IFFE: A SEASON OF CONTRASTS
Byline: Allegra Holch / Stuart Chirls
NEW YORK — The International Fashion Fabric Exhibition was a study in contrasts for fall ’98.
Buyers continued to seek out classic velvets and other rich, luxurious fabrics, but also saved room on their shopping lists for decidedly edgier styles in synthetics and other modern constructions to update their collections.
The three-day expo ended Thursday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. Attendance was more than 12,600, up 6 percent from the October ’96 show, according to The Larkin Group, the show producer. A total of 642 exhibitors showed their wares in fabrics, trimmings, CAD/CAM and private label manufacturing.
While feminine and embellished looks such as brocades, flocked and burnout velvets and jacquards were prevalent, there also was a buzz about the opposite: high tech nylons and microfibers, and traditional men’s wear fabrics from plaids to corduroy made new with the addition of stretch.
Katie Blair, manager of fabric research and development for Jantzen’s moderate sportswear line, was typical of buyers who approached IFFE with an open mind.
“I’m looking for novelty and newness,” she said, noting she was concentrating mainly on the block of exhibitors from Taiwan. “I liked some of the sueded polyester microfibers, and while it isn’t a brand new fabric, it’s a new look for our line.” She also cited “very textural looks,” as a key point of interest, particularly “wovens that have the appearance of a sweater, and fake furs.”
Wild novelty goods were attracting apparel makers catering to the younger consumer.
“We found a few new contacts here,” said Jennifer Stein, designer and president of Jender, a youth streetwear brand. “I sampled texturized, reflective rubber prints from Tapetex, and high-end nylon and Lycra spandex fabrics in metallic prints and color-changing styles, from Nipkow & Kobelt.”
Stein noted IFFE has become a haven for manufacturers and designers looking for modest-sized orders of specialty fabrics. “This show is about small minimums,” she said, “and that can be difficult to manage for some fabric companies. The smart people watch what is going on in the apparel market, and adapt their lines so that they can more easily work with people like us.”
Other manufacturers agreed. “People have been more receptive to working with us than we had been told,” said Librada Jorge, a buyer from Fashion Design Studio, a medium-sized manufacturer of eveningwear. “Our orders frequently are for less than 1,000 yards, but we have found that the exhibitors here are more than happy to work with us and our small quantities.”
“Apparel manufacturers are going to smaller quantities of fabric because it means they will have less risk, since they end up having to hold less merchandise,” said Louisa Bell, sales and marketing manager for Mission Valley Textiles, an exhibitor. “Even the large mills are doing more converting overseas because they will do smaller quantities. If something gets hot during the season, then the apparel maker just reorders.”
Bell said Dayton Hudson and Dillard’s both had sampled at the show.
As in the past, accessories designers were out in force at IFFE.
“I’m going in two extremes,” said milliner Lola Erlich, owner and designer of Lola hats. On the one hand, she said she was looking for “high tech fabrics such as stretch corduroy, neoprene and rainwear fabrics,” but she continued, “The opposite is also appealing — embroidered chiffons and beaded looks, although I’m tired of all the velvets and crushed looks.” She said Strachman, an agent for European mills, was a good source for neoprene.
Printed velvets, fake fur and wool plaids were some of the fabrics on handbag designer Rafe Totengco’s shopping list — but he also noted he comes to the show to soak up the atmosphere and for inspiration. “This is a great sourcing event,” said Totengco, who designs under the label Rafe New York. “I come with an open mind. You never know what you’ll find.”
Exhibitors he was impressed with were Link International, Super Textiles and Tissage International. “Tissage had great iridescent stuff. That’s a direction I’m going toward this season.”
At S. Shamash & Sons, Jeffrey White, president, was pleased with the turnout. “It’s a very strong show. It’s the fabrics that are selling the garments these days.”
White cited velvets as one of the fabrics most in demand at the show. “Everybody’s looking for forward, novel fabrics, and now we’re printing on the burnouts to make them new.”
He noted an interest in pinstriped and floral-print velvets. As for the recent Asian trend, particularly in chinoiserie brocades, White noted, “Asian has peaked. I think the trend will go to different countries — for instance, a Tibetan carpet look.” He also said he noticed a “trickle-down effect” in sueded polyester and spandex blends. “The more forward designers did it last season, but now the more moderate customers are interested in it.”
Microfibers and stretch wovens were key looks at La Lame. “We’ve been getting a lot of interest in microfibers,” said Glen Schneer, vice president. Two looks that were doing well were a Tactel nylon microfiber rib knit and another in a jacquard design with a look similar to burnout. “Tactel gives a soft hand,” he noted, adding, “Softness and comfort are important now. People want fabrics that are comfortable to wear.”
At Tapetex, the microfiber story was strong. “Microfibers have been hot,” said Cheryl Hohti, a sales representative. “Polyesters with a soft, buttery hand are doing very well. There’s also an interest in metallics and iridescence,” she said, pointing out a collection of polyester nylons with silver metallic prints from Concordia, a Belgian mill that Tapetex distributes in the U.S. “A customer from Puerto Rico ordered 4,000 yards of printed goods on the spot,” she said.
The renewed interest in metallics was a good sign for Sequins International. “Glitz is more important in the marketplace now,” said Neal Ganzer, sales manager. “It’s brought some of our old customers back.” But, he cautioned, “It’s a subtle glitz, not heavy.” Among the looks that were doing well were a pastel satin with silver embroidery and a sprinkling of sequins, and a new group of chenilles with just a touch of matte sequins in rich, autumnal colors.
Unusual stretch woven jacquards with Lycra were the draw at Weave Corp., noted Elizabeth Connolly, design director for the recently launched apparel fabrics division of the company, which is known primarily for upholstery fabrics. “Our collection is solely jacquards, and we’re offering 19 different styles with Lycra. We’re working with DuPont on getting the fabrics certified. So far, two are certified and the rest are being tested.” The collection included a pretty feather motif jacquard in acetate, cotton and Lycra as well as interesting chenille jacquards.
“I’m noticing a trend toward more luxurious fabrics,” said Pearlann Marco, vice president, design, of De Marco California Fabrics. “Surface interest with brocades, embroidery and laces is very important now.”
And the interest in luxury didn’t just apply to the fabrics. As Richard Goldfeder, sales manager for Ribbtrim, the exclusive American distributor of Mokuba, a ribbon trim collection imported from Japan, observed, “Everyone’s on this luxury craze. There is a higher quality of buyer here than in the past. That means they want better trims on their garments. I’ve noticed a much higher interest in ribbon, velvets in particular,” he said, noting a stretch elastic velvet was in high demand at the show.