Visitors check out the trends at Spinexpo Shanghai

SHANGHAI — The mood of Spinexpo Shanghai’s 30th edition was split between optimism for long-term consumer trends in China and some anxiety about the short-term as manufacturing upgrades challenge yarn producers, spinners and weavers across the country.

China’s consumer and manufacturing upgrade has been evolving for several years, as a coterie of middle-class shoppers hundreds of millions strong seek lifestyle improvements, environmental consciousness and quality.

“Concerning China’s domestic market, brands are more sophisticated and becoming more and more established; collections are now structured, with a real desire for style. The leading brands in China are becoming serious clients to all suppliers, Chinese and elsewhere,” said fair organizer Karine Van Tassel, who also coordinates Spinexpo in New York and Paris.

“In our show, most of the largest groups are leading players in the eco-friendly field. This has been the case for a number of years now, and China is clearly ahead of anyone in this direction. When it comes to high-level suppliers, they are export oriented and have well understood the challenge to be ahead of the competition regarding this direction.”

China’s central government has also pushed for an upgrade in consumption — as a way of continuing the country’s economic propulsion — as well as in manufacturing, as the country’s factories make their way up the value chain.

“We must enable the manufacturing sector to become smarter, greener and more service-oriented, boost the transition from traditional to new growth engines and the economy climbing upwards on the value chain,” Premier Li Keqiang said at a State Council Executive meeting in July.

According to exhibitor Alex Hu, from Shandong Ruyi Cotton Textile Group, a sustained crackdown from the government on dyeing factories has particularly impacted the yarn industry, leading big players such as Shandong Ruyi to push products like melange yarn, which requires less dyeing.

“It’s a big challenge. China’s labor costs are very high — three times more than Bangladesh — so many orders are going to Bangladesh or India; it’s a big headache. On the other side, the Chinese government wants to decrease the dyeing factories, this definitely will hurt the textile industry in China,” he said.

“Because of the manpower cost, many textile manufacturers are moving to the west of China where there are new factories using automatic machines. It’s very hard to see the future of China textiles, but the automation of factories will hopefully decrease the manpower costs,” he added.

The focus on sustainable products and practices was welcomed by international buyers looking for just that from the fair.

“We are looking for some sustainable options and new yarns, some new knit constructions or something that inspires us. We will buy some sustainable products [at the fair] if we find something that inspires us,” said Michelle Oudenes, a Netherlands-based fashion and accessories designer at ITC Accessories.

The more than 200 exhibitors from 15 countries at the fair, which ran from August 29 to 31, saw a total of 10,696 visitors over the three days. The number of Chinese visitors was lower, but many overseas countries saw their visitor numbers increase. The biggest rise came from Hong Kong, which saw a 35 percent increase in attendance, somewhat surprisingly given the territory faced several typhoons within days of the event, significantly impacting flights.

The number of European visitors continued to rise, with a jump in visitors from the Russian Federation, as well as South America and Bangladesh.

According to organizers, a trend for shorter lead times and bespoke products has also seen exhibitors investing in genuine stock service, with this season experiencing a record in how late orders were received by the mills.