Byline: Allegra Holch / With contributions from Stuart Chirls

NEW YORK — Saddled with stagnant sales of apparel in stores back home, foreign fabric suppliers exhibiting at European Textile Selection were looking to the U.S. to pump up their business.
The prevailing themes at the semiannual showcase of better fabrics here were stretch — in wool suitings, faux suedes and luxury fabrics such as brocades — and textured plush velvets, nubby knits and melange boucle looks. Bright, abstract printed knits, as well as shaggy and low-pile fake furs were some of the more novel looks attracting attention.
While it will be several weeks before exhibitors know if vigorous sampling turns into hard orders, most said they were pleased with the 1,100 visitors who passed through the show’s two floors. Attendance increased 10 percent over year-ago levels and similarly over the most recent show, held this past spring, according to the Italian Trade Commission, which organizes the show.
The show concluded its three-day run Friday at Hotel Intercontinental.
“We came not knowing what to expect,” said Max Leimgruber, a sales representative for Filtex International, the U.S. agent for Weisbrod Zurrer of Switzerland, which was showing for the first time. “But on the whole, we’ve been quite pleased with the traffic. We’ve had a lot of sampling and requests for appointments.”
Specializing in eveningwear fabrics, the company offered gossamer sheer metallic silks, as well as brocades and taffetas of pure silk and silk blends.
Another Swiss company showing for the first time was Jakob Schlaepfer, whose sales manager, Shkendie Kaziu, said, “We’ve had a lot more people than I expected. The response has been great. Starting Monday, the showroom is going to be very busy with appointments we’ve set up during the show.”
Kaziu said the company’s printed fabrics were getting a good response, especially a group of colorful psychedelic photo-printed florals on a wool-backed stretch polyester and Lycra spandex reminiscent of ski pants fabric. Another innovative look getting attention was a stretch tulle with heat-set foil appliques.
“It is necessary to be here to make it in the U.S.,” said Peter Wozasek, president of Petex, an Austrian embroidery mill showing for the second time. “There is a better quality to the buyers here.”
Petex was showing fancy embroidered goods, including geometric patterns in cotton.
At the Paris-based Dormeuil, which will be opening a New York office in December, worsted wool and Lycra looks were creating interest among were creating interest among buyers.
“We’re picking up people who are not based in New York — for instance, people from the West Coast, Chicago and Florida, and people who don’t go to Premiere Vision,” said Luke Mayes, marketing manager.
Other popular looks were a rabbit hair and wool herringbone and plain weave cashmere in a plethora of colors, all of which the company keeps in stock for quick delivery.
Stretch wools were also getting attention at the Italian mill Top Wool, also a first-time exhibitor.
“American designers are looking for new, sophisticated fabrics,” said Massimo Tescari, assistant manager of sales.
Some of the looks catching the eye of buyers included double-face wools, wool and viscose bi-stretch mAlange looks and bouclA textures.
Funky outerwear looks were the draw at the Barcelona-based Cisa-Pielnova, including shaggy fake furs and double-sided fabrics, such as wool plaids with a matte pvc coating.
“Many of our fake furs are machine washable,” said Hans Verdaasdonk, export manager, noting that some styles are made with a Japanese modacrylic fiber called Kanecaron that’s known for its low flammability. The company also offered soft low-pile looks in cotton and in cotton and linen blends, as well as stretch vinyl leather and faux suede looks.
“This is the first time we’ve shown here, and the response has been really positive,” he said.
At Texdam, another Barcelona mill, crepe knits with a dry hand were among the newer looks.
“Instead of slinky knits, what’s new are matte and spongy crepe constructions in polyamide and Lycra with a dry hand,” said Cristina Knaus, president of Grupo Textil, the U.S. agent for Texdam. She also cited multicolor knits, colorful mixtures of space-dyed and solid stripes, as well as textured knits as important looks.
The increased roster of exhibitors was a definite draw for many buyers shopping the show.
“I’m very happy we came to the show because we’ve discovered a lot of new resources,” said designer Cynthia Steffe. “The outerwear was extremely strong, as well as stretch looks, and I was surprised to see how much of the vinyl looked like real leather. Some items in the Spanish section are priced well for FNR, my lower-priced line. For the most part, all of the fabrics I use are from European resources.”
Elizabeth Gordon, a designer for Donna Karan Intimates, said the show provides a critical global connection.
“The show has grown tremendously important for me because I don’t go to Europe,” Gordon said. “This is as close as I’ll get.”
Johanna Howard, fabric researcher for the contemporary line Parallel, was pleased with the increased variety of offerings.
“I’ve seen a lot of nice things — especially some great stretch qualities in wools and crispy suitings.” Howard said. ‘I’m also looking for new knit qualities, and I’ve been seeing sheer knits, interlocks and doubleknit wools, as well as a lot of textured knits.”
Nanette Lepore, a sportswear and dress designer with her own label, was also impressed with the different types of stretch looks she saw.
“I’ve seen some really nice stretch qualities — stretch shirtings in particular,” Lepore said. “We’re starting to look at French mills because they’re getting more affordable. We found one Austrian company that has lace trims we can afford. I’m happy that the show is getting bigger, although it would be nice if they had even more trim companies.”