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Lingerie and Innerwear Fabrics Holding Their Own

Exhibitors at China trade fairs say business appears resilient.

The entrance of the Shanghai Mode Lingerie fair.

SHANGHAI — The global economy may even be causing cracks in China’s economy, but so far lingerie and innerwear fabrics appear to have avoided major impact.

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That was the consensus among exhibitors at the two-day Shanghai Mode Lingerie show that closed Oct. 18, and the three-day Intertextile fair that ended Thursday.

“Business is very good,” said Daphne Li, a senior merchandiser for Aimer Group. “The domestic market has not seen any impact so far.”

Based in Beijing, Aimer retails high-end lingerie in mainland China and the brand will open its first Macau store at the end of October. Aimer was one of 14 labels from seven different companies participating in the “Private Lingerie” portion of Shanghai Mode Lingerie.

Other participants in “Private Lingerie,” the VIP section of the lingerie and fabric fair, generally said they were “too elite or niche-oriented” to feel the economic pinch yet.

Cervin, a French brand attempting to sell heritage American nylons to the Chinese, attended because “the Chinese cannot copy our collection,” said export development manager Erick Piton. Their retro nylons, made on a vintage American machine from 1953 and rendered in customized designs popular with European celebrities, require some explanation for Chinese consumers.

“We come to make business here and for our partners to see what is happening,” Piton said. “We have an agent, but the agent is not satisfied as there are no sales. But maybe the problem for us is not to adapt more. There is a communication problem.”

Li of Aimer said, “The results at this show have been just OK. We’ve mostly seen older customers and those we know from previous shows.”

Ina Lee, manager of Taiwanese print fabric maker Jatech International, was disappointed in the show but took a different view of the global economic impact. Although Jatech’s sales base is mostly in Greater China, with only 2 percent going to Europe, she said, “The economy has had a huge impact on our sales, and prints are selling less. The drop in our business is not small.”

Organized by trade fair giant Eurovet, which holds similar shows in Hong Kong, this year’s session in Shanghai attracted about the same number of exhibitors, close to 170, that were primarily in the Interfilière Asia fabrics and components section. Visitor attendance was composed of 60 percent from China, 20 percent from the rest of Asia, and the remainder from the international sector.

Eurovet estimated some Asian subcontractors may lose as much as 40 percent of their orders because of the U.S. economic crises. However, the fair’s organizers projected 11 percent growth in intimate apparel and textiles in the Chinese market over the next five years. Eurovet officials said Asia represents only 20 percent of the global lingerie market, noting that the continent has strong potential for growth.

Shanghai Mode was followed by Intertextile Shanghai, considered the world’s largest textile fair, which pulled in 2,559 exhibitors. Intertextile introduced its first lingerie and swimwear area. However, only four exhibitors participated. A majority of lingerie-related products, including boudoir accessories, opted to participate in areas near the larger, more prominent fiber pavilions such as Invista, Lenzing and Dow.

“The separation is not good and is not helpful for us since we mostly make lace for outerwear,” said Margaret Zhuang, director of Le Chinique, a Zhejiang lace manufacturer in the lingerie section. “Intertextile is mediocre this year. This location is bad and there aren’t many people.”

But she noted that her company has not been affected by the global economic situation because it has “no American buyers.”

Robert Wang, director of Winner Lace Co., a year-old subsidiary of a Taiwanese firm based in Mainland China, expressed satisfaction with the show.

“Winner Lace has been focused on the Chinese market so it has also seen little fallout from the global economy, said Wang. “The domestic market is OK, but some of our customers manufacture for export, so the U.S. problems influence them.”