By  on December 8, 2004

NEW YORK — Despite ongoing consolidation in the textile arena and uncertainty regarding the elimination of quotas by the World Trade Organization on Jan. 1, domestic trade shows report steady attendance, which organizers said is a tribute to the relevance of the format.

The shows remain one of the few opportunities for mills to get a jump on trends and for designers to actually touch the fabrics in a world where business is increasingly conducted online and over the phone.

“We are not computers, we need to see the textile and touch it and feel it and sometimes smell it,” said Daniel Faure, president of Première Vision, which organizes the European Preview show in New York Jan. 19-20 at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

“It’s the time where you meet suppliers, you meet competitors, you meet agents, you meet friends,” said Faure. “That can only be done physically in the show. You cannot get that at the computer.”

Gail Strickler, president and chief executive officer of woven fabrics firm Saxon Textiles agreed. “There’s nothing like that tactile sense. We’re dealing in the one area that no matter how well a Web site is designed, you want to see [the product], touch it,” she said.

Trade shows are also a great opportunity to update existing accounts and find new customers, she said.

“All of us have some smaller customers, boutiques or smaller designers,” said Strickler. “You can’t send somebody out selling a bunch of little places all over the place.”

Shows are also an opportunity for designers to browse.

“As an attendee, you get in a certain mode,” she said. “You’re looking at certain things and by being at a show with a full range, sometimes you see something different than what you were thinking and it helps lead you.”

That process of discovery is also in effect for the vendors, said Phillip DeLeon, designer and co-owner of Alexander Henry Fabrics, a cotton print house.

“As one of the designers of the collection, I think it’s really key that either me or my partner Nicole [DeLeon], be present at the shows,” he said. “It gives us a chance to reconnect.”

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