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Asian Mills Focus on Economy

NEW YORK — Concerns about the slow U.S. economy and threat of war with Iraq weighed heavily on the minds of exhibitors at three Asian textile shows held in Manhattan last month.<br><br>Still, executives said instability is something of a given...

NEW YORK — Concerns about the slow U.S. economy and threat of war with Iraq weighed heavily on the minds of exhibitors at three Asian textile shows held in Manhattan last month.

Still, executives said instability is something of a given in the global apparel trade these days, so they were trying to look past challenges they can’t control and instead change things they can.

Kenny Schauf, president of private label at Gals New York, the local marketing arm of an Istanbul-based casual clothing maker of that name, said the threat of war in the Middle East is a constant concern.

“I’m sure it’s an issue in the back of people’s minds, but that’s the world we live in,” he said at the Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition, which ran at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Cipriani restaurant Jan. 21-22. “For the last 15 years, the Middle East has been a place where stability is an issue, since long before we’ve been manufacturing in Turkey.”

Özcan Çetinshoy, an owner of Confetti Clothing & Fabrics, an apparel maker with operations in Istanbul and Bursa, Turkey, said the slow U.S. economy is a bigger concern in his mind.

“A small cold in the States causes illness all over the world,” he said.

At PanTextiles New York, an exhibition of Taiwanese textile exporters held at 17 West 18th Street Jan. 22-23, exhibitors said exports had held up.

“It’s been OK, despite the slowdown,” said Kevin Hou, sales manager at Chin Hsiang Shun Co. Ltd., a Taoyuan-based maker of tricot fabrics.

At the Turkish show and at Innovation Asia, an exhibition of textile mills sponsored by lyocell maker Tencel at the Tonic restaurant Jan. 21-23, textile makers said they were starting to expand into full-package garment production, in keeping with U.S. importers’ demands.

“We can offer a full package with more service, the customer can bring us the idea of what they want and we can design and produce it,” said Hari Bansal, merchandise manager with Addi Industries Ltd., a New Delhi-based maker of knit fabrics and garments.

He said Addi’s goal was to increase the service it offers without upping prices, a move that he said will be made easier in 2005, when the 144 World Trade Organization members drop quotas on textiles and apparel. “Right now, quota is running at $2 a piece, which is a lot of money when you’re selling the garment for $4.50,” he said. “That’s like 40 percent.”