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Green Movement Shines at L.A. Textile Shows

Designers searched for updates of bestsellers such as metallic finishes and prints as they surveyed a growing number of eco-friendly fabrics at two textile shows here last week.

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LOS ANGELES — Designers searched for updates of bestsellers such as metallic finishes and prints as they surveyed a growing number of eco-friendly fabrics at two textile shows here last week.

Demand for eco-friendly textiles, including organic cotton, bamboo, organic denim and hand-dyed silk, soared despite the higher price for such products in comparison with their conventionally made counterparts. Although the textile shows highlighted fabrics for fall and winter, makers took note of the rising temperatures and ordered lightweight denim more often seen in summer collections.

Prints remained popular, as geometric designs spruced up a range of fabrics from lace to jersey. Metallic finishes glistened on everything from gold spray paint-on organza rosettes to ornamental embellishments.

“We’re still seeing a lot of shine,” said Marissa Harris, sportswear designer in the Los Angeles office of Montreal-based Buffalo.

After buying prints at Première Vision in Paris in September, Harris scoured last week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show at the California Market Center for metal trims and Modal with novelty treatments.

The metallic movement benefited trim company Junior Hagen Ltd. The most popular looks from the London-based firm featured organza rosettes tarnished with gold spray paint and wool yarn that was dyed in wine, moss green and black and topped with gold ornaments.

“Embellishment is coming back,” managing director Eric Hagen said. “It wasn’t big for a year or two.”

Quinn Thompson, designer of Los Angeles-based Saint Grace, checked out the art created by print houses to include in his first grouping of print-based products for his knit line. Shannon Nataf, designer of Los Angeles’ Suh-Tahn, also flirted with the idea of adding an allover print to her minimalist label, though her passion was in dramatic and somber colors, as seen in the swatches of mustard, paprika, purple and taupe wool crepe that she had stuffed in her pocket.

Kristine Miller, designer of Culver City, Calif.-based knit line Divine, which crosses into activewear and yoga clothes, yearned to find a supplier that combined the trends for prints and eco-friendly fabrics.

“If we could find an eco-printed bamboo jersey, we’d be so happy,” Miller said.

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There were many other environmentally sustainable fabrics. Companies including Manoir Inc. and Roopa Knitting Mills reported that the eco boom made the recent show one of the busiest ever.

“The organic [fabric] has moved from the fringe into the mainstream,” said Patrick Regan, sales manager for Montreal’s Manoir, who offered more novel treatments and textures in organic textiles, including slubs, stripes and heather gray colors.

At Roopa, based in Ontario, Canada, bamboo knits were in big demand, even though they cost as much as 50 percent more than similar products made of combed cotton.

“Nobody wants to come to our booth to buy regular jersey,” said manager Amit Thakkar.

Sales of Sherpa, fleece and terry, all in organic cotton, were a boon to New York’s Michael Miller Fabrics, which wants to increase the size of its business with apparel companies next year from 5 percent to between 10 and 15 percent.

“There has been a pent-up demand for this [organic] product,” president Michael Steiner said.

Environmental sustainability was also a theme at Kingpins, the denim-centric trade show in a loft on the edge of Chinatown, where organic denim was oft requested at Kurabo’s booth. Kurabo sales representative Takashi Mitani said customers like Indigo Palms weren’t deterred by the organic denim’s 10 percent premium and possible production kinks that the Japanese mill would have to iron out to produce the first batches.

Nevertheless, organic denim seemed to be the only product that denim designers were willing to pay a price for amid soft sales.

“They are more conscious about the price this season,” said Raymond Wong, owner of Tailor Denim Koon Fat Studio, a premium denim contract manufacturer in Hong Kong, noting that he met with companies including Chip & Pepper, Paige Premium Denim, Quiksilver and Guess.

Even a price difference of 10 cents per item was a concern, he said. “Last year, they never talked about the price,” he said.

Pricing issues affected designers’ choice of denim fabrics. Kurabo’s Hong Kong branch, which featured fabrics made in China at a separate booth, said denim pieces weighing 9, 10 and 11 ounces were the most popular, partly because of the trend for lightweight fabrics and also because of lower prices. For instance, a 12-oz. stretch denim costs $3.50 per yard, compared with a 10-oz. stretch version selling for $3 per yard. To counter the denim downturn, Kurabo offered new items such as the shiny T-400 stretch and the soft XLA stretch.

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