LOS ANGELES — Southern California designers will be busy zigzagging this sprawling city next week when two textile trade shows kick off in downtown's garment district in conjunction with Los Angeles Fashion Week.
As designers unveil looks for spring on the runway at Smashbox Studios in Culver City, textile manufacturers, facing concerns about rising costs, will display fabrics and trims for the following fall and winter at the Los Angeles International Textile Show and the denim-centric Kingpins expo.
In a nod to the runway presentations across town, the textile event will stage its first series of fashion shows under the sponsorship of Global Korea Textile Week when the trade fair starts its three-day run Monday at the California Market Center. In addition to pavilions highlighting French and Korean vendors, the show will reflect a larger presence of environmentally sustainable fabrics.
The growing trend for eco-friendly products is benefiting companies like Golden Thread Silks, which said sales increased 8 to 10 percent in the last year. Deborah Didier, owner of the Placerville, Calif.-based company, hopes to lure more designers with 20 styles of silk treated with natural dyes, including an ebony fruit that makes the cloth feel like buttery leather. Didier said she always receives a strong reaction to her handwoven silk, which she described as "closer to the earth."
Still, the silks are made far from California — in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Since Didier started her three-person company in 1998, overseas shipping fees have increased 50 percent because of the higher cost of fuel. Golden Thread Silks decided to reduce its profit margins rather than raise prices that range from $10 to $45 a yard depending on the dye, weave and provenance.
"We wanted to keep the fabric something that people could try without having to feel that it was so expensive — that it's prohibitive," Didier said.
Costly air freight forced Julie Ward, owner of Los Angeles' Gallery Asha, to insist on a 500-yard minimum for her free-trade fabrics imported from Mauritania, Peru and the Ivory Coast. The weak U.S. dollar also poses challenges, possibly forcing a price increase next year for Gallery Asha's earth-toned fabrics made of cotton and linen with prices from $5 to $20 a yard."The double whammy is not nice," she said. "I'm dealing with the high-end designers. They already know their client and they know the client will pay for something special and unique."
Also feeling the pain of a weak dollar is Jose Fernandez, director of North America for San Anselmo, Calif.-based Designer Textiles USA, which sells merino wool from New Zealand.
"We're trying to manage that as best as we can, as all suppliers are," Fernandez said. "The dollar has been as weak if not weaker against the New Zealand dollar as the euro."
Though Designer Textiles' prices have increased about 6 percent because of currency fluctuations, the company continues to provide new products to accelerate the acceptance of merino wool among fashion designers who prefer cashmere. Some offerings that it will introduce at the textile show include a tissue-thin knit that weights 115 grams per square meter, a looped-back cloth that resembles terry and a textured knit that has an argyle pattern stitched into the monochromatic fibers.
The unfavorable exchange rate is a reality for Alexander Henry Fabrics Inc. in Burbank, Calif. The print house has all its fabrics made in Japan, and said it could not skimp on quality.
"We're not interested in going to places that are cheaper," said co-head designer Nicole De Leon.
Offering 150 to 200 designs per season, Alexander Henry noticed the growing practice among fashion designers of mixing patterns, whether it's stripes with geometric shapes or a floral print with an illustration of a lion sitting in a floral garden. So the company continues to offer what it calls a five-pattern story that coordinates a quintet of different patterns in one color scheme.
"There is a lot of mixing, but people are realizing that the way to be different and show the individuality of a fashion collection is through prints," De Leon said.
A new fabric showing off the five-pattern story is a heavyweight cotton oxford that will cost about 35 percent more than poplin.
"We've been asked by so many of our manufacturers that make handbags and other items like bucket hats to make heavyweights [like cotton oxford]," De Leon said.Four miles away from the textile show, in a loft on the edge of Chinatown, New York-based Olah Inc. will stage the third run of Kingpins, an invitation-only semiannual event targeting denim designers.
On Oct. 17 and 18, Kingpins will highlight 13 exhibitors specializing in contract manufacturing, textiles and trims. Newcomers — including Moroccan manufacturer Atlantic De Nimes, North Carolina-based chemical company DyStar, California cotton grower J.G. Boswell Farms and corduroy supplier Rainbow — will join regular exhibitors such as Japan's Kurabo and Dow Chemical Co. to increase business among West Coast companies.
The exhibitors are aiming for the cream of the denim crop, judging by past attendees such as GoldSign's Adriano Goldschmied, Bread Denim Co.'s Jason Ferro and the design teams from AG Adriano Goldschmied, Guess and Paige Premium Denim.
Despite slowing momentum in the premium jeans business, show organizers said they will stay the course.
"It might be soft for a season or two," said Brad Mowry, managing director of Olah's Los Angeles office. "But we're going to stay strong in denim."
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