PARIS — Coming off a difficult year, buyers and exhibitors at Texworld said that they expect a modest rebound in the upcoming fall 2004-winter 2005 season.

Traffic was brisk at the four-day event, which ran at the CNIT complex at La Defense, the business district just west of Paris. Texworld ran concurrently with Première Vision.

Whereas buyers sought high-end fabrics and trends at PV, they ferreted out bargains at Texworld, which featured fabrics from 41 countries including China, South Korea, India, Turkey and Brazil.

Buyers and exhibitors said bargain fabrics remained key to inciting customers to spend in a sluggish marketplace. Most buyers said their buying plan for the season would remain on par with last year, but some cited modest increases of around 5 percent.

Meanwhile, exhibitors said business had been good and some expected to run a small increase in volume during the second half of the year. But they said that price competition had become so fierce that eking out a profit would prove difficult.

“It’s a buyer’s market,” said Parveen S. Kapoor, managing director of Duta Textiles of Indonesia, which specializes in silk prints and embroidery. “Since business has been bad, buyers are going to competing mills and bargaining down the prices. All of the manufactures are undercutting the competition. To turn a profit will be next to impossible.”

Mark Sardella, senior engineer for sourcing at L.L. Bean said, “We’re still trying to keep expenses under control. It looks like things are starting to turn around. But people remain cautiously optimistic. It’s not boom.”

Hee Jung Kang, product manager for women’s wovens at Armani Exchange, said, “We are conservative right now. We’re penny-wise, but we need to follow the trends to keep up with the competition. People like Zara and [Hennes & Maurtiz] are making it very difficult. They pump out new trends so fast.”

Karen Camporeale, president of Urban Apparel Group, which manufactures private label women’s wear for major U.S. specialty chains, said she had visited Texworld for the first time in search of value.

“Business has been fair,” she said. “It seems to be getting better…but we aren’t expecting a big explosion.”Lisa Mason, product development manager at Cooper Watkinson Textiles Ltd. in New Zealand, which sources textiles for firms in New Zealand and Australia, said she wanted prices “to be as cheap as possible. But I still want some quality and a lot of creativity.”

She said business had been improving, but that she would keep her budget the same as last year.

Gary Edwards, senior designer for Windsmoor, which manufactures 65,000 coats a season in the U.K., said, “trade is quite tough. To get clients to spend, there has to be an incentive. It has to have quality and individuality. But it needs to be inexpensive.”

Among the top looks cited by buyers were bright colors such as green and orange, printed silks and vintage looks from the Sixties and Seventies.

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