Higher Prices Match Mood at Fabric Fairs

Visitors to the Première Vision and Texworld shows in Paris saw price increases of up to 50 percent for fall 2012 fabrics, although demand remained high.

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PARIS — A heavy dose of sticker shock — with price hikes of up to 50 percent on fall-winter 2012-13 fabric collections — failed to dampen spirits at the recent editions of Première Vision and Texworld.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Mills cited brisk business despite the global economy’s ongoing malaise, with many turning to exports to buoy flat sales in their home markets.

Première Vision and sister fair Expofil saw a 10 percent jump in visitors compared with the equivalent session last year, to 46,222. Attendance at Texworld rose 4.5 percent to 15,424 visitors, with a 12 percent increase in Asian and African attendees.

Discussing the marked price increases on collections, Erin Beatty, co-creative director of New York-based label Suno, said: “At this stage, we don’t quite know how we plan to manage it. You come to Première Vision to find new things, so it’s very important to stay open-minded. We can always work with weavers to develop less expensive fabrics.”

Martina Traversi, commercial director of Tessilclub, which produces many of Lanvin’s fabrics, said, “We believe that Chinese product is not only a poorer product but also a standard product.…We really want to demonstrate that Italian research is superior.”

The launch of a younger, more affordable collection by the firm at PV, under the Groupage by Tessilclub banner, got a lot of attention. The line centers on classic fabrics with modern twists that are less expensive and slightly more casual than the house’s main collection.

“We thought it was the right moment to launch a unique product that represents first and foremost quality Italian workmanship, but is affordable,” said Traversi.

Eve Corrigan, founder of Malhia Kent, who proposed fabric “practically ready-to-wear,” like poncho-style chunky patterned knits with slits, said “We’re helping producers stay in the U.S. and the E.U. All that’s left for them to do is add a button. You don’t need to go to China to construct this.”

Malhia was among several mills out to innovate and offer cost-cutting solutions in anticipation of restrained consumer spending due to the euro debt crisis and austerity measures, in addition to continued high costs of certain raw materials.

At Texworld, the Italian silk weaver Serica Malnati, which usually shows at PV, had bumped up its offer of innovative blends. The firm, which counts as clients Giorgio Armani and Vera Wang, is looking to sell in new areas like China and elsewhere in Asia and South America.

Hit by the dramatic increase in wool prices over the past year — a 33 percent hike to about $5.28 a pound — Reid & Taylor’s less exclusive Indian branch increased prices by 50 percent. Around 10 percent of the mill’s offer contained pure wool, versus 30 percent last year. The group said it planned to grow business locally in India, as well as in the Middle East and Japan.

With business “still low” in the U.S., Japanese and Italian markets, Taroni’s Michele Canepa, who showed at PV, said: “We’re increasing exports in all of the smaller countries in Europe and Eastern Europe. We’re trying to sell where we can.”

Canepa, who showcased a striking range of digitally printed silks designed by his son Maximilian, revealed that Kanye West recently paid a visit to his headquarters in Italy.

“He was very nice, very hands-on. He jumped on a fabric we developed for Tom Ford that he wanted in his own colorways,” Canepa said. “When someone comes to choose fabrics, you can tell straight away if they have good, refined taste, and he certainly did.”

Aurelio Rigamonti, general manager at Italian weaver Limonta, said this season the collection was staying competitive with a push for higher-quality finishing and exclusivity, plus a larger selection of plastics to satisfy growing demand in that area. Rigamonti combined century-old concepts and materials with modern plastics to create softer, lighter takes on traditional fabrics. One cotton treated with polyurethane was inspired by 18th-century waxed whaler’s coats. Other items were made to imitate an artisanal, cotton feel, with blends that included polyester and nylon.

Swiss weaver Schoeller presented technical suiting and outerwear fabrics suitable for riding a bicycle to work, inspired by mountaineering fabrics that stretch, breathe and repel water.

With demand growing for greener products, Texworld promoted eco-friendly manufacturers, such as Taiwan’s Chia Her. The firm’s expanded collection included recycled polyester and certified organic cotton.

At the Apparel Sourcing fair, Haiti was spotlighted as a potential new manufacturing hub for European companies, thanks to a special status that lifts customs fees for exports to North America.

In terms of price categories, mills cited demand from clients for both luxury and entry-level collections.

“We’re looking at lower, middle, top end,” said Lee Walker, assistant buyer on formal men’s fabrics for Next. “We have this theory of good, better, best across our range, so that every customer can be serviced.”

His team’s jacketing budget was up “and will continue to increase,” with the suiting category also doing well, though the trouser business is tough.

“I think it’s all shifted into casualwear cottons…the chino aspect of things has taken over from denim and also is having an impact on formal trousers,” said Walker.

The Next team placed a first time order at British heritage mill Abraham Moon & Sons, going for checks and herringbone, and Shetland over lambs wool “because it’s a bit more rugged, in line with what’s on the catwalk,” Walker added.

Conroy Nachtigall, a designer at Canadian men’s outdoor brand Arc’teryx Equipment Inc., which is entering Barneys New York and Mr. Porter this season, agreed: “There’s this kind of raw luxury trend where it looks more simple, raw, honest,” citing the thick sweaterlike fabrics at Lanificio Becagli.

Designer Alexandre Plokhov lauded new Japanese linen weaver Premium Linen by Tamurakoma’s collection, noting “There were some unusual blends of linen and cashmere or wool.”

Several premium weavers cited strong business, with demand for heritage fabrics and exclusivity.

“Those who want deluxe fabrics know that there is no substitute,” said Pat Keeney, woven cloth designer for Scottish woolens and cashmere weaver Johnstons of Elgin, which he said experienced its busiest fair in “many years.”

“Business is superb,” said Martin Wigglesworth, director of Scottish premium waxed and oiled cotton specialist Halley Stevensons. “The crisis has impacted our business in a good way. People want the real thing.”

Novelties presented by the firm, which expects to see a 60 percent increase in sales this year versus 2010, included an indigo denim check priced at 30 pounds (about $45) a meter.

Firas Chamsi-Pasha, managing director of Moxon Huddersfield, the historic Hield-owned British mill specializing in luxury worsted and woolen suiting fabrics, said the firm has a one-year waiting list for new customers. Domenico Spano, the legendary New York-based tailor, recently commissioned five suit lengths of exclusive fabrics by the mill “that cost a bundle,” Chamsi-Pasha said.

French silk weaver Perrin & Fils, which is 39 percent owned by Hermès, expects to register an 80 percent increase in sales for 2011, coming off a “complicated” couple of years, according to chief executive officer Jean-Laurent Perrin. The firm has just reentered the U.S. market after a five-year hiatus, operating out of the new Holding Textile Hermès headquarters in New York.


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