By  on September 22, 2009

PARIS — Weavers at last week’s Première Vision textile fair pulled out all the stops on the creative front for the winter season and, despite restrained budgets, reported an upbeat mood among buyers.

The show ended its four-day run here on Friday.

“It seems as if the mills have really stepped up,” said Simon Kneen, executive vice president and creative director of design for Banana Republic.

Among highlights, Kneen cited washed wools, new tweeds and cozy yarns that are “good for retail therapy.” The weak dollar cooled his mood, however.

“The euro has never been stronger” against the dollar, he said. “I’ll be having a lot of tough conversations over the next few days.”

Weavers cited signs of recovery, though clients were teasing out orders until the last minute, they said.

“Designers want to be sure about what they want to do,” said Martin Leuthold, creative director of Jakob Schlaepfer. “We were working last week with Marc Jacobs on the collection he just showed.”

Roberto Gorgeri, sales manager for Emmelia Smart Yard, an Italian specialist in technical outerwear fabrics, said, “We had more fractional, smaller orders on a wide range of fabrics.”

Isabel Marant, who said business was up by 30 percent, lauded the ethnic-inspired and blanket fabrics by fledgling Italian weaver Lyria.

“I find the more I go for what I want, the more it’s working,” said the designer, who plans to open her first store Stateside this spring, in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.

Among the textile innovations on offer were a range of fur laces developed by Sophie Hallette and Riechers Marescot with Saga Furs, and a collection of expensive couture fabrics by Jakob Schlaepfer. These included a Jackson Pollock-inspired allover sequin fabric that reveals random strokes of color when the sequins are brushed, a range of sheer aluminum fabrics that appear blank when viewed from one side and when turned reveal a paisley hologramlike print, and sci-fi tulle covered in 3-D sponge cubes that garnered the PV Awards’ Imagination Prize.

“It’s this new spacey direction, it’s not Courrèges, but it’s another world we’re in now,” said Leuthold, citing continued demand from ready-to-wear brands for couture fabrics. “Twenty years ago, the same brands would have been couture brands and the few couture houses that are left are doing handicraft that’s more incredible than 20 years ago. Couture isn’t dying, it’s moving.”

The laureates for the inaugural PV Awards were Japan’s Iwanaka, which won the innovation prize for an unusual velvet-inspired fabric; Schlaepfer from Switzerland, which received the imagination prize; Japan’s Showa, which won the Handle Prize for its sophisticated new denim fabric, and Italian print specialist Ratti, which received the Grand Jury Prize for a jacquard design.

Several visitors observed new takes on shine.

“There are a lot of different treatments, whether woven in or foil-printed,” said Beth Lee Ford, a designer for White House|Black Market, who was scouting well-priced European fabrics. “It’s more textured and layered, not so literal. We are moving upscale. We’re trying to diversify, as you can only go so far with Asian fabrics.”

A spokeswoman for Marks & Spencer said there was a mood for soft luxury, “not in-your-face opulence,” citing jacquards and jerseys as examples.

“This show is becoming more important and this time the trend forums are bigger and better,” she said.

Nino Cerruti said the Japanese weavers were the most innovative at the show.

“For the moment, everything else is on the safe side,” he said. “The Japanese are fascinated with synthetic fibers and cotton, but are less interested in wool.”

For his Parcour textiles range, Cerruti introduced a range of wool fabrics based on archival military garments created between 1920 and 1940.

“My factory once specialized in ceremonial parade uniforms worn by high officials and the king of Italy [Victor Emmanuel III] to receptions,” he said. “We’ve reinterpreted them for sportswear.”

Liberty Art Fabrics presented a collection inspired by Japan and said order writing had been strong. Liberty collaborations for spring-summer include reworked hunting-check fabric for Woolrich, due to be unveiled at Pitti Filati in January, a mini collection of blouses with Paul Smith and a line of tennis shoes with Bensimon.

Lace manufacturers also signaled improved business. Maud Lescroart, area sales manager for Sophie Hallette, said the firm had “crazy demand” for a lace duvet fabric that was introduced two years ago.

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