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Tale of Two Strategies at L.A. Intl. Textile Show

While shopping the show, designers considered the market dynamics that are polarizing consumer spending at retail.

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LOS ANGELES — Novelty and texture attracted designers who were benefiting from a recovering economy, and attending the Los Angeles International Textile Show.

Displaying collections for spring 2015, the 250 exhibitors at the California Market Center represented domestic vendors from Los Angeles and Chicago, along with foreign mills from France, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Turkey and India.

While shopping the show, several designers considered the market dynamics that are polarizing consumer spending at retail. On one end, bargain shopping and fast fashion are booming with consumers who yearn for quick hits of trends. On the other, consumers are willing to save up for special items made with quality and exclusive materials. As such, designers either stuck to a certain budget or didn’t heed pricing at all as long as the style struck them as superior.

Popular items at the exhibition included linen knits from Japan’s Yagi; orange geometric prints on organic cotton jersey from Minneapolis-based Josi Severson; burnout linen and polyester in a black-and-white nature pattern from Italy’s Corti Marcello; ikat handwoven in India for Oakland, Calif.-based Indigo Handloom; metallic-coated cotton bouclé from Italy’s Twelve, and silver Leavers lace that featured a geometric lattice bordered by a floral pattern from France’s Solstiss. As for the color palette, metallic tones stood out, while colors segued from light pastels to drenched jewel tones and rainbow brights.

Searching for trims and buttons, Shari Bender, designer of Duna Designs, which retails its California-made knits for $400 to $700, said, “If it’s interesting, we’ll do it,” regardless of price.

Lynda Baxis, who designs women’s contemporary knits and sportswear for The Outpost Trading Co. and Grand Junction in Los Angeles, said most of her fabrics cost $15 to $25 a yard.

“We are careful, but [pricing’s] not an issue,” she said. “It’s more about the exclusive type of fabric we can get.”

Appealing to California designers’ strong interest in knits, Lenzing Fibers sponsored 17 companies that specialize in fabrics made with Modal and Tencel yarns. One of them, Knit House from Vernon, Calif., drew designers who prefer to garment-dye with its fabrics priced from $4 to $12 a yard.

“You can buy a thousand yards and get five colors out of it,” said sales representative Barbara Montz.

King America Textile Group, the Chicago company that operates a factory in Dover, Ga., tried to win over customers with both its prepared-for-dyeing textiles and Made in USA story. Its 8-oz. cotton twill costs less than $3.50 a yard, and its French twill, made with Cone Mills’ cotton, is priced at $3.95 a yard.

Amanda Blake was one of the designers who sought dyeable options. For her women’s brand called Calder, which was launched this spring at boutiques such as Bird and Ten Over Six with cotton pieces retailing for $74 to $250, she budgets for fabric that costs less than $10 a yard and can be garment-dyed or printed because “it gives you a lot of flexibility,” she said.

Also exhibiting with Lenzing Fibers, Los Angeles-based Ace Fabric & Trim attracted customers with its natural yarns and flexibility with orders, which suited many of the small brands and emerging designers that shopped the fair. Its prices ranged from $4 to $8 for fake leather, $7 to $12 for cotton eyelet and $15 to $30 for embroidered lace.

“We don’t have minimums if we have it in stock,” said sales manager Efren Magsino. “They can buy a roll or two rolls to start with.”

Reversible styles also worked for designers who wanted to give value to their customers. A first-time exhibitor from Italy, 496 Fabric Lab, offered denim jacquard in vivid combinations such as gold and white. Prices are $7 to $30 a yard.

Show organizers diversified the textile options with new participants that offer manufacturing and full-package services.

Founded four years ago, L.A. Tex & Garment Inc. met with contemporary sportswear designers from Miami, Portland and San Francisco who were interested in its manufacturing services. The company uses a factory in China, and charges $20 to $50 a garment with a 300-piece minimum. Although owner Shannon Bamrick, who previously worked at Majestic Mills, said she didn’t feel pressure to manufacture in the U.S., she conceded that her minimum requirement for orders is still difficult for small, growing brands.

D&N Textiles of Beverly Hills acknowledged the prevalence of start-ups with a special offer available only at the show. With a 20-yard minimum, it sold some styles for $5 a yard.

The allure of the U.S. market couldn’t keep away some foreign vendors. India’s Manuela returned as an exhibitor for the first time since 2010. The American market makes up 45 percent of its total business, and most of its U.S. sales come from Los Angeles. Offering hand-embellished trims such as colorful ethnic beads at $14 a yard and gold sequined strips for $21 a yard, Manuela must contend with growing concern about social compliance, the environment and workers’ conditions in its Indian factory.

“More people are asking about lead-free and nickel-free [products],” said owner Shaan Ghosh, noting that such goods cost 25 percent more and require tests for verification. “We are trying to source that.”

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