By  on October 2, 2007

PARIS — Visitors to the eco-friendly section of Première Vision applauded the diversity of fibers on offer, as well as the wide range of ultralightweight fabrics.

But with prices high due to expensive production costs, most buyers said they would make the category only an element in their collections.

"We can only afford to use eco-friendly fabrics for our higher-priced lines, such as denim," said Wil Beadle, a designer for the British brand All Saints. "When it gets to selling a T-shirt for over $50, it's a bit of a problem."

Beadle said the Japanese brand Saka Kura had the most directional choice of earth-friendly fabrics on display.

"Their organic cotton range had great textures, with an authentic, vintage aspect," he said.

Stefanie Vermeulen, production manager for the soon-to-be-launched children's brand, Fy, based in Belgium, said, "The cost of eco-friendly fabrics is a great problem, as people won't buy product that is too highly priced."

Building a whole collection around eco-friendly fabrics can also limit design, she said, adding she found a lack of interesting coated fabrics in the category.

Meanwhile, some buyers voiced concern about potential political minefields linked to the eco-friendly domain.

"We're looking to incorporate eco-friendly elements, but you really have to have done your research before going there," said French actress Lou Doillon, who was scouting fabrics for her second clothing collection for Lee Cooper.

"Fibers might be eco-friendly, but the dyeing process often isn't," said a spokeswoman for Helmut Lang. "There's a lot of false advertising."

Jo Conlon, senior fabric technologist for Crystal Martin International Ltd., which supplies eco- and fair trade-friendly fabrics to Marks & Spencer, said she was reconsidering using soya due to a current debate questioning its eco-friendly status.

"Instead, we're looking for bamboo and Tencel, as well as hemp-based fibers that are being viewed as a good future alternative to cotton," she said, adding she was particularly impressed by the range of fibers presented by the South Korean newcomer G-Vision.

"They were on a par with those from European mills that have been out of our budget until now," said Conlon, adding the firm's lightweight jerseys were particularly beautiful.Meanwhile, Veronika Kapsali, director of the British firm MVR Partners, which sources eco-friendly fabrics, lauded the developments at Figli di Michelangelo Calamai, an Italian manufacturer that specializes in recycled fabrics and organic African cotton.

"I've been watching this manufacturer for a long time and this season they have come up with a range of incredibly fine recycled jerseys," she said, adding the firm's offer ticks all of the boxes in the ethical and sustainable fields. "It's impressive to see what was once used clothing re-enter the chain as a fiber."

A new Japanese mill, Ichimura Sangyo Co. Ltd., also caught her eye, specializing in textiles made using Apexa, a biodegradable polymer.

"They also presented a package of fasteners and trimmings made using the Apexa polymer [in association with other manufacturers]," she said.

Many designers were after lightweight fabrics.

"We love the organic cotton range at Avanti, but they tend to be a bit rough to the touch, as it's grown in Texas where it's windy," said Kaito Hori, co-founder of the Paris-based contemporary brand Commuun.

He complained of a dearth of organic mills at the show compared with the last session.

"Japanese manufacturers are extremely well advanced in that respect, so we're sourcing from over there for now," he said.

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