Byline: Allegra Holch and Stuart Chirls

NEW YORK — Stretch fabrics, high tech looks in nylon and polyurethane, and small-scale prints, such as florals, were among the top ideas at the ninth International Fashion Fabric Exhibition here last week.
Exhibitors showed their wares primarily for spring-summer 1997, and frequently reported active sampling. Some buyers also came to the show looking for more immediate goods, hoping to latch on to newer trends for late spring and summer ’96, such as holograms.
The three-day show concluded its run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Wednesday, drawing a total of 10,500 buyers, up from 10,000 at the October show, and 9,000 for the March 1995 show.
Foreign attendance was one of the highlights. Jonathan Larkin, vice president of sales, The Larkin Group, show producer, estimated that total foreign attendance would be up 13-14 percent over last March, due in part to a concerted effort to recruit buyers from South America.
“We usually get about 8 percent South American traffic, but this time we had over 10 percent easily,” said Larkin. “In the first hour and a half, over 175 South Americans registered.”
On the floor, stretch was an especially hot commodity, wanted in a broad range of looks — from dressy ideas, as in velvet, to activewear fabrics.
“People have been looking for stretch in everything,” summed up Barry Velcoff, sales manager at S. Shamash and Sons. “Someone from Spiegel was asking for stretch silk — which we have.”
Velcoff also said polyurethane finishes were a strong look on both prints and solids, as well as yarn-dyed plaids and checks. “You really have to diversify your line and offer a lot of different things,” he said.
At Sew Easy Fabrics, a converter of Lycra spandex blend fabrics, Lawrence Siebl, national sales manager, said stretch sheers were important. “The stretch sheers are doing well — especially for swimwear and even eveningwear,” he said. Siebl also noted that foil prints on nylon and Lycra spandex were doing well, along with a stretch vinyl that “drapes very well,” and stretch velvets with metallic dots.
High tech nylons were the specialty at Tapetex, a company based in Rochester, N.Y.
“This is the first time we’ve shown here, and it’s been wonderful,” said Chuck Wendel, sales manager. According to Wendel, the company decided to show at IFFE because they just opened a New York showroom in October. “We’re actively getting into women’s and men’s active sportswear fabrics,” he said. Some of the eye-catching looks were shiny satin “flight” nylon in bright colors like orange and lime, as well as a pearlized pastel nylon.
At Agmont USA, technical fabrics were a big draw. “There’s been interest in DuPont’s Micromattique and Coolmax products, as well as a lot of surface interest, like seersucker textures,” said Jolene Northup, sales manager.
Shopping the Singtex booth, Michele Roth, senior merchandiser at Accessory Network was looking for both the current spring season as well as fall. “The show is a good combination of both seasons,” said Roth.
“We do a lot of domestic business, and we have a quick turnaround so we can give stores the hottest trends,” explained Roth. “We’ll be using a lot of the holographic fabrics as patches on baby T’s, and we can get most of the piece goods in a couple of weeks in time for a 4/25 and 5/25 delivery.”
Among the looks Roth was interested in were “new prints — especially smaller scale prints in florals and junior prints in citrus colors.” Chantel Hunt, designer for Commodore, the women’s division of Bollman Hats, was interested in cottons and linens for spring. “I’m looking for soft, crushable fabrics,” she said. “I’m also looking for smaller prints, and fun prints — like tropical florals.”
Sandra Wajsros and Guiti Miodownik, designers for Mystic Apparel’s junior swimwear line, Mystic Bay, were finding a lot of things they liked. “We found some great trims, like reflective looks, interesting daisies, zippers, cool buttons — some in flower shapes,” said Miodownik. They also were interested in brightly colored florals, textured fabrics like pique and the shiny look of holographic fabric.
In the man-made segment, Lenzing Fibers of Austria was generating interest with its modal high wet modulus rayon fiber. Lenzing has been marketing modal for apparel in markets abroad, and is just beginning to make a push among apparel marketers in this country. “We have had good success in Japan with Wrangler denim jeans using a modal/cotton blend,” said Heinz Kmonicek, modal business manager.
Although there was some grousing about the quality of some of the companies taking booth space, exhibitors for the most part said they were happy with the ninth edition of the IFFE show, and the level of buyers roaming the aisles.
“It’s a very good show,” said Jeffrey White, president of Shamash. “I think it has improved from last year in terms of the number of customers. We’ve seen quite a few buyers from South America and Canada. People are here and they have money.
“I think a lot people are looking to fill in,” White further noted. “Our large customers are asking about spring but most buyers are looking for deliveries closer to fall. They’re not asking about prices so much. They want to see something new, especially novelties where they can make some money. “
Other exhibitors agreed. “Traffic is about the same as last show [October] but they are better quality people,” said Dick Davis, merchandising director, Ge-Ray Fabrics. “They’re buying. Oh, there are some lookers around, and people asking for closeouts, but you’ll always have that kind of thing. We’ve seen a couple of major retailers, and some big cutters already.”
Representatives from such major companies as Polo/Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne were spotted on the floor.
Ge-Ray was showing a lot of nylon and microfiber from Italy, part of an increasing demand for man-made fibers. Said Davis, ‘Our motto is, ‘If it melts, it’s hot.”‘
Some exhibitors said the timing of IFFE helped contribute to improved attendance. “The show is at just the right time,” said Pearl Ann Marco, vice president, de Marco California Fabrics. “I’ve seen a lot of people from California. The California fabric show is later, and that makes a big difference as far as doing business with those people is concerned.”
Marco pointed out that showing at IFFE had less to do with writing orders on-site than it did as a magnet for attracting buyers to the company’s showroom across town.
“We’re sampling, but I don’t think that anybody would really expect to write business here,” she said. “It’s too chaotic. But we are running from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the showroom. We’re doing a lot more traffic there because of the show, especially with the foreign buyers. You’re exposed to people you wouldn’t normally see.”
At Gem Urethane, a division of Fab Industries, traffic at the show was “substantially up the first two days,” although it became the quiet the last day, said Peter Russell, sales and marketing manager.
Russell said that Gem had been doing significant sampling business. “Among the foreign buyers, sometimes the sample order becomes the regular run,” he said.
Like Marco, Russell saw the real value of the show in developing contacts. “I can come away with documentable leads. There’s a definite cost/benefit that I can show my boss, one that will be up over the October show.”

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