LOS ANGELES — Delicate, spring hues are a thing of the past: there’s a bolder, brasher color story for the season, and it calls for prints galore.
That was the message at the Los Angeles International Textile Show that wrapped up Wednesday at the California Market Center. Vendors described it as a lure for shoppers who have held back too long for retailers’ comfort, as a result of economic jitters and a lack of fashion direction.
The palettes for the spring and summer 2004 seasons ranged from stripes in single and multiple hues and bands to clever, allover prints to textured jersey in floral embroidery.
"I stepped out this fall with color and the reaction has been phenomenal and I plan to continue," said Los Angeles designer Kevan Hall, who added that he was in search of crinkled silk and plissé fabrications.
About 350 vendors showed their wares, along with the 13 additional companies participating in the TexItalia delegation and 12 in the French Pavilion. Concerns about the SARS outbreak appeared to limit Asian and international attendance.
Textile Association of Los Angeles president Hal Kaltman, who was representing the J.L. de Ball America Inc. line of high-end corduroy and velvets, said he was pleased with the show.
"Normally, I’ll hear complaints about the traffic, but I didn’t hear a peep," said Kaltman, who said TALA was also beefing up its membership drive, recruiting newcomers at the show.
The campaign comes at a time when there is renewed interest in Los Angeles. A number of foreign textile companies have recently opened up local offices to stay on the pulse of California fashion, including print converter Les Tissus Marey from Lyon, France; Parisian converter Emilie Metre Textiles, and Montreal-based agent Andrew Koenig International Inc.
"We’ve been trending a lot more to the level of a California manufacturer with our fabrics and think there’s room to grow and be more visible here," said owner Andrew Koenig, whose 500-square-foot space opened last week in Los Angeles’ fashion district. In the last two years, he has focused on carrying less costly products with 25 to 50 percent cheaper price points.Several designers commented on finding lower prices.
"It looks like they’re hurting, too, so we’re seeing good prices and lower minimums, which helps since this is the only textile show I attend," said Tracy Wilkinson, owner of the Los Angeles contemporary line, Mon Petit Oiseau.
There were some top-tier looks with corresponding price tags, such as samples of silk taffeta embroidery, beaded tulle and macramé threaded with metallic fibers from Italy’s Marco Lagattolla that ranged from $35 to $120 a yard.
"We sell couture and high end and serve a luxury niche so we’re pretty recession-proof," contended Cristina Knaus, president of Grupo Textil, Marco’s U.S. agent.
Designer and retailer Holly Sharp from Costa Mesa, Calif., said she went "print crazy" for knits at the show, a refreshing twist from years past.
"Before, there were a lot of tacky, computer-generated looks and now we’re seeing more painted, dyed and more artistic-looking fabrics," said Sharp, who designs a 20-year-old namesake contemporary line, as well as a high-end junior line called Lucy Love and some swimwear. Some of her favorites were retro-inspired looks of simple florals, such as tulips and daffodils, and conversational patterns, including skylines and umbrellas.
Sheer and lightweight fabrics were top of mind for Three Dots president John Ward and Guess Inc. director of fabrics Susan Lavinson. Ward said that "lots and lots of stripes" caught his eye, and he scouted out woven looks for a new Three Dots division.
Most attendees said it was hard to ignore the ubiquitous presence of color, vitality and novel patterns at the show, especially those tinged with retro flair. Burbank, Calif.-based Alexander Henry Fabrics Inc. was offering cotton prints with allover handbag designs. Tiki-tropical prints in bark cloth and "Jetsons" prints in a blue motif on stretch poplin were hits at Robert Kaufman Co. Inc., according to sales manager Ron Kaufman. De Marco California Fabrics Inc. presented Victorian-looking jacquard fabrics in multi-stripe columns with florals. The looks were in cotton blends and eyelet embroidery, but not everyone had the privilege of seeing them.
"We’re selective in who we show this to," said owner Max Marco. "It’s not aimed for the lower end."A wave of linen product was on display, as textile firms embraced the product’s comfort and cool appeal. Koenig’s Modapiu line of embroidery on linen and vertical-striped linen blends sold well, he said.
For many, the Emilie Metre booth required careful analysis and ample touching and squeezing of the linen products transformed through a coating, finishing and washing process to resemble denim. The company showcased uses for the fabric in jeans, jackets and shirts, including one variation resembling tweed.
"There’s so much denim in the market and we wanted to stand out from the competition and show that linen can be worn all year depending on its weight," said E.M.T. designer Jean-Claude Smadja.
Still, the forward direction doesn’t help if there isn’t a swift reaction to buyer needs, said some attendees.
"We work so close to season — we’re now looking for holiday," said Greg Scott, president of Arden B., the contemporary division of Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based Wet Seal Inc., who was on the hunt for stripes, bouclés and patterns that translate well into retro bodies. "And most French companies don’t offer ‘pronto moda’ [immediate delivery] service to react quickly to a trend."
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