By  on March 15, 1994

PARIS -- Top spring 1995 trends being touted at Premiere Vision here this week included an emphasis on texture and return to color, especially in linen, while the primary concern was the soaring price of raw materials.

The four-day fabric fair ended Monday, with exhibitors upbeat about their prospects for the year, despite the climbing costs of such fibers as linen, cotton, fine wool and cashmere.

"We have had big problems with suppliers of raw material," said Michel Zimmern, a manager at Loro Piana. "Chinese cashmere is hard to find. Chinese suppliers don't respect their contracts in terms of price or quantity. We ordered large quantities and they delivered smaller quantities of lesser quality at higher prices."

Fashion for several years was about smooth surfaces and linen growers reduced their fields, said Vittorio Solbiati, president of Michele Solbiati.

"The sudden high demand for linen in 1993 made prices soar," said Solbiati. "Prices have gone up 15 to 20 percent over last season so we had to reduce margins."

Patrick Lagae, president of Lagae Linens of Meulebeke, Belgium, echoed Solbiati's worries over prices, but said he and other linen makers were optimistic that 1995 would be another boon year for linen.

"We expect linen to be strong through 1996; after that it's hard to predict, although we believe linen is gradually emerging as less of a cyclical fabric."

Silvio Albini, principal in Cotonificio Albini, said the shortages of yarn and higher prices were "really unexpected because there used to be a lot of availability of raw material. Now there's a real problem of lack of linen and even of cotton.

"Yarn suddenly increased by at least 15 percent so we squeezed margins and raised our prices by at least 5 percent to cope with a market that will not accept such a big increase," said Albini.

Meanwhile, designers attending the show seemed enthusiastic about the new directions in texture.

"What's interesting are the armure weaves," noted Olivier Lapidus. "I really like the way weavers are working, giving a third dimension to fabrics. We've worked a lot on fluidity in the past, but now the warp thread is twisted in different ways to give texture."Finishing techniques further the process, Lapidus continued, with such developments as lots of new pleating effects, "like homage to Issey Miyake's genius."

The interest in texture turned up across the show from the key couture suppliers like the Swiss Jakob Schlaepfer & Co. to smaller specialty firms like Nero su Nero, a five-year-old maker based in Como, which has been working with directional designers.

Raffia was the starting point for many of Schlaepfer's newest offerings. Sometimes it was crisp and worked into a macrame-like material for accessories and show pieces, and elsewhere, it was woven for a metallic feel.

"This is high tech raffia," said Denise Robinson, who represents Schlaepfer in the U.S. "Paco Rabanne used it in his last couture collection. Only when it's frayed do you realize that it's raffia."

Meanwhile Nero su Nero took a different tack completely, offering a two-way stretch nylon microfiber fabric with a geometric pattern. There were many variations in between, ranging from Tessuti Carpini's corrugated cardboard-like ribbing to Michele Lemaire's wispy cloth resembling bubble paper. Soieries TBM's cotton and viscose puckered double-face weave came in pastels with oval-shaped dots. Resources like Lagae and Moygashel pointed to the increasing use of color in linens as being particularly important and they, too, observed that interest in texture was also strong.

"People are looking for more tactile weaves. It's becoming more 3-D; it should look interesting and feel interesting," said Moygashel's design manager Denise Dick. "Natural and oyster -- the classical shades -- are present although they are kind of played out, but there's an effort to subtly introduce color."

At Lagae, the efforts to take the neutrals to the next step were translated by dyed silk warp yarns and space-dyeing to create reddish and bluish hues.

Contributing to the upbeat mood was increased attendance, totaling 44,838, up 18 percent over the March 1993 show. Bertrand Bocris de Junnemann, managing director of Premiere Vision, observed that the market had not entirely turned around, but "there's a new wind in the air."

After a quiet day Friday, French designers flooded the salon on Saturday.

"We've just arrived and already we've bumped into Martine Sitbon, Daniel Hechter, Anne-Marie Beretta and Corinne Cobson," said Jean-Jacques Picart, image director at Christian Lacroix, who was working the show with the designer."I'm really surprised that after such a hectic week, so many designers are here," Picart said, referring to the ready-to-wear collections, which ended Friday. "It's a serious show, a good working tool."

He particularly noted that Solbiati and Roberto Fantoccoli of Olmetto International SpA had strong collections. Meanwhile, Cobson started the show in the linen aisles which were heavily trafficked.

"The mood is good. The fabrics are fresh and feminine," she said.

Among innovative developments, Solbiati unveiled its new Sasil yarn, the product of two years of research. Sasil is the name applied to the yarn obtained from ramie and modified through new finishing processes. Vittorio Solbiati characterized the linen substitute as light, wrinkle-resistant and soft. It is priced similarly to linen. The Sasil collection emphasized stripes, which Solbiati said were important this year.

A third trend that emerged at the salon was the effort to produce sophisticated, richer versions of "poor" fabrics and to mix fancy metallic effects with rustic patterns. This was especially strong at Abraham.

"When you look to the (ready-to-wear and couture) shows, you see an increasing tendency to spotlight what I consider poor fabrics," said Stephan Model, an executive with Abraham. "Our role is to make high quality, sophisticated versions of these fabrics so that they are contemporary and not overdressed."

He pointed to a habutai silk as an example. "The habutai weave is not expensive -- a much lower quality than a crepe de chine -- but we did it with a special finish to make it much softer," he said.

Soieries TBM pointed to its viscose, cotton, polyester and linen fabric where stripes of shiny viscose threads were mixed with bands of a floral faconne frieze.

Meanwhile, Schlaepfer's Robinson said the company's mix of metallic threads with raffia and the use of matte metallic effects and clear and matte sequins for fancy fabrics, foreshadowed a return to full-blown flash.

"Metallic is slowly coming back," she said. "We're getting more and more requests for Las Vegas. We're not there yet but it's coming.'

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