PARIS — The mood on the show floor was more upbeat than it has been for several seasons at Texworld and sister events Apparel Sourcing and Avantex.The exhibitions, which ran from Feb. 6 to 9 at Le Bourget, saw a 6.9 percent uptick in visitor traffic to 13,559, according to organizer Messe Frankfurt France. “It was a strong session for visitors and exhibitors, who felt that it was the most successful edition for some time,” stated Messe Frankfurt France chief executive officer Michael Scherpe.Exhibitor numbers at Texworld increased 11 percent to 732, while at Apparel Sourcing, they climbed roughly 30 percent to 272, making it the largest February edition of the shows. Avantex, the show-in-show for fashion-oriented textile innovation, had 32 exhibitors.Many exhibitors were focused on how to better cater to demand from fast-fashion retailers, the core target at Texworld and Apparel Sourcing, while sustainability was another growing area.K.C. Shin, chief executive officer of South Korean firm TexDream, said the company was increasingly challenged by the pace required by customers operating on fast-fashion cycles. “They want more, earlier. It’s a big burden for us, we have to prepare collections quicker and there are fewer repeat orders,” he said.The company is specialized in blended yarns, and caters mainly to medium-sized brands like Maje, The Kooples and All Saints, although Zara is its biggest single customer. Highlights on its stand included crinkled rayon silk velvet and tweeds with big checks and metallic threads. Its prices range from $2 to $16 per meter.Emma Lee, fabric sales team leader of Visionland China, said the company had been seeing brisk demand for its naturally dyed fabrics, for which its customers include H&M and Ralph Lauren, as brands seek out more sustainable fabric solutions. Dyed with extracts from trees, flowers and vegetables, the fabrics are priced at around $2 to $4 per meter.“Last year, a lot of textile industries were down, but our turnover was up 46 percent year-over-year,” said Lee. “We have expanded our business to finished garments,” she said, a strategy being followed by increasing numbers of Texworld exhibitors in a bid to add growth avenues in an increasingly complex market.Pakistan-based Kohinoor Mills, a cotton specialist exhibiting in the Elite section, has been following a similar strategy, its general manager marketing Aamir A Qureshi said. “Customers have been asking us to move into full garments,” he said. “We are investing in this area.”The company, which counts Levi's among its customers, has been seeing strong demand for its bi-stretch denims for men and ultrastretch fabrics for women. “Business has been pretty good this past six months, we’re running at full capacity,” he said.Kohinoor recently introduced a sustainable dying process as well as an app that allows its biggest customers to view its fabrics online and place orders. “Although our business is growing, traveling to Pakistan has been an issue,” he explained. “This helps them.”Proximity sourcing was also a hot topic in line with the focus on fast fashion. “Players like Zara and Primark are creating a new market dynamic, and they are forcing other players to go further into fast fashion,” said Mohamed Tazi, secretary general of AMITH, the Moroccan association for the textile and clothing industries, during a conference. “This automatically implies a need for proximity. There are real opportunities to be seized.”Morocco plans to increase textiles’ contribution to its gross domestic product to 23 percent by 2025, from 14 percent, by promoting exports and trade with the EU.Despite China remaining the largest exhibitor country at Texworld and Apparel Sourcing, with 412 and 188 exhibitors respectively, other countries are upping their game in the face of a decline in its competitiveness.One example was Ethiopia, which is promoting its textile industry with international trade incentives and was present at Apparel Sourcing for the first time with a contingent of five companies.GMM, for example, is a polo shirt and blouse manufacturer founded by three female entrepreneurs in 2004 that employs 170 people. “China is getting more expensive, people are looking more closely at Ethiopia,” explained marketing manager Tsedey Asfaw. “We are going to triple our production in coming months, and are looking for European buyers,” she said. Exports account for 60 percent of the company’s business, with 70 percent of these going to the U.S.Zhang Tao, secretary general of Chinese trade body CCPITEX, was keen to point out that rather than being a competitor, China should be seen as a partner to growing the global textile business. “More and more Chinese companies are investing in other countries, building textile factories in countries like India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Ethiopia,” he said. “This is contributing to improving the quality of the value chain, making it faster and more responsive, and contributing to developing employment in these countries.”He said despite a drop in exports and increasing challenges for the Chinese textile industry, including employment costs that continue to rise, stricter environmental regulations and exchange rate fluctuations, the Chinese textile industry saw growth of 5.2 percent last year.Despite Texworld’s overall mass-market focus, buyers from high-end brands were also shopping the show. Agathe Coudert, director of women’s collections at French label Georges Rech, praised the increasing quality of the offer, saying she found growing numbers of suppliers each season. “The prices are good and the quality is so much better than before,” she said. She had picked out coat fabrics and cottons for shirts and dresses from suppliers in China and South Korea.For Morgaine Wade, fabric sourcer for Alexander McQueen’s secondary line McQ, the Korean mills at Texworld, with their focus on fabric research, were particularly strong. “We work with a lot of Korean mills,” she said. She highlighted the breadth of velvets on offer at Texworld in crushed, pleated and printed variations.Lingerie and hosiery manufacturer Wolford chose Avantex to present its first prototype zero-waste products created using the Cradle to Cradle approach. The company consumes 400 tons of yarn per year, 90 percent of which is oil-based, Wolford director of product development and textile sourcing Andreas Röhrich explained. “We are very small, [but] we can act as a catalyst on this topic,” he said. Within 10 years, the company aims to make 50 percent of its products using a closed-loop system.Other innovations at Avantex included French firm Duoo, which offers boxer shorts woven with a silver thread to protect men’s private parts from mobile phone radiation; Twins Paris, which focuses on textile innovations like fabrics that change color with heat, and Euveka, a start-up offering a robot mannequin that changes size using an app to allow easier prototyping for brands.The company plans to produce its first commercial units this year, with the backing of several major French labels. It will cost 150,000 euros, or $159,000.
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