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L.A. Firms Sew Seeds of Economic Tonic

Textile vendors will present bright color palettes, environmentally friendly materials and high-quality fabrics to the Los Angeles International Textile Show.

A trend area at the show.

LOS ANGELES — Textile vendors will present bright color palettes, environmentally friendly materials and high-quality fabrics to lure designers and manufacturers to next week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Starting on Monday, the three-day show at the California Market Center will highlight domestic suppliers, as well as companies from countries such as France, China and South Korea. But all the exhibitors face the same predicament — a slowing U.S. economy that may curtail orders for the fall-winter 2009 collections on display.

“A lot of customers are going to be sitting on the fence to place orders and waiting till the last minute,” said Ron Kaufman, a sales executive for Robert Kaufman, a Los Angeles-based textile firm owned by his family.

“This is going to be a show for looky-loos, swatch-takers and [recipients of] color cards,” said Hal Kaltman, owner of Hal Kaltman Textiles in Los Angeles.

But exhibitors will bring their best to attract customers. In Robert Kaufman’s case, the offerings will include bamboo blends available in wovens, prints, solids and knits. Kaltman will represent Girmes Special Textiles Co., a Chinese supplier that will offer its velvet, corduroy and fake fur for the first time. One of Girmes’ advantages is that its prices are half as much as those of European competitors.

“They understand this is a market in which we need a quick turn,” he said. “They can turn goods between two and three weeks for samples. For production, it’ll be anywhere from four to six weeks.”

France’s Solstiss Bucol acknowledged it can’t undercut the prices of Chinese firms. But with its selection of intricate laces, shiny jacquards and liquidlike satins in rich hues ranging from bronze and ecru to raspberry and royal blue, Solstiss Bucol aims to appeal to designers who value luxury and quality.

“In these difficult [economic] moments, people are looking for high quality,” said Sandrine Bernard, executive vice president in Solstiss Bucol’s New York office. “They are investing in something.”

Demand for eco textiles has trickled down to the leather business. Los Angeles’ Italo Leather said it will show a larger variety of vegetable-tanned and chrome-free skins. The company also will unveil an eye-popping palette drenched in yellow, turquoise, purple, pink and lime green, as well as leather that has been enhanced with textured details such as crocodile and snake prints.

“We all are hoping for better business,” said sales manager Sam Rojhani.