shirting fabrics, manufacturers tried to make it more wearable for fall. By packing in the yarns, the fabrics were double-twisted and super compact with a sheeny, expensive-looking finish.

Turkish shirting mill Soktas added a silk hand on its high-end, two-ply 200 yarn-count Dynasty shirting fabric, and went for finer and lighter poplin weaves with very clean hair-fine stripes in brown, black and ecru. Another gray and brown candy stripe had matte and shine effects. Soktas also had the same silky-touch fabric woven from organic cotton. And Hellenic Fabrics showed a velvety-soft denim constructed from organic cotton. Some of the shimmering shirting fabric surfaces weren’t all finishes—Paolo Gilli put in gold and silver Lurex stripes in white and ecru poplins so fine, they weren’t visible until seen up close.

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