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Even in a challenging environment, textile trade shows remain the place to get a feel for the fabrics and the next big trend.

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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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DeLeon gets product ideas when he hears what buyers are saying they can’t find or when they’re idly talking to each other in his booth.

“Trade shows lend themselves not only to meeting and greeting with your customers, but having trends sort of bubble to the surface,” he said.

There will be the usual wide variety of textile shows next year, where buyers will meet sellers and trends will take hold.

Advanstar Communications Inc. will hold the fabric@MAGIC show at the Las Vegas Convention Center Feb. 14-17 as well as the International Fashion Fabric Exhibition at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York April 18-20.

“We are experiencing growth across the board for both shows, both in terms of exhibitors and attendees,” said show director Amy Bonomi, although she would not reveal any numbers.

At fabric@MAGIC, a seminar series on sourcing and fabrics, started for the last outing, will be continued and enhanced with more trend information.

“There’s just a thirst for information there and we will be providing more of that to both the exhibitors and the attendee base in February,” said Bonomi.

European Preview will again feature a plethora of trend seminars and presentations for the 142 exhibitors and roughly 3,000 visitors expected.

At the show, buyers can get a first look at some of the trends that will be better fleshed out by the time the influential Première Vision show is held March 9-12 in Paris.

“The buyers, the customer, they come to the preview and they start changing little things, asking for some modification, and that will be complete for PV in Paris,” said Faure.

The Dallas Fabric Show is set to run Jan. 24-26 at the Dallas Market Center. It will include more than 100 manufacturers and is expected to draw more than 1,500 shoppers.

Currently in its 27th year, the biannual show includes fabrics by the bolt as well as laces, trims and leather.

In the Windy City, the Chicago Fabric & Trim Show will be held June 1-2 at the Holiday Inn Chicago-Mart Plaza.

“We’re holding our own as far as size of the show,” said Marsha Brenner, executive director at the Apparel Industry Board, which produces the show. The event will feature about 40 exhibitors and 300 to 500 vetted buyers.

“This is a very regional show,” she said, noting 95 percent of the attendees come from Central and Midwestern states, many of them looking for suppliers who can fill small orders such as 50 yards.

Chicago Fabric & Trim is advertised in regional and local papers and through direct mail.

“We try, but it is a small show,” said Brenner. “It is a nice solid show — everybody’s for real.”

Direction, a textile design show, will be held Jan. 18-20 at New York’s Penn Plaza Pavilion. Exhibitors at the show sell artwork that can be applied to apparel and upholstery fabrics through processes such as beading, embroidery and printing.

The show will have 130 booths as well as an expanded seminar series with 12 to 15 presentations a day on topics ranging from color trends to design outsourcing.

Among the other shows scheduled are The Los Angeles International Textile Show, which will be held at the California Market Center March 30-April 1; The Turkish Fashion Fabric Exhibition, organized by the Istanbul Textile and Apparel Exporters’ Associations, Jan. 18-19 at the Grand Hyatt New York, and Innovation Asia, organized by lyocell-maker Tencel, which will run Jan. 18-20 at Amuse in New York.

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