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N.Y. Textile Fairs Manage Growth in Difficult Time

Visitors to last week's round of international textile shows here grew despite fewer mills exhibiting and buyers facing mounting pressures to control costs.

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NEW YORK — The number of visitors attending last week’s round of international textile shows here grew despite fewer mills exhibiting and buyers facing mounting pressures to control costs.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Foot traffic was brisk at Première Vision Preview, which ran Wednesday and Thursday at the Metropolitan Pavilion and featured a lineup of 116 mills. Philippe Pasquet, chief executive officer of Première Vision, said he felt comfortable that the show had established itself as a vital part of designers’ and buyers’ development processes.

“I think now it’s a real rendez-vous for the American market,” Pasquet said. “People are planning their process by including this appointment.”

The weak U.S. economy and the poor dollar-euro exchange rate are unavoidable realities for the bulk of mills exhibiting, but Pasquet draws confidence from the show’s ability to continue drawing a steady crowd.

“After 17 editions, we still have a very good level of participation from exhibitors and visitors in spite of the economic climate,” Pasquet said.

Show organizers said attendance increased slightly to about 3,800 visitors. Pasquet attributed the show’s popularity to the special and innovative fabrics offered by mills. Pasquet said he devotes a substantial amount of time to achieving that assortment, spending about a third of the year visiting 30 to 40 of the mills that exhibit.

“Creation is a hectic process and you have a real understanding of this only if you go visit the mills,” he said.

The show featured newly developed fabrics for the fall 2009 season, as well as fabrics from the previous spring 2009 edition. Intricate embroideries and boiled wools with an incredibly soft hand showed the softer side of textural fabrics, while electric metallic takes on the season’s most popular patterns punched up the volume on smooth surfaces. Many of the more innovative pieces vendors plan to exhibit at the Première Vision show in Paris in September, were still in trial phase during the preview. To pick up the slack, exhibitors stacked their booths with favorites from the past season.

“The New York preview happens so early in the schedule that we find immediates are still valuable to designers planning their next collection,” said Première Vision’s fashion director, Pascaline Wilhelm. “The show is tailored to the American market and some pieces people may have missed in Paris or at the last preview are here for them.”

 

Frank Iovino, president of Italian mill Miroglio, said many buyers still attend the show expecting to find fabrics priced similarly to those of low-cost Asian mills. Conversations with those buyers, he said, are generally short. Other buyers understand the higher cost of European textiles.

“The dollar is not affecting our business,” Iovino said. “It’s designs that are selling our business. If someone is looking for price, you can’t buy European fabric.”

Exhibitors at Texworld USA, which ran July 14 to 16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, reported seeing few buyers during the show’s first full day and had yet to see a substantial improvement midway through its second.

Sutesh Sujanani, sales manager at Hong Kong-based Prosperity Denim, said buyers were generally only interested in the new products a mill had to offer.

“[Buyers] don’t come here to look for new suppliers to replace the old ones, they come here for finding something they don’t have and haven’t seen,” Sujanani said.

Serhan Ozmerjc, sales manager with Turkish mill Sunteks, said the majority of buyers he saw were smaller customers seeking to place small orders.

“It makes it difficult for a Turkish mill,” said Ozmerjc, noting that Turkish mills face higher costs. “We’re not in line with the Chinese people or Pakistani people, but we’re trying to trade more fashion in terms of colors and designs.”

The rising costs of energy and labor being faced by China are making sourcing in other areas of the world more attractive. Gopinath, general manger of denim sales at India’s KG Denim Ltd., who goes by only one name, has seen the gap between China and India narrow in recent months.

“In the U.S. market, we face stiff competition from Pakistan and also China,” he said. “The shift has gone more toward China, but in the last few months, I feel like more people are moving out of China and coming into India and Pakistan for full package.”

Gopinath believes the price gap between China and India is as low as 5 percent in some cases.

Prefab: The Supima Premium Fabric Show ran July 15 at Gotham Hall and attracted about 500 visitors. Organizers dispensed with the traditional trade show model of mills setting up booths to show their product, opting for a sourcing-show model. Supima obtained fabrics from 25 to 30 mills and handled displaying them. Buyers were given clipboards and pens to write down the fabrics for which they wanted samples.

 

Reaction among buyers to new format was mixed. While some approved, others had difficulties crouching down to view fabrics displayed at low levels on the displays and trying to write with one hand while using the other to lift up fabrics in order to see the information tag on the back side.

Supima capped off the day’s events with its first runway show. The 25 emerging New York designers, selected by a judging panel last month, demonstrated that there’s nothing one-note about cotton. Offerings ranged from elegant bridalwear to punky deconstructed dresses and a retro-chic bustle gown.

Of the 31 outfits — some designers had more than one look — only one featured shorts, from Form’s Jerry Tam. Standouts included Satsi Khalsa’s playful gown strewn with multicolor origami appliqués and Astrid Brucker’s minimalist dress punched up with a bold zipper detailing in the back.

Tam took home the top prize of “Best in Class for Design,” with his four entries, including a flirty pinstripe frock and a sleek trench with demonstrative collar. It’s a good thing, too. The next night, Tam, also a “Project Runway” contestant, was the first designer booted off the show’s fifth season.

 

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