By  on October 12, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Designers focused on trying to limit the impact of higher costs as they sought textured goods or soft, draping fabrics for next fall’s collections at textile shows here.

With mills raising prices in response to the increased costs of cotton, minerals, labor and energy, designers said they had little choice but to absorb the higher costs and shrink their profit margins.

“You can’t [raise the prices of the clothing] because [there’s] too much competition from other manufacturers and stuff coming in from China is so cheap,” said Miriam Schwartz, designer for junior dress line CW Designs in Tarzana, Calif.

The designers attending the Los Angeles International Textile Show at the California Market Center and GlobalTex at the Los Angeles Convention Center last month veered away from prints and toward novelty fabrics that offered a soft hand and appealed to the eye with a touch of Lurex, studding, shredding and stripes.

But fabric firms said much of the optimism that designers projected at the last textile shows in March dissipated in the wake of a slow and uneven recovery in the economy.

Gisoo Lee, director of South Korea’s Ilshin Heungsan, which exhibited at the Los Angeles International Textile Show, said she saw fewer people at this edition and that customers told her sales weren’t growing. To cope with the surge in cotton prices, she said, “We try to buy in bulk quantity as much as possible so we can get a discount.”

The Los Angeles International Textile Show said it hosted more than 300 lines. GlobalTex said it featured 135 exhibitors with more than 150 lines from 25 countries, attracting a 20-percent increase in attendees from its previous show. Neither trade event would release exact attendance figures.

For their fall 2011 collections, designers preferred materials with neutral hues such as tan, gray and navy, as well as muted versions of mauve and green.

At the International Textile Show, South Korea’s Texvision Co. shredded tan cotton and polyester knit to reveal a black backing. Sens, from Montreal, saturated a gauzy blend of Pima and Egyptian cotton with olive dye and then stone washed the fabric. Woven Edge Braids, from City of Industry, Calif., highlighted polyester jacquard ribbons that had a Victorian-style floral pattern. New York’s One World Button Supply received positive reaction to horn buttons that were scoured for a weathered look. Manoir, of St. Laurent, Quebec, showed stripes with a diagonal stitch. Japan’s Yagi & Co. displayed French terry made of recycled cotton in heathered hues. Italo Leather exhibited ivory leather nicked with tiny laser cuts to resemble snakeskin.

“Everybody wants to be distinguished, especially with leather,” said Cecilio Lebron, sales representative for Italo. “They want something with character to define their line.”

At GlobalTex, a special denim section targeted Southern California’s denim designers with textile mills and garment manufacturers specializing in jeans.

Korat Tekstil, a denim mill in Turkey, reported high demand for Tencel and lightweight denim weighing as little as three ounces. Jeans manufacturer Ezrich Garment Factory Ltd. participated at GlobalTex for the first time in an effort to build its U.S. business.

“We usually go through a middleman,” said Tina Lee, operations manager at China’s Ezrich. “We thought there’d be more opportunity to go directly to the designers in L.A.”

Natural hues found their way to ribbons at India’s Vinayak International, which embellished them with wood beads. Fox Fabrics, a Los Angeles-based agent for foreign mills, did well with flowing cupro from Japan’s Debs Corp. and fake distressed leather lined with polyester sherpa from Italy’s Tessile Fiorentina.

“Now that the dollar strengthened in the last 90 days, there’s greater demand [for European-made materials],” said Phil Fox, owner of Fox Fabrics.

In light of the heightened interest in European goods, France’s Denis & Fils is launching in the U.S. next fall with stretch silk, and silk and viscose jacquard priced between $30 and $60 a yard for sampling.

Farber Lace & Trim Co. found a market for Clarenson’s black-and-white bouclé tweed priced at $25 a yard.

“[It’s] expensive but they buy it,” said Mark Dellal, a Farber representative in Beverly Hills. “It adds a lot of beauty and makes the garment spectacular.”

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