By  on September 22, 2009

PARIS — An uptick in visitors translated into better sales and lifted the spirits of mills exhibiting at Texworld.

Organizers said the number of visitors attending the fair, which concluded its four-day run on Thursday, increased 11.6 percent to 14,871, compared with the 13,322 people that attended the February edition. However, attendance was down from the September 2008 edition. The show drew 763 exhibitors. Despite the early signs of improvement, organizers remain cautious on how a global recovery will play out.

“If these positive signs indicate the end of the crisis, notably in Asia, we need to remain prudent about the development of consumer trends in Western markets,” said Texworld president Michael Scherpe.

Buyers scouting the booths for more traditional textiles and favorable order terms were pleased to find appealing prices, especially for higher-end textiles. Indian embroidery specialists were singled out for providing opulent, on-trend crystals and beadwork, while the strong Chinese contingent of mills impressed with the improved quality of its offer.

Buyers for Italian children’s wear company Brums said Chinese mills were the best for offering quality textiles like cashmere or mohair at good prices.

“As far as the evolution of textiles is concerned, in the last three years, the Chinese have revolutionized what’s on offer,” said Stefano Belloni, a senior buyer with Brums. “Prices for special or high-end textiles have come down, so you can find fashion fabrics at prices you used to pay for basics in the past.”

Carolyn Iarrera, vice president of merchandising at Canadian men’s wear company Ernest, said Chinese mills have learned to meet Western expectations, not just in terms of price and order flexibility, but also fashion trends.

“Unlike in previous fairs, we have seen a lot of salable stuff,” Iarrera said. “It’s obvious that exhibitors have become more aware of Western taste.”

Embroidery specialists from India were also lauded by buyers, who were drawn to their couturelike embroideries and on-trend beadwork, as well as high-quality linen and silk fabrics.

Vrijesh Corp., which counts J. Crew in the U.S., Ted Baker in the U.K. and Gerard Darel in France as key customers, generated interest for its cashmere-feel linen scarves, which became its number-one seller at the show.

“Overall, we have had a very good reaction,” said director Atul Agarwal, adding he decided to lower his prices to encourage buyers.

The company’s specialization in silk and linen textiles has also helped generate business despite the cutthroat competition from China, Agarwal noted.

“You cannot really compete against the Chinese on basic fabric, you need to find a niche,” he said.

Northern India’s Fair Lady Exports was another supplier of intricate embroideries doing brisk business during the show.

“We had a fantastic response,” said Ashish Wadhwani. “We did extremely well with crystals and feathers.”

Having arrived in Paris expecting the worst from the economic downturn, Wadhwani said he was surprised by the improved mood among buyers, whom he found “accommodating” when it came to minimum order requirements.

“It was probably our products, but buying power is coming back,” he said.

Francisco Izard, account executive at Spain’s Prominent Apparel, said he appreciated the competitive prices, which he found “much lower” than in previous years. He also praised the improved offer of eco-friendly and recycled fabrics, adding, “Recycled yarns are the future.”

Texworld organizers set aside sections of the fair dedicated exclusively to organically grown and fair-trade textiles in an effort to satisfy the growing interest in environmentally friendly and sustainable product. Mills presented a range of products, including organic hemp and bamboo, as well as recycled polyester and cellulose-based fibers. Despite the higher prices, demand for these products is on the rise, mills said. However, buyers are looking for mills to make a better effort to help them market eco-friendly textiles to consumers.

“We would like to have more information on how to market these textiles to our customers, who have to be convinced to pay a premium price for the finished products,” said Marc Euzenes, manager of French soft furnishings specialist Citaux.

Despite the appealing prices, Euzenes said he was dissatisfied by the lack of innovation among Texworld exhibitors.

“Prices are very interesting, but there is no novelty factor,” he said.

His views were shared by buyers from fast-fashion and sportswear companies, who were specifically scouting for cutting-edge or technical fabrics.

“I was disappointed because there are fewer functional fabric suppliers,” said Aurelie Warin, a buyer for skiwear and ski equipment company Rossignol. “There’s only a very small space dedicated to them and I found less space than in previous editions.”

Thomas Kesselburg, senior designer for Esprit’s women’s collection, said, “We are looking for textiles with a new structure, a new look, but we are not overwhelmed.”

Stefanie Schoepe, buyer for Esprit’s women’s collection, added, “It makes it very difficult to find new items when you have to design collections on a monthly basis.”

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