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]."Textile designers from Texprint's annual student competition did provide visual excitement. Cecile Utge-Royo showcased the wovens that caught Dianne von Furstenburg's attention in London, Lucy Robbie showed a new technique for treating aqua-suede, and Edward Forster received freelance commissions for his humorous and topical prints.
Metallic denim seemed to be a prevailing trend for fall-winter 2008-2009. Throughout the fair, with its emphasis on performance fabrics, a Space Age look held sway. Metallic threads were woven into everything from nubby tartan plaids to traditional herringbone and frosty white knits. Top colors fell into three main categories: icy cool blues and whites; fall favorites plum, coffee and charcoal, and sleek techno-look black and gray.
One of the busiest booths was that of Base Wealth, a Hong Kong-based denim manufacturer. Although Interstoff traditionally has had numerous denim manufacturers from India and Pakistan on show, this year the Chinese took over the segment. Still, Base Wealth offered something different — metallic denim — that caught the fancy of many buyers. The denim is made to spec from 70 to 90 percent cotton and 10 to 30 percent metallic.
Jackie Wu, a company sales executive, explained cotton is used as the "straight yarn and the web is metallic." The result is a subtly glimmering finish on the face and spectacular glitter underneath — perfect for would-be rock stars who like to wear their cuffs turned up. Base Wealth, which sells to G-Star, Rocawear, Sean John, Abercrombie & Fitch and Billabong, has maintained its manufacturing base in expensive Hong Kong.
"Some buyers do worry about price," said Wu. "But we can explain that cost is not the main point. Besides, the fabric is completely woven by machine, there is not a lot of labor cost and prices are reasonable."
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