LOS ANGELES — While the overall textile business remains spotty, exhibitors preparing for next week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show said they had found niches of solid demand.
That left many with strong hopes for the show, to run Oct. 20-22 at the California Market Center.
“This year has been better than what we were expecting,” said Bernie Gardner, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based Impala Industries, a stretch fabrics importer that stocks more than 300 prints. “We’re seeing people pick up the novelty — fun prints and brights. People are looking for laughs.”
Those catering to a special niche contend they have managed to avoid some of the industry’s cyclical swings.
At agent Le Loup Blanc in New York, representing five European collections catering to women’s cocktail, evening and bridal needs, pricing is a non issue, claimed president Gilbert Heller. He sells lace and brocade fabrics from about $17 to $20 a yard and up to $300 a yard.
“There’s still money at the top end,” he said, adding his business is up more than 15 percent compared with last year. “It’s driven by this item market and I’m in the right place.”
Also helping sales along, he said, is business in the Los Angeles market that has grown tenfold.
“A few years ago we just had Richard Tyler and now we have Peter Cohen and David Meister of Kellwood,” he said. “It’s the small and medium designers that can keep you going.”
Of concern to Heller and other importers of European fabric is the growing divide between the euro and the dollar in the last year. The rise in the euro against the dollar has driven up their costs, but since many firms have not been able to raise their selling prices sufficiently, it has eaten into their margins.
“We’re in terror,” said agent Ed Harding, owner of Barn Hill Co. Inc. in New York, which imports novelty fabrics. “Suppliers have held the line, but even when they charge the same thing, their price has gone up 20 percent. And there’s not a bloody thing we can do about it.”The retail strategy of buying later has a ripple effect on the apparel supply chain. Los Angeles companies known for their fast-turn capabilities have had to stretch further to meet tighter time lines, sometimes swallowing the expense.
Importer Fabricland L.A. owner Jim Levian said he hates to turn down business, especially when his customers are local high-profile players. His promise to customers is delivery in two weeks.
“We bring it in by air, and to cater to my customers, I’ve cut down my price 10 percent in the last year,” he said. “I’ll also participate in paying for air [freight]. Anything to keep the business.”
Others say it’s impossible to meet such orders all the time. “We’re seeing them wait more and more to the last minute, which puts a lot of pressure on us,” said Raj Parikh, sales manager of importer Jay-Ann Fabrics. “There’s nothing we can do about it. We have to live with it. We’re not turning away business, but sometimes we can’t meet their one-week demands.”
Stock houses, which carry inventory, have found themselves better positioned to fill quick-turnaround orders.
Gardena, Calif.-based Robert Kaufman Co., which stocks thousands of novelty prints, counts on Los Angeles for a significant portion of sales.
“There are lots of smaller companies that come out of here, and for them, a lot of times it’s not about price, which is refreshing,” said sales executive Ron Kaufman. “So you want to work with them because some will be tomorrow’s better brands.”
In terms of trends, Eighties-style prints with neons and brights and tropicals mixed with geometric stripes and engineering topped Miken bottoms designer Monica Woodside’s shopping list. Looped terry cloth with printed stripes and florals and brushed microfibers for her reversible board shorts are other must-sees, she said.
“I’m looking for lots of color,” she said.
Yarn-dyed plaids with stripes and splashes of bright color, such as fuchsia or lime, are the top trends Cindy Lang, designer of juniors’ line Tyte Jeans and misses’ line Beau Dawson will be looking for.“I think the whole Cyndi Lauper punk rock trend is coming back again,” she added.
Show organizers say attendees can expect to see more offerings than they have in the past.
The show plans to boost its international component to include 17 exhibitors at TexItalia, 10 at the Espace Textile French Pavilion and eight companies from the U.K. Other countries participating are Canada, India and firms from the Pacific Rim and South America.
“We’ve got to be cutting edge,” said Kelly Whitlow, the California Market Center’s new director of trade show and special events.
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