By  on October 16, 2007

HONG KONG — Interstoff Asia Essential featured 200 exhibitors showing mostly high-performance fabrics highlighted by one of the industry's major emerging trends: environmentally friendly fibers, dyes and fabrics.

Organizers granted symbolic "green leaves" to companies with environmentally friendly products, many of which were highlighted in a separate showcase. Among the attractions were bamboo knits from Taiwan, organic cotton and flax from South Korea, biodegradable PLA (polylactic acid, a natural polymer that can be made into a fiber) from Japan, soy fabrics from China and polyester made from recycled bottles from China and Taiwan. Japanese firm Tsuyakin Kogyo also sent along fabrics dyed with oolong tea and persimmon.

Kathleen Shandalove, fabric research and design manager for U.S. sports equipment and activewear firm Burton, observed that the "green" movement was hard to miss.

"To my notice, the eco push is predominant," said Shandalove. "It certainly plays a significant role in our line, because like so many other companies, we're moving in that direction. But we're taking the approach to learn as much as possible before going into these fabrics. There is a lot of research involved. It's not like I see bamboo and I'm going to buy it."

Burton, the world's largest snowboard maker, sells men's and women's sportswear under the Burton and Analog brands.

Shandalove's cautious-yet-curious approach seemed to be the norm. Taiwanese firm Hung's Fortune International is just four years old, but is already seizing on "green" possibilities. According to representative Anita Tsai, the company introduced polyester made from recycled bottles six months ago.

"Buyers, especially from the U.S., are asking about the recycled products and about the bamboo fabrics," said Tsai, who admitted large orders haven't come yet. "They are still learning about everything and so are we, adding anything new we can for our customers."

Buyers looking for special, not necessarily environmentally friendly, fabrics, had a tougher time.

U.K.-based Tom Bowker, who designs upmarket occasion wear under his own label, said, "The pressure from my customers to show them something they have not seen before and will not see anywhere else grows more intense every season. Technical progress and ecological awareness are all very fine, but visual excitement seemed to have taken a back seat [at the show]."

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