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Updating the Classics at L.A.

LOS ANGELES — Textile suppliers were relying on the comfort of traditional fall fabrics to drive business at last week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show.<br><br>"People are stepping back to familiar fabrics, old classics, and...

LOS ANGELES — Textile suppliers were relying on the comfort of traditional fall fabrics to drive business at last week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show.

“People are stepping back to familiar fabrics, old classics, and restyling them,” said Ron Rose, sales representative for Wimpfheimer Velvets.

Rose’s theory held true for the three-day show, which wrapped up its run at the California Marker Center on Wednesday. Designers gravitated toward classic fall fabrics: Faux fur, embroidered lace, wools made glitzy with beading or metallic threading, printed baby-wale corduroy and pleated, crushed or burned-out velvet.

With the vintage mood still heavy in the air, reproductions of archival prints from the Twenties, Thirties and Forties did well. Ditto for fabrics with crinkled textures.

Patchwork also emerged as a key trend, but involving a mélange of overlapping motifs rather than a literal depiction of gingham squares.

A contingent of fabric buyers from surfwear label Billabong browsed calico cotton swatch cards for small florals at Kansas City, Mo.-based Fabri-Quilt.

Asked about the vintage trend, Billabong merchandiser Shelly Ryan said the company is “moving on to a mixture of eras — the Sixties through the Eighties. Patchwork prints, but also a literal mixing of prints and fabrics.”

Hoping to spark new collaborations, exhibitors pitched fast-track custom services such as digitally printed sample yardage, as well as custom embroideries and laces quickly produced by computer-aided-design systems.

“People will bring in a little design of a flower and we can put it into a CAD system and onto a lace in three days,” said Mitch Naidrich, sales manager for New York-based Malibu Textiles. “You’ve got to stop and go quickly to be ahead of the competition.”

Ecotex president Raphael Javaheri said his Los Angeles-based firm absorbs the cost of digitally printing sample yardage — which can run up to $1,000 — with the hope of making it back in production orders.

Despite exhibitors’ willingness to collaborate, worries about shipments mired at the ports and road closures due to an unrelated protest on the show’s second day, kept things atypically quiet.

Several sales representatives, theorizing that port delays had held up production on spring samples, said many clients were holed up in factories working on their November apparel market lines, unable to spare time for the show.

“I’ve got several appointments away from the show because it was the only way to see these accounts,” said Michael Goldman, sales executive for converter De Marco California Fabrics.

The port problems have generated some immediate business, according to exhibitors who run stock programs. Apparel manufacturers in a shipping jam have been willing to pay premium prices, said Vandad Shemrani, vice president of local converter Textile Selection. But he estimated the extra business probably won’t offset upcoming cancellations.

Ecotex’s Javaheri said manufacturers are starting to ask for a 25 to 30 percent discount on delayed fabric. “People are scrambling to get the goods out because department stores are starting to cancel,” he said.

Melissa Gibbs, co-owner of New York-based converter M & M Industries had the reverse problem: She couldn’t get fabric out to China, where a major catalog customer was planning to do its cutting and sewing. With the letter of credit about to expire, the customer found space on a ship departing Vancouver for China.

Even without the port slowdown, the year would have been another tough one for many local companies.

Revenues plummeted 30 percent last year at Los Angeles-based Embroidery West Ltd., as bankruptcies increased among its apparel-manufacturing customers. This year, buoyed by renewed interest in eyelet fabrics, the company has recovered about half the lost revenues, said sales representative John Ratuita.

But the situation is still somewhat shaky, Ratuita said, citing roughly 250 of its 1,000 customers as being on a cash-on-delivery status because of financial troubles.

Another factor adding to the gloom: uncertainty about fashion direction.

“People are waiting to see what Christmas does,” said vintage textile supplier Jane (Spider) Fawke. “And I’m worried [the industry] is going to make the mistake of just knocking off what worked last year.”

Fabric buyers from niche apparel manufacturers said they believed they had a clear idea of where they are going.

Stephanie Alves, designer for high-end misses’ line Harari, was looking for tone-on-tone damasks, and “drapey but techno-inspired fabrics.”

At Loup Blanc, a company representing six European textile lines, Gilbert Heller said he’d seen interest in men’s wear brocades, foulards, Belle Epoque-style laces and beaded wools.

These high-end offerings tickled the fancy of local designer Cornell Collins, searching for unusual fabrics to supplement a growing made-to-order bridal business.

“These mushroom pleats and these pouches, like fabric eggs, these are really, really new,” he said.