PARIS — Under the lengthening shadow of possible war in Iraq and a lackluster economy, buyers sought refuge in reasonable fabrics at last week’s Texworld show.

The event, which wrapped up its four-day run Friday at the CNIT complex at La Defense, the business district just west of Paris, ran concurrently with the upmarket Premiere Vision show.

Whereas PV’s exhibitors purvey high-end European fabrics, Texworld’s far-flung list of vendors put the accent on affordability. Its 630 participants, up 20 from last year, came from countries including China, South Korea, Indonesia, India, Turkey and Brazil. They showed spring-summer 2004 fabrics to large-volume buyers.

Both buyers and exhibitors cited a drive toward bargain fabrics.

"People still need goods, but they need it at a cheaper price," explained Umesh Gurnani, director of Kaybee Group, a Hong Kong trading company specialized in printed silk fabric. "In this economy, everyone’s fixated on margins. We’re still doing business. We’re about stable with last year. But we have to wheel and deal for every order."

Ayush Murarka, owner of Ventures, an Indian mill specialized in embroidered silks, said he had noticed "even more caution" among buyers visiting his stand.

"Our business has suffered," he said. "Price is the central issue in every conversation."

But Michelle Masuret, marketing director of DZ Trading Ltd., which sources private-label apparel for catalogs and department stores, including Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, explained that price-driven shopping with mills, especially those from Asia, had evolved.

"Even a few years ago, the creativity of mills from the orient was at times questionable," she said. "But they have made great strides forward in quality and creativity."

Masuret, who attends both Texworld and PV, said she found as many fashionable fabrics at Texworld as at PV.

To wit: The show attracted more high-end fashion houses than in past years. Maura Manning, vice president of design at Polo Ralph Lauren, a first-time visitor, said she was "intrigued" by some of the Indian silk mills and "pleasantly surprised" by the Japanese mills."The products I’ve seen here are extra creative," said Manning. "I’m not most motivated by price. That’s not the reason I’m here. But some of these mills have great things."

Laurence Tavernier, owner of Paris’s high-end Laurence Tavernier innerwear brand, also said she was pleased with the level of creativity on display. "I’m paying attention to price right now, but it’s not my chief concern."

Among top looks cited by buyers were fancy embroideries, ethnic touches, printed silks and pale colors, such as rose and sky blue. But buyers admitted that, on the whole, they didn’t attend Texworld for a barometer on the trends.

"You go to PV for that," said Jene Fuchs, director of fabric research and development at BCBG Max Azria. "Texworld is price-driven shopping. We’re always concerned about prices, but we’re even more price-conscious at the moment."

Most buyers attending the fair said their budgets for the year were about the same or slightly greater than last year’s. Exhibitors said business was steady, but not growing.

Stephanie Keukert, the fair’s managing director, said Texworld, acquired last year by Germany’s Messe Frankfurt, continued to improve the level of quality among its exhibitors.

"We’re actively courting more visitors from the U.S.," she explained. "And we’re concentrating on getting more exhibitors with novelties."

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