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Economic Malaise Clouds Première Vision Forecast

Organizers say innovation could overcome obstacles.

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PARIS — The second phase of the economic crisis is weighing on the textile industry as it heads into the next edition of the influential Première Vision trade fair, with executives eyeing a less dramatic but potentially longer downturn.

Despite an encouraging start to the year for Europe’s textile industry, the future remains foggy in the eyes of Première Vision chief executive officer Philippe Pasquet. As consumer confidence waivers, he expects firms will continue to see slow growth in the coming months, strengthened by demand from emerging markets.

“What strikes me most today is that globally there is not one definitive [indicator] on what to expect in the months and years to come,” he said.

PV is scheduled to run from Sept. 20 to 22 at Villepinte, north of Paris, showcasing fabrics for the fall-winter 2012-13 season.

“Today, the big question is what kind of impact austerity measures will have on companies and, especially, consumers,” Pasquet said. “There is no clear visibility on what the consequences will be.”

He hopes that weavers, having streamlined operations and reconstituted stock, are now better prepared to face difficult market conditions.

“We know it will have an impact, companies will have to play on innovation,” he said, citing the iPhone as an example of an innovative product that has still managed to seduce consumers during bleak economic times.

According to a report by Euratex, in the first quarter of 2011 the textile sector in the European Union showed signs of improvement, but at a much weaker pace than in the equivalent year-ago period. Textile production in the first quarter increased 4.1 percent compared with the same period in 2010.

Despite the cloudy economic outlook, fall-winter 2012-13 will be a stellar season for fabrics, if the mountains of swatches sent to PV’s fashion director, Pascaline Wilhelm, are anything to go by, with exhibitors pulling out all the stops on the creativity front.

Whereas the casual trend has dominated over the past few seasons, things are balancing out, Wilhelm said, with lots of developments on noble fabrics and a strong activewear influence coming through. New performance wools, for instance, include Shetlands or tweeds assembled with foamed or wadded interiors for soft shells.

“I also saw a lot of humorous designs and initiatives related to the final garment,” said Wilhelm, citing a new knitted fabric by Japan’s Seiren that “only needs to be cut and it’s ready to wear.”

Twenty-three new exhibitors will participate in the show. These include Lanificio Tessilclub’s new line, Groupage by Tessilclub; luxury Japanese linen mill Premium Linen by Tamurakoma and Turkish synthetic leather specialist Megaplast Dis Ticaret ve Pazarlama Ltd.

Figuring among eight weavers returning to the show after several sessions of absence are Peruvian alpaca specialist Incalpaca and major French wool weaver Carreman.

Operating a pop-up shop in Hall 6, meanwhile, will be Céline Méteil, who scooped up the inaugural Première Vision prize at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in May. On display will be Méteil’s Hyères collection plus some limited edition new looks made using fabrics from PV exhibitors, lace maker Sophie Hallette and Italian knitter TESJ.

Adding a splash of glamour to the event, designer Roland Mouret will preside over the jury for the third edition of the PV Awards on Sept. 22, which will allocate four prizes to exhibitors, with categories ranging from the season’s most exceptional fabric to the most daring fabric in terms of material, technique, decoration or finishes. The jury lineup includes Francesco Bova, fabric research and development manager at Valentino; Brigitte Comazzi, creative director of Comptoir des Cotonniers, and Zhou Hong, chief designer of China’s Dalian Sunfed International Group.

While attending PV for most visitors means days spent with heads buried in fabric racks or order sheets, the event’s organizers have come up with a new annual congress, scheduled to fall the day after the end of the next show in February, geared to bringing a maximum of 600 decision-makers from across the textile and fashion sectors together for one day to exchange ideas, discuss hot topics and current trends, and hash out key industry issues, led by themed seminars and small workshops. PV Global Meetings’ first edition will be held on Feb. 17 at the Palais Brongniart in central Paris. A gala dinner will take place the night before.

“The idea is, open up the chance for reflection without distracting from the salon…to offer a networking opportunity for people who are in the same business but don’t necessarily find the time to hook up, for people who are more or less on the same level, with more or less the same concerns, hailing from all over the world,” said Pasquet.

The event is being organized in partnership with the French Institute of Fashion. Key themes will include Brazil, the Internet and challenges faced in international sourcing. A dedicated Web site is being set up that will invite participants to round out discussions before and after the event.

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